All posts by surreyucu

Teaching allocation survey: please give us your views

Following the recent announcement of proposals for teaching allocation, UCU reps would like to get a more accurate measure of the views of our membership in order to communicate these back to management.

Please complete the following survey:

The survey will remain open until the 26th of January: we have a meeting with HR about teaching allocation on the 27th of January. At a meeting yesterday UCU reps asked for more time to gather views and opinions on this issue.

The link to the original proposals is:

 Best regards,

UCU Committee

New Year Update

Surrey Branch UCU committee would like to wish you a happy new year and a huge thank-you for all your work and support during what was a difficult autumn term. Your attendance at meetings, feedback, alerts to issues unfolding and more has been absolutely invaluable! We hope that you had a restful break.


As you will know, negotiations around securing a decent pension package are ongoing at national level. The national UCU Higher Education Committee (HEC) will be meeting this Wednesday to discuss the progress in these negotiations. At the moment, action is set to resume on 16th January, which will mean the marking boycott commencing on that date.

We have been working hard to negotiate with management at Surrey about their response to the legitimate industrial action. We remain hopeful that the university will join the majority of other universities in the country in deducting a smaller percentage of pay for participation in action short of a strike.

Last semester, in response to the threat to dock full pay, our branch passed the motion below. The branch voted to call a one week strike, an academic boycott and a vote of no confidence in the Vice Chancellor.

It is important that as many members as possible come to a branch meeting this Thursday 15th January from 1-2pm in (room TBC) order to decide whether we move from this position or not.

We should know by then for sure whether the marking boycott will resume on 16th January, and also whether Surrey still intends to dock 100% pay from members. At this meeting we will need to discuss the national industrial action and our own local situation.

Keep Informed!

If the marking boycott resumes on 16th January, make sure you are aware of what is included in the boycott.

There is a list of FAQs on the national website here:

In recognition of the confusion experienced by members in November we will be compiling a new set of FAQ on our website to deal with the specifics at Surrey. Be sure to keep in touch via our website in order to best cope with the consequences.

Vision 2020

Since September UCU branch has had numerous meetings with HR in an effort resolve the widespread concerns around Vision 2020 and although we hope to be able to report some movement soon we realize in despair that our efforts are coming too late for many of you. We are painfully aware that many members of staff are suffering the consequences of the use of centralized targets in the context of the capability process and we would like to stress that committee members who are trained in ‘case-work’ are doing all they can to advise and support staff going through this distressing process and encourage those affected to get in touch for advice on their personal cases.

Specific points to be mindful of are instances where failure to reach targets set do not conform to the capability policy requirements of action being based on ‘Adequate evidence that a member of staff is incapable of performing their duties satisfactorily’. Examples of inadequate evidence could include cases where staff are unable to access specific levels of research funding when the research funding available has dropped so steeply, or where MEQs are used.

The capability policy also states that ‘the University will give encouragement and support to a member of staff who is willing to take reasonable steps towards resolving their problems’ and will seek to resolve issues ‘where poor performance proves to be a work-related matter outside the control of the individual’.   Instances where joint bids are held up by partners in other institutions but no allowance is given for this in time frames set under capability might be examples where capability policy is not being properly adhered to. We have recently also seen evidence of a gender imbalance on those in capability and in those being entered for REF which raises questions on the extent to which capability as currently operating is indeed ‘a fair procedure’. Please do contact us if you need any support or guidance.

Teaching workload meetings

We would strongly encourage members to attend the meetings in your faculty about teaching allocation. Please attend, ask questions and raise concerns with your dean, manager, or UCU representative.

Get involved

Our union is only as strong as its members. Please get involved, have your say and shape union action by attending branch meetings and talking to your colleagues in your department.

Please encourage colleagues to attend the meeting this Thursday. You can also print and put up a poster about the pensions dispute in your office or communal areas:

We have vacancies on our committee at the moment – please do contact us to find out more.

Struggle for top research grades fuels bullying among university staff

From the Guardian:

The fevered build up to this month’s university research audit has exposed academics to an atmosphere of competitiveness and bullying, according to a survey by the Guardian’s higher education network.

More than half of UK university staff questioned by the network said recent policy changes such as the introduction of the research excellence framework – a new process for measuring the quality of academic research – had fuelled campus bullying.

The survey questioned over 1,300 university staff who have experienced bullying at work, half of which are based at UK institutions. The research did not attempt to measure the scale of bullying, but asked respondents about its causes and how well universities deal with such behaviour.



Death by performance review

Imperial College London is to examine its staff policies after the death of an academic who was believed to have been placed under a performance review.

Stefan Grimm, professor of toxicology in the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial, was found dead in Northwood, Middlesex, in September. An inquest was opened and adjourned at the West London District Coroner’s Court on 8 October.

Speaking to Times Higher Education on condition of anonymity, two academics who knew Professor Grimm, who was 51, said that he had complained of being placed under undue pressure by the university in the months leading up to his death, and that he had been placed on performance review.


Expert academic testimony to USS on the unreality of the pension fund deficit

A letter sent by a number of academics to the USS trustees is available in full here.

The letter starts:

“We are writing as professors of statistics, financial mathematics or actuarial science. Our primary expertise is in the evaluation and modelling of data, for which the quantification of uncertainty and the critical appraisal of model assumptions are central.

We are writing to express serious concerns about the assumptions underpinning the estimation of the USS pension fund deficit, as detailed in the Oct 2014 document ‘USS: 2014 Actuarial Valuation: A Consultation on the proposed assumptions…’ (henceforth ‘the AV consultation’). For each of our concerns the difference between what is assumed and what we believe to be reasonably justified (on the basis of available information) might appear relatively small (1 percent here, fractions of a percent elsewhere). Nevertheless, as you are well aware, it is in the nature of compound interest and discounting calculations that such changes of a few percent can jointly and cumulatively produce very substantial changes in the estimated state of a fund….”