Bristol UCU Newsflash, 11th May 2022

1) Pathway Two: Concerns and Solutions

Pathway Two (PW2, research only) staff, employed grant from grant, short-term contract to short-term contract, are one of the most precariously employed groups in the University. This issue was to the fore on recent picket lines (‘Bristol University staff say insecure contracts put them at ‘risk of homelessness’, Bristol Live, 4th April 2022):

Another researcher at Bristol University spoke of being stuck on insecure contracts for the last ten years, having to secure funding each time and going through eight redundancies during that time
Following this latest stark spotlight on PW2’s insecure terms and conditions, the branch submitted ‘Pathway 2 – Concerns and Solutions’ to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor [link].

This submission, in its solutions section, called for:

  • Open-ended, Core-Funded P2 Roles: ‘[t]his also would be a much fairer arrangement, which does not place the complete burden on a single individual researcher but shares the risk with the university. Financial planning could ensure that such risk is absorbed in research-intensive Schools where P2 are usually hired in considerable numbers’.
  • ‘Ensuring the role is P2 progressable would be the default option
  • Career Advisory Support
  • ‘The University should mandate Faculty-level, ringfenced bridging funds to allow P2 researchers to continue being employed by the University of Bristol for a short-period (3-6 months) in order to retain P2 staff’

A meeting to discuss the University’s response followed shortly after. The meeting was a productive one and there was clear alignment between UCU and University reps over the principle that the University could do more to and has committed to support ‘early-career academics to thrive through stability of employment’ as regards externally funded P2 colleagues.

 Current University actions were highlighted at the meeting. For example, the move in April 2019 of 120 fixed-term research staff to open-ended (fixed-term funding) contracts, the University’s commitment to the Concordat for Researcher Development and the work of Bristol Clear to support PW2 career development. The wider question of research culture – knowledge of the Concordat (for example, the 10 days of personal development for PW2 staff) amongst Principal Investigators; educating PIs across the university; costing research roles at the lowest grades; ‘progressable’ roles as an option – was also broached.

More recent PW2 University developments include the Faculty of Health Sciences’s pilot of between contract bridging funds, plus the creation of 5 core-funded senior PW2 roles. UCU concerns around maternity leave and continuous service were also addressed: in principle, it should not be the case that continuous service (and redundancy rights) comes to end if PW2 staff are employed on successive contracts, and that staff miss out on Occupational Maternity Pay if they are returning with less than 3 months on their contract.

Of immediate concern is the work of the Academic Career Development Programme to address the costing and setting-up of progressable PW2 project roles for multi-year funded research projects. UCU will now be represented in these discussions.

2) Bristol UCU Executive Committee Membership and UCU Congress, 1st-3rd June 2022

Interested in being a member of the branch Executive Committee? We currently have two slots on Exec. Email if you’d like to stand.

Interested in attending this year’s UCU Congress in June [link]? Email

3) Tickets: Bristol Transformed, 13th-15th May, St Pauls & Central Bristol

8 free tickets for Bristol Transformed [link] this weekend are available to Bristol UCU members. Click on the link below:

Scroll down through the ticket options and you will see a free UCU ticket option. You can only check out one at a time.

4) Webinar on Wellbeing and Mental Health in Academia, Wednesday 25th May, 13:00-14:00, via Zoom

On Wednesday 25 May at 1pm, members of Geographical Sciences have organised a talk by Prof. Gail Kinman about wellbeing in academics, particularly regarding mental health.

Prof. Kinman has done many studies in this area, finding concerning results showing the wellbeing of academics to be considerably worse than that of the general population, including a major UCU-supported report published last year [link].

This is hosted by members of Geographical Sciences, but is open to all, and please do let other people know who might be interested.  
This will be done remotely through Zoom using the following link: