De Montfort Renewed: A Manifesto

white-dmu-logo.jpg

Well done to all at De Montfort UCU for putting together a fantastic manifesto for democratic guidance at the University. Drawing on the Gold Paper and our own Activists’ Handbook, the manifesto “recognises what people working within DMU think it stands for as a space of civic and public engagement, of excellent teaching and learning, of socially-useful scholarship and research. This Manifesto is a living document that celebrates DMU as a self-critical scholarly community; a true University with creative, critical and radical ambitions.” This is all the more vital in the light of the recent resignation of its vice-chancellor and the launch of an investigation into its governance and finances.

Read the whole manifesto here.

Advertisements

National Dispute Committee motion calling on USS to implement JEP in full

The NDC is recommending that branches consider (and ideally pass) the following motion in response to USS’ refusal fully to implement the JEP proposals.

This branch notes that:

  • USS has calculated that the full implementation of the JEP proposals to the 2018 valuation would lead to a £0.6 billion technical provisions surplus and require a contribution rate of only 25.5%. This vindicates the UCU position of ‘no detriment’
  • nevertheless USS are continuing to insist that the JEP proposals be implemented only in part and that contributions be raised to a minimum of 29.7% for the coming valuation period
  • the USS pension dispute has not been resolved.

This branch resolves:

  • to call on USS to implement in full, in the 2018 valuation, the 6 JEP proposals for the 2017 valuation
  • not to accept any increase in member contributions, including ‘trigger contributions’, for this valuation
  • to call on our employer to endorse this position, and also to publish their response to the USS technical provisions document.

There’s a briefing note to accompany this available here.

If you do pass the motion, please notify the National Head of Policy & Campaigns, Matt Waddup, mwaddup@ucu.org.uk, copying in members of the NDC at ndc@ucu.org.uk.

Get the Vote Out Resources

DyCAyG8XQAAS662.jpg

Thanks to Lottie Hoare, Cambridge UCU

UCU members across UK universities are currently re-balloting, this time in an aggregate ballot, for fair pay and equalities. The ballot started on 15 January and closes on 22 February. We face a sector that is awash with surpluses, new buildings and excessive executive salaries as well as workplaces marked by redundancies, precarity, high levels of stress, increased workloads and pay inequalities. Despite the volatility facing the entire university sector, this ballot marks an opportunity to claw back some of the losses that we have faced over the last decade. Each branch will have to find its own way to reach every single member in order to ensure that, collectively, we reach the legal 50% threshold. Although this means relating to specific issues concerning pay and equalities on your campus, we are collecting examples of campaign materials to show what can be done and to inspire further campaigning. GET THE VOTE OUT!

You will find materials here and we will post others as soon as we receive them.

Letter from Ghent: A university without rankings would be a great idea

The recent statement by the rector of Ghent University that the institution “is deliberately choosing to step out of the rat race between individuals, departments and universities. We no longer wish to participate in the ranking of people” was eagerly received by British academics, sick of an audit culture which privileges competition and undermines solidarity inside higher education. The statement chimes with the desire of increasing numbers of university staff to stand up against the destructive and nonsensical metrics of TEF and REF and to resist the rampant managerialism and marketisation with which they are associated.

The Branch Solidarity Network is determined to support UCU members as they campaign on these issues and contacted an academic at Ghent to find out more about what lies behind the statement. The comments below – anonymised at the author’s request – are not meant at all to dampen our enthusiasm for an academy without rankings but simply to inject some realism into the discussion and to reassert, as if it were needed, the importance of comprehensive grass roots activism in securing durable change. This is a hugely significant step in the right direction but it is not yet time to celebrate…


“Firstly, I want to say that I see a need for a more international movement against an all too numeric approach to measuring ‘success’ in academia. There is a need for less paperwork indeed – after all, Belgium is the capital of bureaucracy as you know. Furthermore, we’re seeing an increased number of dropouts (including people suffering from burnout) in academia because of the hypercompetitive climate. The rector rightly responded to this need – backed by the unions – and the statement is certainly a step in the right direction.

However, while I really endorse the statement, I am afraid this is nothing more than window dressing as it is not really changing the situation. The rector promised to get rid of publication pressure during his election campaign but, in reality, what has been abandoned are the ‘personal goals’ (personalized goals in terms of project acquisition and number of publications that need to be achieved in order to get tenured and promoted). However this is only a small part in the big academic radar work of metrics and rankings that remains in place.

Abolishing these goals is a good first step, but it does not affect, for example, the Ghent programme for excellence, which ranks professors based on metrics, impact factors and so on. This policy keeps on encouraging and rewarding professors to publish as much as possible, and preferably in ranked journals. It does not affect the precarious positions for postdocs, which have hardly any long-term perspective and (rightly) feel exploited by the academic system. It does not affect the policy of the Flemish Government, which finances our universities, for a large part, in terms of the number of publications.

Hence, the academic pressures remain as financing is a zero-sum game between all universities – hardly without any increase in budget, if Ghent decides to reward publications less, this will then have an impact on the public funding of the institution. It does not affect the policy of the FWO – Flemish Research Council – where (journal, no book) publications are paramount in getting funded. It does not affect EU research programmes, where Ghent professors need to compete with other high-performing scholars.

If the entire academic system does not change, then Ghent risks being withdrawn from the competitive academic game. Government policy has to change, but also scholars’ attitudes. We may be complaining about rankings and all this, but we continue to submit to ranked journals (downplaying the so-called value and impact of journals that are not ranked) and continue to review free-of-charge for these journals.

In conclusion, I’m skeptical about the likely impact of the rector’s statement as, without further support from public institutions, I don’t really believe it will change anything. I realize that by being too critical, I risk throwing the baby out with the bath water which is certainly not my intention. Meanwhile, Ghent can decide what it wants, but if the entire academic system does not change, the statement has no value and it may even be counterproductive to my university. Of course I fully support the statement, but I would have loved a strong collective signal from all Flemish universities, together with a strong call from the regional government, to abandon a quantitative approach to measuring ‘success’ in academia.”

Solidarity with Bangor, Cardiff and Gloucester: We need a national response to the assault on jobs

Can you see a pattern? Following our audit of redundancies in the summer that identified some 1500 jobs at risk or disappeared in recent years, universities are stepping up the assault on jobs. UCU needs to prioritise this and to call a national day of action to support local campaigns and to link up with the pay battles that are to be re-launched in the new year.

Monitoring Tier 4 students in an ‘hostile environment’

The University of Liverpool UCU branch recently passed an excellent motion about how monitoring the attendance of Tier 4 international students can intensify the ‘hostile immigration environment’ and further discriminate against a particularly vulnerable group of students. We note the important work done by Unis Resist Border Controls and are keen to see branches support each other in challenging institutional demands to ‘tighten up’ monitoring procedures. What steps has your institution taken to monitor the attendance of international students and what instructions has the institution given to staff to enforce this? Please email branchsolidaritynetwork@gmail.com with details.

Remember that the official guidelines are very imprecise and that many institutions have created their own systems in order to comply with UKVI rules. For example, the Home Office guidance document lists the following ‘compliance concerns’ without detailing precisely what kind of records are required for universities not to fall foul of their responsibilities.

  • Failure to keep records about the institution.
  • Failure to keep records about Tier 4 students.
  • Failure to report a change in the sponsor’s circumstances to UKVIand/or the relevant Educational Oversight body.
  • Failure to report that a required rating in a Statutory education inspection and/or a Tier 4 Educational Oversight has not been achieved/maintained following an inspection by an Educational Oversight body.
  • Failure to report a change in students’ circumstances.
  • Failure to withdraw sponsorship from non-compliant students.
  • Failure to take steps to ensure that students have valid leave.
  • Instances of the Sponsor Management System being misused.
  • Failure of students to comply with their conditions of leave.
  • Failure to register students with the appropriate awarding bodies.
  • Failure to report that you want to surrender the whole or part of your licence.

This kind of vague language means that we need to press – as the Liverpool UCU motion does so well – for minimal compliance with statutory duties and to protect staff who, for moral and political reasons, object to performing monitoring duties.

We need to gather together both a list of actions demanded by institutions and branch responses to this hostile climate. So please email branchsolidaritynetwork@gmail.com with any information. Meanwhile, here is the Liverpool motion:

DrFUKm-XcAEMBDd.jpgDrFUKnRWsAAwrQG.jpg