Pay: cut / cut / squeeze / ballot


Many QMUL staff will be shocked to receive a paycut in their April payslip.

Pay Cut

Starting from 1st April, the Government has abolished the 1.4% NI rebate given to those who’d contracting out of the State Pension in favour of a work place pension.  So for everyone with a USS or SAUL pension, that amounts to roughly an additional £23 deductions to your pay.  More details are here and here.

Pay Cut

And from 1st April, USS have closed their Final Salary and old CRB pension schemes.  All staff with a USS pension are now forced into the ‘USS Retirement Income Builder’ scheme – with an 8% increase in employee contributions.  More details are here.

Pay Squeeze

In real terms, university pay has fallen by 14.5% since 2009.  For QMUL and other London universties, that decrease is nearer to 17% .  In response, the university employers (UCEA) are currently…

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Message from Sally Hunt – 2016/17 Pay Claim

Dear colleague,

I am writing to tell you that following an unacceptable response to our 2016 pay claim the union is now balloting HE members for industrial action. Ballot papers will be posted on 14 April. The ballot will close on 4 May 2016.

What was the union’s claim?

This year the union submitted a claim which highlighted the 14.5% real terms loss in the value of your salary compared to inflation since 2009 as a result of successive low pay offers, and also sought action at last from the employers to tackle casualisation and the gender pay gap.

How did the employers respond?

In response, the employers’ association UCEA have made an offer to increase salaries by 1%. This compares to latest increases reported for vice-chancellors and principals of 3%, bringing their average pay to £272k.

How can I check how much value my salary has lost in recent years?

So far 33,000 UCU members have worked out how much their salary would be if it had kept pace with inflation since 2009 using our ‘Rate for the Job’ tool. The average loss in salary value per member who has used Rate for the Job is £6,090. Check your real terms loss in pay here.

I support the campaign for better pay, do I still need to vote?

If you support the campaign for better pay, please vote for it. Every single vote in the ballot strengthens your negotiators’ position so please do not leave it to others to stand up for better pay.

If the ballot is in favour of industrial action, what happens next?

I hope that the employers will respond to the strength of feeling among staff and make an offer which genuinely addresses our pay claim. If they do not, then UCU will be asking members to begin a campaign of industrial action, starting with a two-day strike.

Will the union also be calling action short of a strike?

The forthcoming ballot will ask members to support both strike action and action short of a strike. It is important to understand that based on previous experience, effective ‘action short of strike’ like a boycott of assessment or marking is likely to lead to substantial deductions in pay of up to 100% by many employers and that this may lead to further strike action. For this reason, if you support the campaign for better pay it is vital that you support both the ‘strike’ action and ‘action short of a strike’ options on the ballot paper.

Will the ballot cover all HE employers?

The ballot will cover HE employers who mandate UCEA to negotiate on their behalf. A list of those institutions not included in the ballot for one reason or another will be published before the ballot opens.

Can non-UCU colleagues get involved?

Yes. Please share this message, encourage your colleagues to check how much the value of their salary has fallen at Rate for the Job and if they want a vote in the ballot they should join the union here.

I will write again before the ballot goes out.

Sally Hunt
UCU general secretary

The Prevent Duty at the University of Bristol – Open Letter to University of Bristol Senate Members

Dear Member of the University of Bristol Senate,

We are writing to you about the suite of Prevent Duty-related policy documents at the next meeting of Senate on 18th April (SN/15-16/044; SN/15-16/050).

The policies reference therein – Freedom of Speech Statement; External Speakers’ Procedure, Risk Assessment and Action Plan, IT Services Policy – are the University’s response to the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s (HEFCE) Prevent Duty Monitoring Framework.

We agree with the University and College Union (UCU) official position that the Prevent Duty seriously threatens academic freedom, stifles campus activism, encourages racial profiling and does not promote an open and supportive learning environment.

The above policies will institutionalise the Prevent Duty at the University of Bristol with potentially damaging consequences for freedom of speech, for general campus debate and discussion as well as for the University’s commitment to equality and non-discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or religion.

We agree with the Bristol Students’ Union where in its Prevent Duty policy, it states ‘any expectation by the state for academic staff to be involved in monitoring their students is deeply worrying, and could have a chilling effect on relations between staff and students’.

Staff and students at the University of Bristol are proud of their commitment to, and record of, challenging any expression of prejudice or discrimination directed against any group or individual. Where any safeguarding or a duty of care concern is raised that may put a member of this University at risk of harm, there are already established procedures of prompt referral at Bristol.

Staff and students are also committed to the notion that is essential that in order to explore views and opinions and where necessary, challenge them, we must actively promote a climate of free discussion and debate on the University of Bristol campus. Critically, legitimate political opinions or research interests expressed by staff or students are not ‘extreme’ or legitimising ‘extremism’. For example, it is perfectly legitimate to criticise all aspects of UK foreign policy.

We believe that current University of Bristol Prevent Duty-related proposals do not take fully into account our concerns about the Prevent Duty. They normalise a culture of risk aversion, of monitoring and surveillance, and if misapplied, will engender precisely the kind of intolerance that the Prevent Duty is supposed to ward against.

Furthermore, Senate members should be aware that the University of Bristol is responding to the terms of the Higher Education Funding Council for England Prevent Duty Framework. To note that Prevent ‘requirements [were] imposed upon the University’ (SN/15-16/050) is to gloss over the University’s authorship of individual policies. There is more scope for a ‘non-party line’ than is suggested. Other University management teams have adopted a more independent yet hardly extra-legal or irresponsible position – see the recent article by Kingston University Vice-Chancellor Professor Julius Weinberg, ‘I won’t stop offering a platform to so-called “hate speakers”’, The Guardian, 23rd February 2016.

Yours faithfully,

• James Thompson, History
• Tracey Hooper, Bristol UCU President
• Mark Harvey, Academic Registry
• Jamie Melrose, Bristol UCU Vice President & SPAIS
• Dan Godshaw, SPAIS
• Isabel Stockton, Department of Economics
• Richard Porter, Mathematics
• Professor Tonia Novitz, Law
• Andrew Hicks, English
• Isabel de Salis, Social and Community Medicine
• Mark Jackson, Geographical Sciences
• John McTague, English
• Jonas Langner, Modern Languages
• Professor Carl Dettmann, Mathematics
• Peter Barham, Professor Emeritus, School of Physics
• Josie Gill , English
• Claire O Neill, Management
• Megan Blomfield, Philosophy
• Rutvica Andrijasevic, Management
• Richard Sessions, Biochemistry
• Mascia Amici, Physiology Pharmacology and Neuroscience
• Stephan Lewandowsky, Experimental Psychology
• Michael Malay, English
• Esther Jones Russell, Alumnus, Modern Languages
• Jack Hazeldine, Library Services
• Zack M, Physics & Philosophy
• Neema Begum, SPAIS
• Sally Ware, SPAIS
• Natalie Jester, SPAIS
• Ruth Bush, Modern Languages
• George Clarke, SPAIS
• Ben Marshall, Electrical and Electronic Engineering
• Christopher Bertram, Philosophy
• Noha Abu El Magd, Bristol SU BME Officer & Physics
• Jakob Hartl, SPAIS
• Rowena Salmon, Historical Studies
• Matilda Haymes, English
• Keava Mascott, Biology
• Matthew Wright, Chemistry
• Liam Robinson, Aerospace Engineering
• Ed Atkins, Law
• Mwenza Blell, Archaeology & Anthropology
• William Williams, Earth Sciences
• Aslak-Antti Oksanen, SPAIS
• Rhian Grant, Philsophy
• Hannah Dualeh, Psychology & Bristol SU BME Officer Elect
• Leigh-Ann Clarke, English
• Stephen Le Fanu, Biological Sciences
• Alex Franklin, School of Arts
• Arabella Champignon-le-Bois, Modern Languages
• Zainab Kwaw-Swanzy, Mathematics
• Kevin Doogan, SPS
• Ricky Tutin, EFIM
• Elizabeth Evans, SPAIS
• Michael Rickard, IT Services
• Blair Matthews, CELFS
• Prof Jutta Weldes, SPAIS
• Steve Condliffe, IT Services
• Colin Lazarus, Biological Sciences
• John Foot, Italian
• Mike Barton, Electrical & Electronic Engineering
• Saffron Karlsen, SPAIS
• Elspeth Van Veeren, SPAIS
• Andrew James, Physiology and Pharmacology
• Stephen D’Evelyn, Bristol UCU Secretary
• Radhika Jani, English
• Maria Fannin, Geographical Sciences
• Scott Greenwell, Physics
• Laura Lyddon, SPAIS
• Dr Yvette Russell, Law
• Jess Hambly, Law
• Jeremy Green, SPAIS
• Jule Mulder, Law

UCU’s Pay Campaign – Latest March/April News

Our Claim

  • UCU met with the employers, the Universities & Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) on 22 March.
  • The meeting was to discuss UCEA’s response to our joint Higher Education trade union pay claim.
  • To refresh, our claim, submitted on Friday, 11th March was:
  • A 5% pay increase for all university staff on the national pay scale
  • At least the living wage for those staff at the bottom of the pay spine
  • Nationally agreed minimum rates of pay for external examiners
  • Nationally agreed action for institutions to close the gender pay gap by 2020
  • Nationally agreed action for institutions to reduce the proportion of their staff on casual and zero hour contracts
  • To establish a Scottish Sub-Committee of Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff

UCEA’s Response

  • A 1% pay increase
  • The potential of further joint work on gender pay
  • The potential of further joint work in regards to casual and zero hour contracts
  • No agreement on external examiner pay
  • No agreement to set up the Scottish Sub Committee

What Next

  • We are balloting for strike action and action short of a strike the week as of 11th April.
  • Any industrial action would start w/c 23rd May.
  • The next negotiating meet of UCU (and other trade unions) and UCEA is 28th April.
  • The last opportunity for UCEA to make a substantial offer would be on 19th May.

The Facts

The decline in our pay since 2009/10 could be as high as 17.5%.

Lecturers, professional services staff, staff on casual contracts, professors: since 2010 all have seen annual cumulative shortfalls of between £3K and £7K.

The total difference in average pay received by male and female academics is a staggering £1.3 billion per year

Austerity for some? In 2014/15, the average V-C salary was £272K – an average increase of 3% and 6.7 times the average pay of their staff

67% of research staff are still on fixed-term contracts, a third of these are for 12 months or less

Over the last six years capital expenditure in HE has increased by 18.6%, income by 23.9%, surpluses by 125.4% and reserves up by 72.3%

We are working harder and longer than ever!

The Prevent Duty@Bristol: The Duty in Context, Bristol UCU Response and Next Steps

The Context: 

The Prevent Duty is Section 26 of the 2015 Counter-Terrorism and Security Act. This states that public bodies, such as universities, need to have ‘due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’. According to the Government’s Prevent Duty Guidance for Higher Education Institutions in England and Wales, this means universities need to police external speakers with a view to stopping events where ‘extremist views’ may be expressed, to train staff in ‘factors that make people support terrorist ideologies’ and to make ‘clear’ to student unions ‘the need to challenge extremist ideologies’.

The Prevent Duty is part of the Prevent Strategy, published by the Government in 2011 and part of the overall UK counter-terrorism strategy. According to the Strategy, universities are now legally responsible for monitoring possible signs of radicalisation. Indicators for this ‘radicalisation’ are nebulous, open to abuse and highly specious. They include ‘a need for identity, meaning and belonging’, ‘a desire for political or moral change’ and ‘vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values’.

Dissent as regards Prevent amongst Higher Education professionals is rife. Ken MacDonald, warden of Wadham College, Oxford and a former Director of Public Prosecutions, has pointed out the ‘chilling effect’ of the Duty on academic debate and day-to-day business. ‘Read literary,’ he argues, the Duty ‘envisages a future in which people might be constrained from arguing, in a university of all places, that democracy is wrong in principle‘. Vice Chancellor of Kingston University Julius Weinberg has recently said ‘there is no respectable evidence that radicalisation is happening at our universities‘. Sorana Vieru, NUS VP Higher Education points out ‘an atmosphere of suspicion, monitoring and not to mention profiling undermines the possibility of such a space that allows research to flourish and learners to develop‘. ‘The creation of a legal duty on universities,’ highlights Rizwaan Sabir, lecturer in criminology at Liverpool John Moores University, ‘to report extremists or “potential terrorists” therefore has a deeply damaging impact in so far as it creates a climate of fear and self-censorship‘.

Clearly, one of the most worrying aspects of the whole Prevent project is the green light it gives to racial and religious discrimination. ‘For Muslim students’, according to Malia Bouattia, NUS Black Students’ Officer, ‘there truly will be no respite from the storm of Islamophobia that greets them in every other section of society‘. In an effort to promote ‘British’ values from the top, the current Conservative government is granting powers to institutions that ensures precisely the kind of victimisation that engenders social exclusion. To quote University of Bristol academic Dr Therese O’Toole:

The current direction of travel for Prevent and the government’s increasing emphasis on and development of a battery of powers to combat extremism exemplify the tensions inherent in Cameron’s concept of ‘muscular liberalism’, where defence of ‘British values’ – democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and belief – is being realised by ever expanding and restrictive measures (e.g. Theresa May’s surveillance bill), that target and marginalise Muslims. So far, these are being developed in a policy climate of acceptance of the government’s construction of the problem of extremism, with little consideration of their implications for either Muslim civic inclusion or civil society more broadly.

The website PREVENTwatch documents cases of Prevent in practice: 

UCU Policy & University of Bristol

National UCU policy is clear: the Duty seriously threatens academic freedom, is intended to stifle campus activism, forces University staff to racially profile, legitimises Islamophobia, and jeopardises the safety and supportive learning environment that is the classroom or lecture theatre.

As regards the Prevent Duty at the University of Bristol, members may be aware of the recent Prevent Consultation. Please see the Bristol UCU blog post, ‘The Prevent Duty at the University of Bristol‘.

Bristol UCU also helped organised the Prevent 101 event last October, and is a co-organiser of the NUS event Students not Suspects on 17th March at the University of Bristol.

To be clear, the University position is that per its legal obligation, it needs to demonstrate to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the HE Prevent Duty monitoring body, its compliance with the Duty.

The University has set out its Prevent Risk Assessment and Action plan accordingly. In the Consultation, for example, staff and students were asked to comment on the draft Freedom of Speech statement and the new External Speakers Procedure. A new IT policy is on the cards; staff will be subject to varying forms of Prevent Duty training.

It should be noted that the HEFCE monitoring procedure is essentially an audit. Respondent universities are not mandated to enforce certain policy changes; rather, they are asked to respond with a view to detailing their Prevent Duty-readiness. The University of Bristol is able, if it so wishes as an institution, to say it is Prevent reading on the basis of extant polices on vulnerable students, room booking and civil liberties safeguards.

The Prevent Compliance Group, with UCU representation as of 1st March, has been leading on this. In terms of the University of Bristol timetable, the final suite of Prevent-related policies and procedures have to be submitted by 1st April to HEFCE. They are due to be approved at the Board of Trustees on 18th March.

Overall, Consultation comments were telling. Bristol staff and students wrote of ‘the slippery slope’ that the Prevent-related changes heralded, the ‘vagueness’ of the terms of the Freedom of Speech policy and the ‘Orwellian measures’ of the External Speakers Procedure. One respondent observes:

My concern is that what is, in principle, regards as a contingent tool for a extraordinary situation will, de facto, become a repressive mechanism and, indeed, a successful attempt to prevent students from uniting and and taking part to protest for their legitimate grievances.

Another respondent flags up:

The UCU and the Bristol SU are seeming the only sensible people involved in this response…The university should be fighting back against this nonsense, not rolling over to have it’s tummy tickled by the most illiberal government since…well, since the terribly illiberal Labour government.

It should be noted that suggestions from the Prevent Consultation feedback will be incorporated in the final documents –the document owners for the Freedom of Speech and External Speakers Procedure are happy to include reference to the right to hold events on controversial topics; further clarity around the need to protect free speech will be added –and it was also noted at the meeting of the Prevent Compliance Group how ‘unique’ Bristol has been in terms of consultative approach. Moreover, in terms of IT policy, we will not be going down the aggressive web filtering approach.

However, as Bristol UCU lead on Prevent, and UCU rep on the Prevent Compliance Group, for me, the main Prevent Duty concerns remain. With regard to the External Speakers Procedure:

Defenders of the [External Speakers] policy may point to the self-policing aspect of the guidelines, and the dangers of reading worst case scenarios into the various instructions. After all, the various Bristol gatekeepers and decision makers for the External Speakers Policy (and most policies for that matter) are mostly good, solid liberal Bürger, who are not looking over their (right) shoulder wondering what the Daily Mail is fulminating about today. Moreover, when Bristol academics are organising conferences or pow-wows on high temperature superconductors or the social history of Counter-Reformation Italian millinery, are these really going to trigger “potential issues” for the Event Organiser and Assessor?

The External Speakers Policy risks giving managers the rather unaccountable right to determine what constitutes controversy. In Bristol’s case, the idea that we are a hotbed of Islamic or far right terrorism, or of the ideology that allegedly gives it comfort, may seem far fetched. But can we be sure that when we as institution are tested – an event devoted to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, populated by broadly speaking pro-Palestinian academic activists that generates the ire of the Mail, the Israeli ambassador and local, even campus groups and societies – that we won’t take the easy option and use our soon to be institutionalised tools to say no?

Next Steps

The next meeting of the Prevent Compliance Group will meet in June. The Board of Trustees will approve (or not) the above mentioned policies on 18th March.

As part of Bristol UCU’s ongoing Prevent Duty campaign, an open letter has been drafted to go to Board of Trustee members in advance of their meeting on the 18th:

Please do sign.

Response to University of Bristol ‘Proposals for Discussion’ – University of Bristol’s Vision and Strategy Consultation.

At our Joint Consultative and Negotiating Committee (JCNC) UCU, along with campus unions, had a discussion about the VC’s recent Message from the Vice Chancellor and Proposals for Discussion, following the the first phase of the University’s Vision and Strategy Consultation.

The concrete action resulting from that discussion is to schedule a more substantial agenda point/discussion at the next JCNC on 19th April.

In terms of initial feedback, UCU is keen to impress two of our main priorities: workload and progression for pathway 2 and 3 staff.

Although workload apparently was not an issue raised in the first phase of the consultation, our feedback from members would suggest that it is the issue for members.

On that note, our Workplace and Well-Being Survey, complete with recommendations, is due early April, in advance of the 19th April JCNC.

The results of the recent Staff Survey will also be part of this.

As documented in previous Newsflashs (see 27th January 2016), we’re currently feeding into the discussion around, to quote from page 8 of the Proposals, “….reviewing development, progression, promotion”.

Bristol UCU did note some concern with the issue of research prioritization, what this means in practical terms for different disciplines and schools and the prioritisation of a select number of institutional research themes.

Does this mean a defensive challenge for UCU to protect members in potential ‘de-prioritized’ Schools, defending a notion of the multidisciplinary University, or accepting that in the current funding climate, we as a University are in no position to back research ‘lame ducks’?

From UCU’s point of view, if the former, then solidarity across our membership is key.

The Prevent Duty at the University of Bristol

Changes are afoot as Bristol reshapes its policies in response to its duty to ‘prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’.  Among others, new policies include Freedom of Speech and External Speakers policies. The changes as proposed have a troubling authoritarian potential as well as introducing a new level of bureaucracy.

The University of Oxford, as one of the UK’s more venerable institutions, is hardly known for its heterodoxy. But recently as regards the Prevent Duty, Oxford has certainly been sending out what can politely be described as anti-government signals.

Ken MacDonald, former Director of Public Prosecutions in England and Wales and current warden of Wadham College, Oxford, has said the Duty ‘[r]ead literally …envisages a future in which people might be constrained from arguing in a university of all places, that democracy is wrong in principle‘.

In effect since September 2015, the Prevent Duty – part of the government’s Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 – calls on universities to monitor students for any signs of “radicalisation”. Universities should ensure that they “challenge extremist ideas”. Extremism is defined by “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.”

For MacDonald, speaking to The Guardian:

“One is forced to contemplate a level of uncertainty that plainly risks a chilling effect on intellectual discourse and exchange, not to mention a deadening impact upon research into difficult contemporary questions,” he said.

Macdonald – a barrister, whose role as director of public prosecutions between 2003 and 2008 made him one of the most senior legal figures in England and Wales – said under the government’s guidance “the list of unacceptable topics might plausibly include much philosophical discourse, any Marxist analysis of a supposed class basis for our rule of law, and many atheist deconstructions of religion”

How goes the Duty at the University of Bristol?

As a University we are currently in the initial assessment phase. This concludes 1st April. By this point, the University will supply the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the relevant monitoring body for the Duty, with a risk assessment, action plan, new/revised policies and procedures, and a narrative explaining the University’s approach, thus demonstrating how they are fulfilling their Prevent edit.

As one might expect, the University is bending over backwards to be compliant. Hardly surprising one might say. Prevent is the law of the land, and the University of Bristol is not going to engage in an isolated act of anarchic exceptionalism.

Yet, the University does have the capacity to define its response to Prevent. Its Prevent Action Plan is the result of a self-audit. In theory, it could robustly reply to HEFCE that its arrangement are in order; that as a responsible HE organisation, it is more that capable of not facilitating criminal enterprises; that rather than tacitly enabling of the profiling of staff and students of a Muslim appearance or providing the means to stifle free and open discourse within it, the University of Bristol sees its role as a guarantor of University members’ right to ‘adjust truths and facts; form them into one whole, or notice the obstacles which occur in doing so

To highlight one area due for new policy, the University is due to bring into force a new External Speakers Policy and Procedure.

The policy is intended to be “a systems solution”. In it, “events should be booked and notification of external speakers at least two weeks ahead”. Event organisers must assess whether any invited external speaker, alongside other well-established principles of common sense legal and institutional obligations, “have a controversial profile in the media’ or ‘is the event likely to attract a heightened media interest”. If there is any doubt, the organiser must go to a designated Assessor – an appropriate line manager figure – who if they are unsure, too, will pass the decision onto the Decision Maker, the Deputy Registrar.

As one Bristol academic notes, “[t]he process as written seems to make it impossible for an academic department to invite someone to give a talk at short notice. For example, we discover that Professor X is visiting Oxford from Harvard next week and we’d like her to drop by and give a talk in Bristol. Professor X easily generates a “No” on the self-assessment, but the two-week requirement means that we can’t invite her: an unnecessary bureaucratic obstacle to academic and intellectual exchange.” As for “[t]he undefined “controversial profile” test”…Does this mean we might refuse to let, say, Germaine Greer or Russell Brand speak, just because we don’t want the adverse publicity?”

Defenders of the policy may point to the self-policing aspect of the guidelines, and the dangers of reading worst case scenarios into the various instructions. After all, the various Bristol gatekeepers and decision makers for the External Speakers Policy (and most policies for that matter) are mostly good, solid liberal Bürger, who are not looking over their (right) shoulder wondering what the Daily Mail is fulminating about today. Moreover, when Bristol academics are organising conferences or pow-wows on high temperature superconductors or the social history of Counter-Reformation Italian millinery, are these really going to trigger “potential issues” for the Event Organiser and Assessor?

Yet, following on from Macdonald’s above ‘level of uncertainty’ point, the way in which every event is now under the Prevent eye, generates a degree of doubt in the mind of everyone when it comes to exercising free speech and going about one’s politically-tinged business on campus.

The External Speakers Policy risks giving managers the rather unaccountable right to determine what constitutes controversy. In Bristol’s case, the idea that we are a hotbed of Islamic or far right terrorism, or of the ideology that allegedly gives it comfort, may seem far fetched. But can we be sure that when we as institution are tested – an event devoted to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, populated by broadly speaking pro-Palestinian academic activists that generates the ire of the Mail, the Israeli ambassador and local, even campus groups and societies – that we won’t take the easy option and use our soon to be institutionalised tools to say no?

As way of a reminder, Bristol UCU stands fully behind the national UCU position:





Bristol UCU Workload & Well-Being Survey – Preliminary Summary of Results

Some key findings:

  • Over the past 5 years, workload has increased for 84% of respondents.
  • 87% say they work more than contracted hours.  The largest single reason is admin, with the increase in student numbers only slightly less significant and student demands roughly equal to this. In sum, the increase in workload seems to be attributable to university expansion.
  • 77% of respondents find their job rewarding.
  • 58% feel their responsibilities do not allow for a healthy work-life balance. 55 % feel the University takes advantage of them.
  • 43% of respondents feel they rate their job in the second-highest category of stress.
  • 50% agree/ strongly agree they are pressured to work long hours with a slightly higher percentage saying that they agree or strongly agree they have unachievable deadlines.
  • The single largest source of stress is described as funding expectations, with 48% of respondents attributing stress to this cause. Student expectations are cited by 39%. General lack of support is only half a percentage point less common.
  • Only 55% say they are sometimes or always encouraged by their line managers.
  • 46% are often frustrated, with a further 54 % sometimes frustrated.
  • Even more seriously, 43% of respondents report experiencing depression sometimes or often.
  • However, 58% feel their responsibilities do not allow for a healthy work-life balance; 55% feel the University takes advantage of them.
  • 84% of respondents experience exhaustion sometimes or often. say they are sometimes or always encouraged by their line managers.

Bristol UCU Pension Report – The State of USS

Bristol UCU Pensions report – January 2016

(See also the national January UCU Pensions News at


Implementation of the scheme changes

From 1 April 2016 the Final Salary (FS) section of USS will be closed and a new scheme structure will be phased in – Career Revalued Benefits (CRB) for all, with a Defined Contribution (DC) section for salaries above the starting threshold of £55,000. Contribution rates will increase to 8% for all members (from 7.5% for existing FS members and 6.5% for existing CRB members). Employers will pay 18% (from 16%).

The precise scheme changes are complex and are being fully explained to members on the new USS website USS for the future, to which they should refer periodically to view the latest announcements:

The changes are being phased in:
• Since October 2015 it has not been possible for final salary members to start a new added years regular instalment AVC, or pay a lump sum added years AVC, or make a non-club transfer in (request for public sector club transfers will be accepted until 2 years after the date of joining USS).
• 1 April 2016: the new CRB section for all will be launched at an improved accrual rate of 1/75 (currently 1/80) and members will pay the new 8% contribution rate (and higher NI – see below).
• 1 October (TBC) the salary threshold of £55,000 (rising annually by the USS ‘capped CPI’ formula) will be introduced and employers will pay 12% of salary above that threshold into the member’s DC pot. All USS members will also have an option to pay additional voluntary contributions into a DC fund and contributions of up to 1% will be matched by the employer (the affordability test was based on the assumption that 80% of USS members will take up this option).

Pension quotations

USS have imposed a moratorium until 1 April 2016 on the issuing of provisional retirement quotes for retirements between 1 April and 30 September 2016. Full quotes will be issued as normal. People who require a provisional quote are being pointed at the new Benefit Illustrator on USS for the future.

Design of the new DC section

In the autumn, USS emailed all active USS members to elicit their views on the DC section of the scheme. In practice, this was a desultory short multiple-choice survey of appetite to financial risk of the sort beloved by financial advisors. There was no opportunity to make discursive comment on the design of the scheme.

We still have no information on the proposed design of the hybrid scheme or the fund options that will be available to members, and it looks likely that we not see this until September 2016 at the earliest.

Valuation campaign

UCU are campaigning to challenge the methodology of the USS valuation prior to the start of the next valuation round. USS, UUK and UCU have formed a joint national working group to which selected academics with relevant expertise have been invited to contribute. Due to unclear notification, Bristol missed the boat to submit any names.

The participating academics have been asked to submit answers in less than 2000 word (total) to all these questions:
1. What are the key principles which you believe should be used in the valuation of pension schemes?
2. The gilts+ valuation methodology is the method currently adopted by the USS trustee. Do you consider that any developments to this approach are appropriate in the USS context and if so what do you believe those should be which are consistent with the principles outlines in question 1?
3. Do you consider there to be a better alternative approach to setting the discount rate which could be credibly accepted by the trustee and acceptable in the regulatory framework?
4. What is the provenance of such an alternative approach set out in your answer to question 3 with particular emphasis to the USS framework?

Branches have been urged to keep up pressure on our local employers to challenge UUK and their support for the current methodology. Unfortunately, we were unable to get sufficient signatories in time to submit a question to Court in November, and Andy Nield (University of Bristol Finance Director)  has firmly rebuffed our suggestion to set up a local joint working group. Nonetheless, Pension Officer Ricky Tutin has interested two expert colleagues and will ask national office if their written responses to those questions could be included in the national deliberations. We will revisit this matter with Andy’s successor.

State Pension changes

The new State Pension that is being introduced on 1 April 2016 will affect every member because of the changes it will bring to their expected benefits and to their national insurance rates.

New State Pension

The current full state pension of £115 will rise to a much-touted £155 per week. However, the Government spin is undermined by the reality that there will be an extremely long transitional period during which people who have previously paid into contracted-out pension schemes (like USS) are unlikely to receive the new full rate. Currently 30 years of NI contributions are required to qualify for a full state pension, but 35 years of contracted-in NI contributions will be required for the full new rate. Because most occupational pension schemes opted out of the second state pension (in return for a reduced NI contribution) then long-term USS members are unlikely to achieve the required contributions. Though people will not get less than they would have got under the old scheme, an adjustment will be made, and it is estimated that only 22% of women and 50% of men in the general population who reach state pension age in 2016/17 will get the full amount. We suggest that members over 55 apply for a personalised state pension statement from:

Increases in National Insurance

As part of the change to the New State Pension, contracted-out status is being abolished. This means that members of an occupational pension scheme will pay an extra 1.4% in National Insurance on earnings between £153 and £770 per week. Employers will pay an extra 3.4% across the same range. This comes on top of the increase in USS contributions to 8% and will be noticeable in take-home pay, and these increases will have an impact on the University too (although, thankfully, the NI increase was factored in to the employer’s deliberations about the affordability of USS and alone will not precipitate further USS changes).

Response to the Green Paper ‘Higher Education : Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice’

Statement from UCU branches at University of Bristol and University of Bath

We endorse comments circulated to branches in the UCU briefing on the Green Paper, November 2015. However, we call on the HEC at its meeting on 13 January to make a clear statement of opposition to the Teaching Excellence Framework and the role it is intended to play in the further privatisation of higher education. With HEFCE teaching grant now reduced to 5% of total HE income, we call on the HEC to respond to the consultation by calling for an increase in public spending on university teaching as the only way to guarantee teaching excellence.

There have been no claims that the QAA system does not serve the purpose of maintaining standards, only the implication (Chapter 1 Para 5) that the costs of this system are too high and should be reduced. The proposed TEF, operating within the new architecture of an Office for Students would not only be cheaper (and as a result most likely less rigorous), and the additional costs of the new architecture of HE will be borne by universities, thus transferring a further chunk of university income away from teaching and into administration.

We welcome the UCU briefing’s comments on the likely impact of the TEF on an increasingly casualised and overstretched HE workforce, but call for a clear recognition that the TEF, combined with further cuts to public spending on university teaching will exacerbate these trends. Further, far from being the unintended consequences of policy whose aims we might share, the proposals in this Green Paper are intended to undermine the quality of teaching, and to make it easier for private providers to establish themselves, especially through the creation of low cost, cheap to provide courses. Our evidence for this is that the Green Paper proposes to remove even the weak regulations introduced by the Department of BIS in response to the critical report on private providers produced by the National Audit Office.

We call on HEC to condemn the proposals in the Green Paper unequivocally as an attack on the quality of university teaching and a charter for private universities to raid the student loan system for their own profit.

We further call on HEC to restate the case for increased public investment in university teaching, an end to tuition fees and increased student and staff representation on the governing bodies of universities.