All posts by ucuoffice

United, We Can Win – Vote Yes Yes in the Ballot

Please vote in the current UCU Pay and Equality Ballot. Your vote is vital.

UCU is currently balloting its members on whether to take industrial action and action short of a strike. As things stand, University managements, our employers are not prepared to take action on excessive workloads, insecure jobs, a manifest gender pay gap and falling pay.

This matches the picture at Bristol. At this University, just under half of all academic staff are on insecure contracts, restructure after restructure means a state of perpetuity insecurity for professional service staff and 70% of women academics at Bristol are on the most insecure career ‘pathways’ 2 and 3. Workloads continue to go up and up.

And, while we hear whispers of coming cuts and further belt tightening, it still seems far easier to splash the cash on another Senior Managerial position or VC-sponsored capital project than it is to invest in front-line staff.

UCU wants all Universities to take action. Without a vote in favour of taking action, UCU will be unable to make Universities take action on workloads, casualisation, the gender pay gap and fair pay. Our recent successful strike to defend and secure our USS pensions showed that united, we can win.

If you want us to achieve similar results, Vote Yes Yes in the ballot, for strike action and action short of a strike.

It is vital that you vote. A strong union is a union that turnouts to vote. Supporting members through difficult times, changing bad policy, protecting our members’ interests: all of this depends on us being a strong, engaged branch that deserves the respect and recognition of our employers.

The ballot closes on Friday, 22nd February. Your ballot must be posted by Wednesday, 20th February at the latest. Haven’t got a ballot? Go to:

You will need to order a replacement before Monday, 18th February.

Thank you


‘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

Gender Pay Gap – Joint Statement from the University of Bristol and Bristol UCU

The Gender Pay Gap

The University of Bristol and Bristol UCU are united in their commitment to eliminating the gender pay gap at the University. We acknowledge the importance of the Equal Pay Audits that have been undertaken since 2009; however, we have shared concerns about the pace with which changes are being made towards reducing the gender pay gap and agree that further action is required.

The University of Bristol and UCU recognise that, although the gender pay gap needs to be tackled across the whole of the University, there are a number of cultural, structural and policy issues which affect women academic staff in particular. For this reason, the University has agreed to engage in time-limited negotiations with UCU with a view to agreeing actions, including setting appropriate targets, to significantly reduce the gender pay gap among academic staff within three years. These negotiations will be completed by December 2018, and their agreed outcomes will form part of the University-wide Action Plan of the Gender Pay Gap Working Group.

The University of Bristol agrees to provide leadership across and within schools and to commit resources, support and guidance to achieve this objective. It will also ensure that the University’s strategic objectives include appropriate key performance indicators.

Both the University and UCU are committed to implementing a jointly agreed action plan, and to monitoring and reviewing that plan together regularly to ensure we achieve our shared objective of eliminating the gender pay gap among academic staff at the University of Bristol.

Latest Update – Gender Pay Claim Negotiations

We are hopeful that a Joint Statement of Intent agreed by UCU and the University of Bristol Management Team (UMT) will be formally signed off by UMT at their meeting on 24th September.

Assuming that statement is formally signed off, UCU obviously welcomes this. We will clearly be looking for actions that match the words.

We had very much hoped to be able to publish the Joint Statement of Intent ahead of our first negotiating meeting ‘proper’ on 11th September but, in part, due to a significant delay in receiving an initial response to UCU’s suggested wording, this has unfortunately not been possible.

UCU had made clear at preliminary meetings that we expected UMT representatives to engage with us in discussing the elements of the claim, as the University is claiming it is committed, at the very highest level, to addressing the issue of the Gender Pay Gap. We understood that this had been agreed. Deputy VC, Guy Orpen, and Director of HR, Claire Buchanan, were both scheduled to attend the negotiating meeting on 11th September, but both pulled out at a very late stage. This was disappointing.

The meeting went ahead, but without senior decision makers in the room, progress was limited. Discussion focussed mainly on the issues of Pathway 2, opportunities for progression, and support for movement between the pathways, and we pushed the point that a commitment of resources is needed to make an impact. The next negotiating meeting is on 3rd October, and we have been assured that the Director of HR will attend this time. We very much hope that the Deputy VC will also be able to attend future meetings, as he had initially indicated he would, as UCU considers that his involvement in this process is vital.

UCU notes Guy Orpen’s message to all staff on Gender Employment and Pay, and welcome the fact that it picks up on a number of the key aspects of UCU’s Gender Pay Gap Claim. We therefore look forward to agreeing targets and timescales on a range of the proposed actions he included in his message, for example:

  • Reviewing how we recognise achievements in research, teaching, leadership and citizenship for academic progression and promotion.
  • Continuing our work to update the promotions and progression process, including the movement up and between pathways and the criteria for promotion

An important date for your diaries

The 1st of November is a very significant date; it’s the date on which the University effectively stops paying women, as a result of the 16.2% gender pay gap across the institution as a whole. We will be marking the occasion with an evening event celebrating women working at the University. Watch out for further details.

JEP, Consultation and Contingent Contributions – USS Update

September, 2018

UCU and USS members await the publication of the Joint Evaluation Panel (JEP) report at the end of September.

The JEP is charged with examining the contested USS valuation and the alleged £7.5 billion deficit, the main driver for current detrimental proposals to our USS pension benefits and contributions.

UCU’s position is clear: we reject the unduly pessimistic way in which USS has chosen to measure the health of the scheme. In our view the 2017 valuation is flawed, particularly when, according to First Actuarial, ‘on best estimate assumptions, we estimate the surplus in the USS could be well in excess of £10bn’.

USS Members will have also received a letter and document notifying them of the USS Employer Consultation (‘Notice of Statutory Consultation by Employers in Relation to USS’), and inviting them to respond. ‘This is your opportunity to tell us your thoughts on the proposals’. Further information can be found here:  

The Consultation documents summarise the cost-sharing proposals made by the USS trustees because of UCU and Universities UK ‘not reaching a decision on benefit and/or contribution changes’. These cost-sharing proposals, which are intended to kick in in April 2019, will see individual scheme members’ contributions increase from 8 to 8.8% and employer contributions to raise from 18% to 19.5% of salary. Further rises would follow, with employee contributions reaching 11.7% by April 2020.

These changes are not welcomed by UCU, except to note that members’ current DB benefits package is preserved by these cost-sharing changes, a state of affairs secured by our highly effective industrial action this year.

Please note: the April 2019 proposals are subject to change. Following the publication of the JEP report, as made clear in the Consultation document, ‘the JNC may propose changes to benefits and/or contributions’. With the JEP report, a new USS deal is expected to be struck.

The Consultation encourages members to share their thoughts on these changes as well as on the removal of the ‘employer match’ of the defined contribution element of USS.

For UCU, ‘the decision of USS to press ahead with this consultation even though the report from the JEP is imminent is unfortunate, not least because it will create confusion among members and employers’. UCU suggest members may wish to make the following points in their responses to the Consultation:

  • You highly value the current benefits package, support the retention of the defined (ie. guaranteed) pension and believe that USS is an important part of the recruitment and retention package for universities
  • The 2017 valuation is contested and is currently the subject of a report from the joint expert panel (JEP). You expect USS to engage seriously with any recommendations made by the JEP
  • Because the 2017 valuation is contested, and the JEP is yet to report, you do not consider the case has yet been made for even relatively minor changes in benefits such as the withdrawal of the match payment
  • You believe that serious engagement by USS with the work of the JEP is key to improving confidence in the scheme among members

If they were ever implemented in full, the cost sharing proposals would lead to significant hardship for many scheme members such as the low paid or those without contract security.

Members may also be interested in Sheffield UCU’s advice to members if they wish to register more of a protest:

This notes, amongst other points, the case for increased contributions has not been made, that the now widely ridiculed employers’ consultation of last year should be rerun, ‘the poor judgement of the trustee and its executive has been a major factor in avoidable industrial action in #HE’ and that USS should be transparent with regard to its conduct of valuations.

Of note is that the University of Bristol has made several sensible and helpful suggestions in this latest round of discussion and consultation with UCU, JEP and other USS-related bodies. These include an appetite to revisit last year’s valuation, to review the level of support USS institutions are willing to show towards USS (the employers’ covenant) and to make meaningful contingent payments in the event of deterioration in the scheme funding position, over a longer period than had been indicated during the initial USS consultation which fed into the 2017 valuation.

The University of Bristol’s submission to the Joint Expert Panel included a willingness ‘…to extend the period [of contingent contributions] from 20 years to 30 years’; were this commitment taken up across the sector, it would make a substantial contribution to increasing the scheme’s ability to rely on the employer covenant, reducing the need for de-risking of the investment portfolio and thus reducing, or eliminating altogether, the measured deficit.

‘Power needs to move..’: University of Bristol Governance, Decision-Making and Legitimacy

The recent industrial action has highlighted and exacerbated longstanding concerns amongst staff about university governance.

This was one of strands of our Bristol UCU branch conference in early June. The central problems are a lack of democratic legitimacy in decision-making compounded by a lack of transparency about the information, especially financial information, that underpins decision-making. We need a more democratic mode of governance that better reflects our values as a university community.

Decision-making is currently too centralised. Power needs to move away from the centre, and towards staff. A more devolved approach to governance is needed., This will require both structural and cultural change. If ,however, we are to learn the lessons of the dispute, and to move on as a university, such change is essential. It will not be accomplished overnight, but we outline below some concrete steps designed to initiate the process of discussing and achieving better governance at Bristol.

Potential Ways Forward

  • Review of governance by group of staff and students, including representatives of trade unions and early career academics, to report end of 2018

The group could consider (along with submissions from staff) the following set of proposals Board of Trustees

  • Elected element needs to be restored incorporating provision for gender balance
    taff presence should include some designated representation from union officers


  • Greater diversity in lay membership: certain kinds of private sector experience, especially financial services, are currently over-represented


  • Mayoral/City nominee to Board of Trustees: despite presence of various local bodies in make up of Court, this does not necessarily create a strong link between the university and the city within the Board of Trustees


  • Staff and Student representation on the Remuneration Committee – the recent Halpin Review at Bath proposes this, and it would be best practice.


  • Improved communication from Board of Trustees to university community


  • Senate should be strengthened, and better supported to do its essential work


  • An elected chair of Senate


  • A return to Senate determining the order of business, and which items are to be prioritised for discussion


  • Greater transparency in financial data provided to Senate


Representation for professional services staff. Professional services staff have experienced a wave of restructurings in recent years yet lack any form of representation akin to Senate for academic staff. We note that the Halpin Review of Bath floats the possibility of a Senate-like body for professional services staff. There is certainly a deeply felt need to address the lack of voice and representation for professional service staff across the University.

Workload Principles for a Common Approach

This Bristol UCU paper/blog post provides 11 principles to guide academic workload modelling across the University of Bristol.

With very few exceptions, academic Schools now use an explicit, formal workload model. There are commonalities across these, but also differences. It is rare that there is one model in a Faculty. Yet important workforce planning occurs at the Faculty level, without any real sense of how workload varies between Schools. At university level, decisions are similarly made about the allocation of posts without a real sense of comparative workload between Faculties and Schools.

While Bristol UCU welcomes increased attention to Staff Student Ratios (SSRs) in recent years, these do not provide an adequate proxy, given that different subjects have differing requirements. It is hard to understand how the Establishment Review Group can proceed, other than by induction from past patterns, given the lack of robust data on workload. Attention to Russell Group median SSRs is positive in that it has brought resource to hard-pressed departments, but better modelling of workload remains essential.

From a university perspective, closing the gaps in workload model provision, and establishing common principles for workload modelling can inform good workforce planning. From a Bristol UCU perspective, a common approach is equally required. All Pathway 1 staff need time to produce research; all pathway 3 staff need time to do scholarship. Staff are assessed against a common set of university criteria for promotion and progression. Natural justice and the ambitions of the university’s Vision and Strategy likewise point to common standards (eg 40:40:20) that should apply across all six Faculties. Common principles in workload modelling will enable the university to identify areas where workloads preclude staff spending appropriate amounts of time on research and/or scholarship. If done realistically, it will also enable an informed critique of existing structures and processes based on a serious reckoning of the time spent on various managerial and administrative tasks.

These points are not new. What has hampered discussion in the past, however, is framing the issue in terms of a ‘single workload model’. This terminology is unhelpfully ambiguous, and immediately creates understandable concerns about the implementation of a ‘one size fits all’ solution. We need to distinguish between a common platform, common principles, and a common model. If common model refers to a single set of items with precisely the same weighting applied across all subjects, there are good reasons to reject this. There are real differences between PhD supervision in the Arts and PhD supervision within a research group in the hard sciences, not least in terms of the relationship between the PhD supervisor’s own research and that of the PhD student. This is why workload models in the Arts tend to weigh PhD supervising more heavily than those in the Sciences. A common platform, such as the software Simitive provide, allows considerable flexibility in modelling. Currently, our luxurious variety of workload models largely sit on a common platform, namely Microsoft Excel. A common platform has no necessary implications for how modelling works.

Objections to a common model do not, however, hold for common principles of modelling. There are, for instance, very good reasons to use hours (or hours translated into credits as a means of turning 4 digit into 3 digit numbers) rather than to use a % model, as the latter says nothing about the actual or relative volume of work. This paper sets out a set of common principles that should inform workload modelling across the University of Bristol. The paper is informed by hundreds of conversations with academics across the University about workload and workload modelling, by a review of (anonymised) data from several of the workload models currently in use, and by UCU’s national work on best practice in workload modelling.

Common Principles

1. Workload models should measure time.

Time is what a workload model measures, not money. The weighting attached to tasks should be solely derived from the time taken to accomplish them. A good model does not ‘incentivise’ behaviours by weighing some tasks more heavily than others, regardless of the relative time required to complete them, on the grounds that some tasks are more profitable than others. We should not, for instance, weigh research less heavily within a model as it is less lucrative than teaching overseas students. This principle needs to be consistently upheld in modelling.

2. The currency of the model should be hours not percentages.

As noted above, models based on percentages simply fail to deliver key requirements of a workload model.

3. The hours assigned to tasks should be realistic.

Some workload models currently in use at Bristol do not adequately reflect the realities of work. This is evident, for example, in the time allocated for marking, which often does not align with pressures to provide better feedback for students. It is, of course, the case that individual academics even in the same subject area will vary in the time needed to perform certain tasks. Hours allocated should reflect the time needed for a competent member of staff do the task properly. This is best determined through discussion with staff. This approach is both rooted in the reality of how long work takes while also providing a useful yardstick to staff: if the marking is taking much less time than the model suggests (not in practice a common experience!) you are probably not doing it properly; if it is taking far longer, you may be providing more feedback than is actually useful to a student.

4. The aim is to capture the full workload.

A model that undercounts workload is not a good workload model. As well as realistically modelling time required to perform a given duty, the model should seek to capture the full range of duties, including research and scholarship. This does not mean that a model should seek or claim to be exhaustive: some important aspects of academic life, such as a student coming to see a member of staff outside consultation hours, cannot be predicted in advance, and the costs of monitoring this activity would be both prohibitive and undesirable. The workload model should include an allowance for this unscheduled activity of at least 160 hours per annum.

5. The workload model should be developed to the highest standards of EDI.

Staff often note the tendency of WLMs to undercount the time involved in certain activities: teaching; teaching management; personal tutoring. By contrast some work is rarely undercounted – consultation with staff suggests research management roles are usually appropriately weighted. There is here a gendered pattern: roles that are under-counted are those disproportionately undertaken by women. In building a WLM, robust scrutiny of both the categories adopted and the tariffs included from an EDI perspective is essential. This is itself an argument in favour of more comprehensive approach rather than heavily trading off comprehensiveness in favour of simplicity: adopting the latter strategy is more likely to undercount women’s work, and hence to perpetuate inequality and injustice.

6. The workload model should be transparent and shared amongst those whose workload it captures.

There is already some good practice at the University of workload data being shared at School level and made available to all those whose workload is included in the model. Where this has happened, the experience has been positive: the capacity to see the workloads of others in the School has driven up the quality of information in the model, made for greater equity in workloads, and reduced (at least somewhat!) ill-informed comment upon the workloads of others.

7. The details of costings (eg how many hours does it take to supervise a PhD student in Chemistry?) should be built from ‘the bottom up’ through discussion amongst staff in the relevant unit.

8. There should be a single model at an appropriate level of unit, which will be at least that of the School, but would better be that of the Faculty.

There should be a single model in a School, rather than multiple models. It is, though, both possible and preferable to have a single model across a Faculty. This does not mean, for instance, that there is no scope for acknowledging particular unit types that require additional teaching; this already happens where there is a Faculty-wide model (eg Arts). Given the role that Faculties play in determining staffing levels, a single model per Faculty would be the ideal. The fact that at least one Faculty (Arts), and a very diverse Faculty at that (consider the differences between Spanish, Philosophy, and Film) has implemented a single model gives the lie to claims that this is impossible. It might be that the model, even within a single School, weighs the same task differently: it might, for instance, be the case that within the School of Geographical Sciences some PhD supervision conforms to an ‘Arts’ mode, some a ‘Science’ mode; the model should recognise that difference. Any such Faculty-wide model would be derived through principle 7.

9. Models should explicitly include time for research (P1 and P2) and for scholarship/pedagogy (P3) in accordance with contractual expectations.

All P1 staff regardless of Faculty are expected to conduct research. Workload models across all Faculties and Schools for P1 staff should include hours for research that reflect these contractual demands. This is likely to be of the order of 40% (ie c. 600 hours), given the ambitions of the University’s strategy for research, and should be similar regardless of School/Faculty. All P3 staff are expected to pursue scholarship/pedagogy, and hours in WLMs should reflect this. This is likely to be in the order of 30% (ie c. 450 hour), given the contractual demands on such staff, and the ambitions of the University’s strategy for educational innovation.

10. Core research time should be treated as a single block of time.

Some existing models (eg Arts) largely treat core research time for staff as a single block. Others (eg SPS) build up core research time from specific tasks (eg writing a grant proposal; writing a paper for a journal). While the latter approach is appropriate to understanding the time involved in teaching and management work, the former better reflects the autonomy, and flexibility, inherent in academic research. It also reduces the set up and maintenance costs of running a WLM.

11. Buy out for research should not be secured by reducing research time for others.

Many of the most difficult conversations around workload modelling concern buy out, usually for research, of staff time, and how this should be accounted for in the model. External grants are only one source of money for research and are not a meaningful proxy for the quality or quantity of research undertaken by either an individual or a group. There is wide variance in the significance of research grants as a funding stream across different disciplines within the university. Core research time should not be restricted to those with active grants. It may, however, be appropriate to award grant holders additional research time beyond core time, as long as this does not drive up the workload of others to levels where ‘real’ research time is reduced below the level set out by the ‘core’ research tariff.

Report on UCU Congress 2018 – Bristol UCU Delegates

It would be safe to describe Congress 2018 as eventful.

It has already been much discussed (not always accurately) on social media and has received some coverage in the press. It is not easy to describe: much happened; some things that were supposed to happen did not happen; procedural expertise was sorely tested.

Congress 2018 was unable to complete its business. Considerable time was lost on the first and third days. The nub of the controversy concerned two motions: one calling for the resignation of the General Secretary Sally Hunt; the other for her censure. Those branches bringing the motions were understandably determined that motions passed by their branch meetings be discussed by Congress.

The staff of the union, who are members of the UNITE union, deemed the motions an infringement of the employment rights of the General Secretary on the grounds that the General Secretary is employed by the National Executive Committee not Congress, and that due process for making a complaint about her conduct had not been followed. The staff exercised their rights as trade unionists and withdrew their labour leading to the suspension of Congress.

Considerable business was, nonetheless, conducted, particularly in the Higher Education Sector Conference on the second day. Many motions were concerned with the USS dispute. Congress collectively was keen to establish ‘red lines’ on what would constitute an acceptable outcome of the Joint Expert Panel, to create special machinery – the calling of Higher Education Special Conferences; the creation of a National Dispute Committee to oversee national negotiators, separate and distinct from our existing Higher Education Committee – to consider its results – and to determine next steps, and to publicise as widely as possible its workings.

It might be best to describe this as an interim report, as a motion was passed authorising a special one-day conference to undertake the unfinished business of Congress, including the two motions that proved especially controversial.

The dispute over the two motions concerning the General Secretary led to a number of votes as to whether Congress should debate those motions or not. In these instances, we – along with many though not a majority of delegates – voted not to debate those motions. Our view was that constitutionally Congress is a policy-making forum, not a body that passes judgment on the conduct and integrity of other parts of the democratic machinery of the union, whether that be the General Secretary or, for example, the National Executive Committee. We also wished to ensure there was an opportunity to discuss the many important policy motions, not least on equality issues, brought to Congress that were not in the end discussed.

This was a disappointing Congress in terms of its formal business. We, like many other delegates, wished to celebrate the great collective action in which we all participated, and to shape future policy for an enlarged and reinvigorated Union to address fundamental questions, such as eliminating the gender pay gap. There were some excellent fringe meetings on, for example, governance and precarious work, where we had discussions we hope to build on in our forthcoming branch conference. It was heartening to hear in conversations with other large branches of their successes during and after the strike, and to make valuable connections.

Regardless of the debates at Congress, we remain committed to local action on such issues as gender pay equality, mental health issues for staff and students, and casualisation of employment. We will be holding a conference next week to address these and other pressing matters. We hope you will all attend to voice your views.

James Thompson
Tracey Hooper
Suzy Cheeke