June 2018

The following motions are some of those passed at the AGM of Exeter UCU on 15 June


Hostile Environment Policy in UK Universities

This Branch notes that

1. in the past 10 years there has been an increase in the victimisation of migrant students and staff members by universities’ collusion with the Home Office and/or by the “hostile environment” policy.

This Branch resolves

1. to donate £100 from local branch funds to be divided among the Campaign to Stop the Deportation of Luqman Onikosi and the #PhDforAhmed campaign. The funds will help with Luqman Onikosi’s living costs, while the latter will help pay for Ahmed Sedeeq’s legal expenses to remain in the UK.

2. to actively work in the future with Unis Resist Border Controls to investigate and document how your institution colludes with the Home Office in the monitoring of international students and staff as part of the hostile environment policy.

3. to actively push for UCU at a national level to advocate that the Home Office not use punitive measures to limit the right of any migrant to engage in prolonged industrial actions.

4. to actively push for UCU at a national level to advocate that the Home Office reconsider the limitations to overseas research that are imposed upon Tier 2 and Tier 4 visa holders who are limited by the 180 day rule. Researchers cannot be deported for doing research abroad that exceeds 180 days of being out of the UK.

Review of Working Conditions and Mental Health

This Branch notes

1. stress-related illness is now the most common reason for absence from work.

2. there is no formal or legal requirement on employers to report events that lead to someone taking sick leave with a stress-related condition.

3. illness and absence resulting from work-related tress is often a cumulative process, where pressure builds up over a period of time before finally reaching a tipping point.

4. work-related stress is one of the key concerns consistently identified by Staff Surveys.

5. the University approaches stress and wellbeing as personal issues to be addressed by wellbeing programmes aimed at building resilience in individual workers.

This Branch believes

1. mental health is a political issue.

2. mental health is an institutional issue.

3. mental health is a collective issue.

4. mental health is a health and safety issue.

5. work-related stress should not be reduced to a lack of resilience in individual workers.

6. the increase in work-related stress, stress-related absences from work, and other mental health issues in the University’s workforce is a direct result of working conditions.

7. corporate top-down style of management, increasing performance targets, increasing workloads, job insecurity, casualisation, undefined working hours, surveillance, inequity, and an institutionalized culture of quantification and hyper-measurement of  performance (TEF, REF, KEF), are all structural causes of decreasing mental wellbeing in Higher Education.

This Branch resolves:

1. to draw from the scientific and academic expertise of our members to create a Exeter UCU Commission tasked with reviewing the institutionalised working practices and management culture at the University of Exeter and their relationship to the mental wellbeing of our members.

2. to use Branch funds to support that review.

3. following the results of that Commission’s review, to propose and campaign for the implementation of changes in our working conditions aimed at reducing the structural causes of work-related stress and mental illness across all our campuses.

Implementation of Athena SWAN principles for gender equality at the University of Exeter

This Branch notes

1. The 2017-18 University of Exeter’s Gender Pay Gap Report: the median (mean) hourly rate of our female employees is 17.2% (21.1%) lower than the hourly rate of our male employees. The stratification of men and women across the pay scale begins at the early career stage and is further entrenched as careers progress. The pay gap for all academic staff at the University of Exeter was 16.7% in 2016 (when the University of Exeter ranked 30th among the top Universities with the worst gender pay inequalities) and annual statistics have shown an increasing trend over the past few years.

2. The incompatibility of the now suspended proposals for pensions cuts with the principles of Athena SWAN, as pointed out in the recent Open Letter to the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) and all UK university leaders. The letter was signed in the context of the USS pension dispute by thousands of UK academics, including staff at the University of Exeter, calling for a boycott of their voluntary roles in Athena SWAN, until the ECU, Athena SWAN and vice-chancellors recognise pensions as a gender issue. This Branch believes that a lack of effective actions by the University of Exeter to address the concerns above will jeopardise the future engagement of dedicated academic staff, mostly female, on Athena SWAN committees and working groups. The potential loss of this commitment would undermine and possibly reverse current progress in the diverse Athena SWAN actions across the university in reaching equality goals, more generally improving the work environment for both female and male staff and reducing the gender pay gap.

This Branch resolves to draw attention to the Open Letter above, asking to University of Exeter to:

1. make a public statement recognizing that pensions are an equality issue; and

2. state that the University of Exeter will oppose changes to pension schemes which have not been subject to an equality impact assessment and which are likely to Exeter UCU exacerbate inequalities; and

3. if invited to respond to UUK’s survey on the future of USS, clarify to Senate or any other appropriate forum the role that our Equality and Diversity and Inclusivity committee and/or Equality leads had in formulating this response.

External Governance Review at the University of Exeter

This Branch notes

1. that universities have historically been self-governing institutions, and the University of Exeter was chartered in accordance with these principles.

2. in 2008 the University obtained clearance from the Privy Council to adjust Statutes and Ordinances internally.

3. in subsequent years Statutes and Ordinances have changed substantially, including through Dual Assurance. Council and Staff reviews from 2014 have confirmed these institutionalised decision-making narrowly, generally through VCEG and Council.

4. these changes have had the effect of minimizing the role of Senate to determine academic affairs, including Education, Research and Engagement strategies.

5. recent hiring practices of Executives have not been transparent and open.

6. across the sector, peer universities have begun independent governance reviews in order to ensure academic self-governance remains at the heart of universities in the UK.

This Branch believes

1. that the current governance structures are opaque and do not leave even decision-making power at levels below that of Senior Management. Bottom-up decision making would improve the organisation of the University’s core business.

2. the University will soon appear outdated as other peer universities conduct governance reviews.

3. in contrast to past consultations, the governance review should be conducted by an independent authority—Senior Management and Council have vested interests in retaining the existing structure.

4. a reformed university governance structure would be reflected in Statues, Ordinances and other policies which retain the spirit of the original university Charter and the more ancient ‘idea of the university’ as a community of scholars.

This Branch resolves

1. to call on the University Council to approve appointment and fees for an Exeter UCU independent review of governance.

2. to review from the position of UCU which policies, statutes and ordinances need to be renegotiated.

3. to work together with Senate to ensure adequate mechanisms are in place for this to function as a robust institutional forum for academic discussion.

4. to defend against administrative attempts to disrupt or silence academics making legitimate criticisms in these directions—e.g. criticising existing policy, in order to improve future policy—during the course of these internal and independent reviews.

Defending the Right to Dissent

This Branch notes

1. the closure of UCU Congress 2018, after delegates repeatedly accepted the advice of the CBC that motions 10 and 11 relating to censure or no confidence of the General Secretary were in order and voted to hear them.

2. the assertion that the Gen Sec of the Union is an employee like all others and that motions 10 and 11 were an attack on staff’s rights and terms of employment.

3. Congress voted for a recall congress to conclude its business.

This Branch believes that

1. as the General Secretary is a unique role among union staff as an elected position, motions 10 and 11 are in order.

2. Congress has the right to hold elected officials to account whilst recognising the valuable work of UCU staff.

3. the Congress rules were broken in closing Congress.

4. the right to dissent is necessary to achieve unity in our union.

This Branch resolves

1. we have confidence in the CBC rulings at Congress 2018 that motions 10 & 11 were in order and the Congress vote to debate the motions at the recall Congress.

2. not to let this distract us from organising to defend pensions, pay, and the terms and conditions of our employment.

Palestine, Human Rights and Divestment

This Branch notes

1. that since March 30th, 113 unarmed protesters have been killed and over 12,000 injured by Israeli forces along the edge of the Gaza Strip, where living conditions have been likened to being “caged in a toxic slum from birth to death” by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

2. that the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) states that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law, and that the FCO strongly condemns the Israeli government’s decision to establish a second new settlement in the West Bank in less than a year.

3. that Palestinian civil society organisations have requested individuals and institutions around the world to divest from companies which have any link with the occupation of Palestinian land, to put pressure on Israel to comply with international law.

4. that UCU is affiliated with the Trade Union Friends of Palestine (TUFP) and works with the Friends of Birzeit University and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to build civil society in Palestine.

This branch believes that the situation on the ground in Palestine is untenable. It takes its lead from Amnesty International, Jewish Voice for Peace, Independent Jewish Voices, the Officer of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and many other political and trade organisations committed to equality and justice.

This branch resolves

1. to request to the University of Exeter that the University implements its code of practice for ethical investment by divesting from all companies that have any direct or indirect investment in any activity connected with the forcible and illegal displacement of Palestinians from their home and the illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

2. to submit a motion to Congress 2019 calling on UCU to become a signatory of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, and to campaign for all universities to divest from any direct or indirect investment in activities or companies connected to the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land




The following motion was passed by UCL UCU on 14 June 2018

The following motions were passed by Cambridge UCU on 13 June 2018

Motion 1 on the right to dissent 
This branch believes:
– That events leading to the early closing of Congress represent a threat to democracy in the Union and a denial of the will of its members;
– That union members have the right to hold elected officials to account;
– That, given the General Secretary has a unique role among union staff as an elected position, it was right for Congress delegates to vote to hear a debate on motions 10 and 11;
– That these motions should be heard in a recalled Congress.
This branch resolves:
– To call for Congress to be recalled as soon as possible;
– To instruct our delegates to vote in favour of debating motions 10 and 11 at Congress;
– To write to the General Secretary and express dissatisfaction with the course of action that led to the early closing of the Congress and disruption of Union democracy.
Motion 2 on the accountability of the General Secretary 
Cambridge UCU calls on the General Secretary to make a statement to members affirming that she respects the sovereignty of Congress and recognises that her actions in her capacity as an elected representative of members and our lead negotiator are subject to scrutiny by UCU members through the motions accepted as in order under UCU rules.
We further call on the GS to condemn the disruption to the democratic process of  Congress 2018 which prevented the discussion of motions critical of her actions during the USS dispute.
If the GS has not made such a statement by the next NEC meeting, we call on the NEC to censure the GS for undermining the confidence of members in the democratic processes of the union.

Special Higher Education Conference
Lots of motions have been passed in branches in relation to the Special Higher Education Conference on USS pensions due to take place on 21 June 2018. We have collected many of them here.