Monthly Archives: January 2019

‘Progress to Report But Also Areas of Disappointment’: Bristol UCU Promotion and Progression Update

Bristol UCU Branch Officers continue to meet with Human Resources to discuss the ongoing Review of Academic Progression and Promotion, on which UCU has had representation from the start.

There is considerable progress to report but also areas of disappointment from a UCU perspective.

Change of Pathway Three Job Titles

As trailed in last week’s staff bulletin, the Review has proposed harmonising the job titles of staff on Pathway Three with their equivalents on Pathway One. This would mean that current Senior Teaching Associates and Teaching Fellows would be given the title of Lecturer; and Senior Teaching Fellows would become Senior Lecturer. The titles are already harmonised on all pathways at Reader and Professorial level. The role of Teaching Associate would remain unchanged as there is no equivalent on Pathway One.

Your branch officers consider this a positive move, but would welcome your comments.

Reader vs Associate Professor

The other job title change in the original recommendations was the change of Reader to Associate Professor. Current feedback suggest that some Readers wish to retain their current title. Is is now proposed that new appointments and promotions take on the new title but existing Readers can choose if they want to update their title.

What are members’ thoughts on this compromise?

Progressability of Pathway Three Roles 

All Pathway Three roles should be reviewed during 2018/19 as part of the current Integrated Planning Process (IPP).

There is an expectation that the majority of Pathway 3 staff on profile b (grade J) upwards will become progressable. Discussions should be starting to happen now with affected Pathway Three staff, so that they are clear about what progressability means and ensuring they are given as much time as needed to progress successfully.

If you’re in this situation and no one has talked to you yet do speak to your Head of School (and obviously get in touch if you think you need our support).

Sadly, we consider that this review will have no benefit for Teaching Associates on profile a (Grade I) or language staff at all levels in the School for Modern Languages (SML) and the Centre for English Language and Foundation Studies (CELFS) as their roles are deemed ‘transactional’. We will continue to press for opportunities for this disenfranchised group of staff who are very often the face of University of Bristol to our students.

Pathway Two Roles

Pathway Two roles are also being reviewed as part of the IPP process but it is expected that only a tiny number would become progressable as a result. We have been told that more effort is being put into staff development activities for this group of staff. I’m sure this will be little comfort for our research colleagues.

Movement Between Pathways

A recommendation was to make the process of movement between pathways clearer and on the basis of excellence not underperformance. Draft guidance states “Whilst there is no right to move between Pathways, in any direction, such moves are not exceptional and should be considered as a normal part of an academic career”. However .. “the contractual and funding arrangements in each pathway must be equivalent. This means progression requirements of the position must be the same”. We believe that this will enable and movement between pathways 1 and newly-progressible staff on pathway 3 but no opportunities for externally-funded pathway 2 staff.

Reader Remuneration

It has been agreed that, from 1 August 2019, the 3 discretionary points at the top of Grade L will be used for a Reader scale. Readers, on promotion, will move to spine point 50. Increments thereafter will be awarded every two years following consideration of an evidence based cases. Increments will be consolidated and pensionable..

Note, though, that academic staff will no longer be eligible for consideration within these increments via the Discretionary pay policy (any discretionary points already awarded will remain in place).

New Promotions Criteria

A new promotions framework has been developed based on the Boyer’s model of four types of scholarship: Discovery (research), integration (Multi/interdisciplinary), application (in service of others) and teaching. A local, fifth, category for leadership and citizenship has been added. This promotions framework is now ready for wider consultation which will commence in the Spring.

As soon as the draft framework is cleared for publication we will also seek your views.

So Far Yet So Much To Do – Message from Tracey Hooper, Bristol UCU President

Dear Colleagues,

It is nearly a year since the start of the USS strike and our resulting #WearetheUniversity campaign, so I thought I would update members on where we are, our current branch priorities, celebrate some of the progress we have made, but also sound a note of caution. We still have a long way to go.

I think it is fair to say that without the transformative nature of our four weeks of strike action this time last year, we would not be in the strong position we are today. Thanks to everyone who participated – it made a real difference. A huge rise in membership, a Staff Survey that coincided with the strike, a sense that our strike was about more than just pensions: together these factors created a perfect storm and has meant our Bristol UCU branch is even more an influential voice on campus. Note, for example, the University has recognised in its Staff Mental Health and Well-Being Strategy for the first time that ‘issues such as the gender pay gap, casualisation in the workforce and workload can impact on overall wellbeing in the workplace’. These are three of our key branch priorities.

You will be aware that we have lodged formal claims with the University on both Anti-Casualisation and Gender Pay and have agreed joint statements of intent for both – see here and here. Whilst other UCU branches are submitting similar claims, I think that there are very few who have seen as much progress as Bristol. We are now involved in negotiations with the University leadership team to agree action plans, with Human Resources staff allocated to project manage these. I am hopeful that there are some quick wins within the Anti-Casualisation Claim.

I am not suggesting that all is rosy in these negotiations. We do have real concerns at the pace of progress particularly with our Gender Pay claim. For example, our current University strategy states ‘we will also eliminate the gender pay gap within the professoriate within the lifetime [2020] of the plan’ – more likely to be 2050 unless hard actions and resource are put in place.

Workload is another key branch priority. After many years of deflection and circular discussion, Bristol UCU Branch Officers feel workload concerns are finally being taken seriously with regard to workload modelling and allocation. Our 11 ‘Workload Principles for a Common Approach’ have been taken up by the leadership team and we are now in detailed discussions to agree a University-wide policy around the ‘fair, reasonable and equitable allocation of work’. This should be accompanied by a common workload allocation platform to allow data to be captured in a consistent way.

On the review of academic Promotion and Progression, there are many positive proposals for some (but little comfort for others). Positives in discussion include:

  • the planned harmonisation of job titles across pathways one and three for staff on profile b upwards (see last week’s staff bulletin)
  • the progressability of the majority of pathway three roles (profile b upwards)
  • staff movement across pathways to become a norm rather than an exception as well as making the process for movement between pathways clearer, consistent and on the basis of excellence in the future pathway (pathways one and three only)
  • the use of the three discretionary points at the top of L as a Reader scale

Coming shortly will be a University consultation on a new promotions framework – an aim is that it “will provide more flexible and inclusive career progression”. We will welcome your thoughts when we consult with you on this ourselves in the coming months.

Sadly, we consider that these proposals will have no benefit for Teaching Associates on profile a (Grade I) or language staff at all levels in the School for Modern Languages (SML) and the Centre for English Language and Foundation Studies (CELFS), as their roles are deemed fixed or ‘transactional’. We will continue to press for opportunities for this disenfranchised group of staff who are often on 10 month and/or part-time contracts but are the face of University of Bristol to many of our students.

There is also little for our research Pathway 2 colleagues who, despite having open-ended contracts, continue to live the precarious life of fixed-term funding and redundancies alongside scant hope of promotion or progression.

Finally, it is important for colleagues to know that we continue to see restructure after restructure within Professional Services. Throughout these often unpublicised processes, Branch Reps fight for the best interests of our members, supporting them through this stressful and demoralising experience. It is here that your Branch Reps do so much for members, preventing redundancies and detrimental changes.

So, in summary, we have taken great forward strides as a branch, made significant progress on USS and beyond, but there is still much to do and still much noise to be made, and I hope that we will have your support should we need to make noise this coming year.

One suggestion: if members have any suggestions regarding celebrating the anniversary of the transformative #WearetheUniversity strike, please let myself or ucu-office@bristol know.

With best wishes


BSSG Letter of Support – Current Industrial Action Ballot

Dear Staff Member,

We, as concerned students and participants to the Bristol Student-Staff Solidarity Group wholeheartedly invite you to vote ‘Yes and Yes’ in the current ballot and commit to supporting you every step of the way in this chapter of our new collective struggle.

After last year experience, we are aware that you are understandably worried about the impact any industrial action may have on the studies of current students. However, we also believe that last year strike has provided each of us, students and staff alike, with opportunities, feelings of belonging, friendships and a new sense of community that we thought was not part of our University. Moreover, it is clear to us that this strike – which aims at tackling the abominable growth in casualised labour and the anachronistic pay difference between male and female members of staff – is absolutely necessary in improving Higher Education for everyone, including students.

This ballot was unsuccessful once. It was not for lack of interest but because of the incredible growth in membership. More people voted than the previous ballot, but was not enough. Thus, it is absolutely imperative that every member votes in this ballot so that the 50% threshold is crossed in every institution where the ballot is organized. We do not think that we exaggerate when we say that this strike is essential in the defence of Higher Education from increased managerialism, marketisation and elitism. Not only this, but it offers the opportunity to create an impetus for a revitalisation in the Union movement for the liberation of the whole sector precarity and exploitation.

Hugh Brady takes a £20,000 pay increase whilst the lowest paid workers in our community work over 50 hours a week for a below minimum wage salary. We must fight hard against this injustice to create free, accessible and liberated education for all before it is entirely taken away from us.

Voting in support of strike action is the first step of a longer journey of engagement and empowerment. As we did before and during the last strike, we commit to organise student support and to be at your side. During the ballot and in case a new strike was launched. We learned the importance of students-staff solidarity last year and we want to do even better than the past in terms of engagement, participation and solidarity. We will work hard to provide alternative education spaces for students. We will stand in firm solidarity with you on picket lines and between them.

We are sure this will be an opportunity to build upon the spectacular sense of community we developed together during the momentous strikes last year and organise further to create the University that we and not the managers and the market want. It is clear that the Senior Management Team’s efforts are not in your interests despite Hugh’s infamous ‘Lightning Rod’ speech last year, and that this struggle will be long and difficult but absolutely necessary.

Solidarity forever,

Bristol Student-Staff Solidarity Group