Season’s Greetings from UoN UCU – email to members

Sent to members 20th December 2023.

Dear UCU member

On behalf UCU Branch Officers I am writing to thank you for your commitment to the union, locally and nationally through 2023.

It has been a very tough year, with ballot campaigns and industrial action, including the Marking and Assessment Boycott. We have not achieved all that we hoped for, and on some key issues we will have to maintain our campaigns and pressure. But it is important to acknowledge the scale of the victory on USS. In two weeks time every members of USS will be paying lower contributions, and by April we will have our pensions back (with uprating for the lost years). You can see the immediate impact on your contributions here.

Make no mistake, it was our action that has achieved this win. Every member of USS will benefit, but it was our solidarity and financial sacrifice that secured this outcome. Collective action works.

In the year ahead your local branch will be focusing relentlessly on working in our own institution to improve the quality of our working lives – defending jobs, demanding equality and fighting for secure contracts and sustainable workloads.  The branch committee has been busy developing a plan to take this work forward next year, and there will be lots of opportunities to be involved in different ways. Watch this space.

Nationally the union will need to consider how its campaigns move forward. Much of this debate will take place through the election process for General Secretary (starting in earnest in the New Year).  As with all such developments, locally we will be working to provide members with the maximum opportunity to engage in debates and participate in decision-making.

Finally, as a branch we will continue to play our role in the wider trade union movement – whether that is defending public services in our own community in Nottingham City or standing in solidarity with those elsewhere in the world, for example in Ukraine and Gaza, who currently face unspeakable hardship.

There will be much to do in 2024, and there is much happening now that is a source of great anxiety, but we hope all our members get to enjoy a well earned break over the holiday period and that it will be possible to enjoy a genuine rest in the company of family and friends. Enjoy the time.

With best wishes, and in solidarity,

Howard and UoN UCU branch officers

National UCU ballot outcome – message to members at Nottingham

Dear UCU member

You will by now be aware that UCU did not meet the 50% threshold in the pay and conditions ballot that closed last week.

This result is desperately disappointing. It marks the end, for now, of the disputes that first began in early 2018 when we took strike action to defend the USS pension scheme. 

However, despite the setback of the ballot result, it is important to recognise that the battle for our pensions has been won.  It is an unprecedented victory, and our action has secured substantial benefits for every USS member in the sector.  It would not have happened unless UCU members made it happen.

Nevertheless, while proclaiming the scale of the win on USS, we also need to acknowledge that we did not make a breakthrough on pay, precarity, workload and equalities. For all our efforts, we were not able to shift our employers on these core issues.  That fight will need to continue, but realistically not until the union has collectively taken stock of our recent campaigns and assessed the implications for future strategy.  As always, your local branch will endeavour to engage with members as much as is possible, and will take every opportunity to present members’ views in national debates and decision-making processes.

For now, I would like to make two points:

First, is to make clear that your local branch will continue to make every effort to make progress on the issues that matter to you by working locally to improve the working conditions of UCU members at Nottingham. Our records indicate that over 60% of UoNUCU branch members voted in the national ballot (the national turnout was 42%). Those figures show that branch members at Nottingham remain profoundly dissatisfied with working conditions in the sector, and in our institution, and remain committed to acting collectively to address the issues. In the immediate future we will be focusing that frustration locally.  The union branch is completely committed to national bargaining, and being part of a national framework, but we know there is plenty of scope to act locally and to make real progress on core issues.  Our recent local agreement on principles for the use of casual contracts is one example of how your union branch is winning for members at the local level. The commitment of branch officers and departmental reps is to build on this success and to seek to make further progress across a wider range of issues. In the coming weeks and months we will be sharing our plans to develop these campaigns, and at every turn we will be working to engage with as many members as possible. There will be lots of opportunities to be involved!

Second, is to extend a heartfelt thanks from the branch committee to every member who has been involved in our campaigns since they began back in 2018. Whatever we may think of the outcomes, and some of the decisions that have been made along the way, the experience has been extraordinary. Here are some figures to reflect the experience.

·      11 industrial action ballots (six in the last year) – disaggregated, aggregated and one covering only our branch. Not only did we get over 50% every single time, but in the last disaggregated ballot UoNUCU secured the highest turnout across 150 branches nationally.  In the ballot in March 2023 our records showed a turnout of 73%!

·      69 days of strike action – whatever the weather!

·      Two marking and assessment boycotts, including throughout Summer this year when the branch called 7 branch meetings in 8 weeks during July and August!

The level of engagement by branch members has been astonishing – every vote cast, every picket line stood on, every meeting attended and throughout the MAB. It is what secured the win on pensions, and it is what needs to be mobilised across the sector to win on working conditions. That breakthrough will have to come, because although the ballot result marks the end of the current campaign, UCU’s action has made visible the flaws in the UK higher education system that employers and governments cannot ignore. The marketised and individualised model of higher education that successive governments have promoted is a busted flush – and it is action by UCU members that has exposed just how broken it is. We have refused to accept that there is no alternative to the unsustainable system currently on offer, and in so doing, we have kept alive the idea that another university is possible.

At this precise moment, with the recent ballot result, we are clearly not where we want to be as a national union. But we have much to be proud about, and locally we remain well placed to face the future. We keep going – and we look forward to working with members to make sure we secure the change the sector needs.

In solidarity,

University of Nottingham UCU Branch President (union email here)

Motions from AGM 19th June 2023

After the AGM business of ratifying members of the committee for next year, three emergency motions were proposed. All three were passed with significant majorities.

Motion 1) Fighting the 50% Deduction Threat

We note that:

1)     The university does not accept partial performance and has threatened staff who participate in the Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB) with 50% pay deduction from their salary from 15 May-17 June 2023.

2)     50% deduction of pay for five weeks due to participation in the MAB is punitive, unreasonable, and disproportionate. 

3)   legal challenges to the deductions will be slow, conducted on an individual basis and the outcome of these remain uncertain.

4)  the best way to challenge the deductions in the short to medium term is through an escalation of local action by UCU, including strike action, a strategy which has already proven successful  at the University of Queen Margaret and Kings. 

If the university does not rescind its threat of 50% deductions, we resolve to escalate our action by

1)     Leafleting at Open Days 

2)     Carrying out an indicative e-poll in order to gauge members’ willingness to take strike action during Welcome and Induction Week

Motion 2) Retraction of Conflict of Interest re Senators who are also members of UCU

We note that:

1)     The University Senate has been asked to note that senators who are also members of UCU have a conflict of interest when discussing issues related to industrial action and that they must declare this conflict in advance of these discussions.

2)  This note is based on the assumption that UEB acts in the university’s interest on such matters, but UCU members–who serve on Senate in an individual, non-union capacity–do not. 

3) Trade union membership is sensitive data under GDPR and many join a trade union to express and act on strongly held political beliefs.

4) UCU members who serve on Senate do so in an individual capacity and act independently of UCU.

5) The prosperity of the University is in the interests of all university staff, including UEB and UCU members. UCU members who serve on Senate in an individual, non-union capacity, may or may not agree with UEB on how this prosperity is best achieved, but their membership of UCU does not prevent them from acting in what they believe to be the University’s best interest. 

6) The University’s articles of incorporation mention no one should be treated differently because of trade union membership.

7) UoN UCU and the University have a longstanding recognition agreement which states both ‘have a common interest in the wellbeing of the University’  

8) UCU members elsewhere in the UK have fallen victim to similar campaigns of silence, including exclusion from exam boards on the grounds of CoI

9) At  Senate on June 13, the relevant item was discussed and sent back for further legal consultation

This branch will call on the University to immediately retract any declaration regarding the conflict of interests of Senators who are also UCU members, and to apologise for the initial intimidation.  If the university fails to do this, this branch resolves to

1.     Initiate a publicity campaign, locally and nationally, to draw attention to this abuse of power by UEB against members of UCU

2.     Support any of its members serving on Senate who are being unfairly treated as a result of the declaration  

Motion 3) Ukraine, Union Solidarity, and Self-Determination

 The University of Nottingham branch notes

1   2023 UCU Congress passed Motion 5 “Stop the War in Ukraine—Peace Now” by merely 9 votes out of 288, with 37 abstentions.

2  This motion has been divisive, supplied fodder to an already hostile press, distracted the union from the main struggle at hand, and led to resignations of scores of members disgusted by its wording, not least within Slavonic studies and among those of Ukrainian descent. 

3  The motion transpired without any prior discussion of the issue in our branch—or, presumably, the vast majority of branches.

4  This motion was composed without any serious attempt to involve scholars in such fields as Slavonic studies or international relations, when our union is meant to value research and knowledge.

5  The motion contains no reference to the Ukrainian labour movement, whose two federations have thrown themselves into the resistance to the Russian invasion and simultaneously struggled to uphold workers’ rights in wartime, or to Ukrainian trade unionists, who have been among those fighting and dying on the front lines.

6  The motion states that “wars are fought by the poor and unemployed of one country killing and maiming the poor and unemployed of another,” a cliché true of some wars that does not well describe Ukraine’s fight for independence, in which professionals, students, intellectuals, technicians, and university lecturers have volunteered.

7  The motion does not affirm the right to self-defence or principle of self-determination, which would require respecting the Ukrainian people and government’s urgent requests that the world supply them with arms.

8  The motion calls on “government to stop arming Ukraine” when that would result in victory for the Russian state’s aggression and annexationism.

Therefore, the Nottingham branch

1 – Calls on the NEC to

a)   Put Motion 5 “Stop the War in Ukraine—Peace Now” to an immediate e-ballot of the whole UCU membership, since in this instance we believe a direct consultation is essential to determine whether Congress accurately represented the union’s membership.

b)  Place resources and emphasis on Congress 2023 Motion 6 (which emphasised self-determination and solidarity with Ukraine) and not Motion 5.

2  – Calls for a special Congress for the purposes of repealing Motion 5 “Stop the War in Ukraine—Peace Now”, commits to submit a motion to that effect to that special Congress, and asks other branches to call for such a special Congress.

3  – Acknowledges why many members resigned over this issue and respectfully requests them to rejoin our union and help us forge a sound internationalist policy.

4  – Urges all members to remain in UCU and carry the current campaign to victory against neoliberal management’s disastrous course in the post-16 education sector.

Marking and Assessment Boycott – what does it mean for students?

On Thursday 11 May, at the emergency meeting of Senate – the governing body responsible for academic affairs – management narrowly pushed through emergency regulations with 39 votes in favour, and 37 against. This has extremely important ramifications for your degrees.

What are the emergency regulations?

These regulations allow the university to disregard some of your hard work and make ‘informed guesses’ as to what you might actually have achieved. This is especially concerning for your final year Dissertations / Projects, which may not be read at all. 

Why have they been introduced?

The emergency regulations are management’s response to the call by UCU (University and Colleges Union) for a Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB). The MAB is part of industrial action across the Higher Education sector in response to pay cuts of 25 per cent since 2008, a pay offer of less than half of current inflation this year, as well as continuing gender, race and disability pay gaps, excessive workloads and widespread casualisation.

Instead of negotiating with UCU to address these issues, University management has decided to penalise staff, degrade your degrees, undermine academic integrity, and place the global status of UK HE in jeopardy.

What are the consequences of the emergency regulations?

There are grave doubts as to whether it will be feasible to implement these regulations successfully[1]. The narrow margin in the Senate vote reflects the concern that these measures are unworkable and unfair. Some professional accreditation bodies are likely to reject them outright[2].

The implications are clear. If your degree is affected by these regulations, it will lose some of its value. Some students will be affected more than others, creating artificial hierarchies in the quality of degrees, even within a single cohort. Employers will know this. They will recognise that some degree classifications are guesstimates at best and will ‘value’ them accordingly.

What is the solution?

Instead of waging a war on its own staff, our management could push the employers’ association, UCEA, into meaningful negotiations with UCU, the union that represents your lecturers and other university staff. Instead of imposing yet another pay cut, our management could push for a serious pay offer, which takes current inflation levels into account. Instead of pretending that high workloads, pay gaps and casualisation are inevitable, University management should commit itself to concrete measures improving these situations. There is another way forward.

UCU is always ready to talk. We want to find a solution that serves everyone, staff, students and the University. You will know that we have repeatedly tried to reason with employers, but they have just not shifted their position. Unfortunately, their “solution” to this crisis is to devalue your degree and to threaten staff taking part in lawful action with punitive pay deductions of 50 per cent of full salary that will, in some cases, reduce your lecturers’ income to below the National Minimum Wage. You deserve better, we deserve better!

If you are worried about the Universities’ refusal to engage in meaningful talks, we encourage you to write to the Vice Chancellor Prof. Shearer West. Demand that she speaks up for staff and students at UoN and calls for UCEA to enter proper negotiations. You can email her and other senior managers directly by scanning the following QR code:


UCU branch at UoN

[1] The University has serious problems with the software it uses to manage student records and it is hard to believe it will stand up to the test of these emergency regulations. Many of you will already have experienced problems being enrolled on the right modules or registered for the right exams.

[2] For example, the Institute of Physics and the Royal Society of Chemistry have already raised serious concerns. At Cambridge University, similar emergency regulations were rejected by their governing body.


TODAY – Thursday 16th March at 1.00pm

Meeting ID: 819 1644 9142
Passcode: 825193

Yesterday UCU announced that ‘We have, last night, reached a point in negotiations where proposals have been put forward which provide an interim resolution in our disputes with Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) and Universities UK (UUK).’
You can read the full details of the proposals here:

There is a lot of detail to digest in a very short timeframe and we think that a conversation might be helpful. We are calling (yet another) emergency branch meeting TOMORROW Thursday 16 March at 1pm.

A Branch Delegate Meeting has been called tomorrow at 3pm. Agnes Flues and Catherine Rottenberg will attend and vote on behalf of our branch on this question: “Do you support UCU members now getting a vote on the negotiated proposals that have been reached, and pausing strike action (ASOS would continue) whilst this consultation takes place?” Yes/No

They need to hear your views so they can represent the membership accurately.

Each of you will have received an email with an informal vote link with the same question.
Both BDM and this e-ballot are only indicative and will be presented to the Higher Education Committee (HEC) who have the authority to decide on the way forward.