Category Archives: News

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….”

UCU/UUK/USS Joint statement

For months UCU has been concerned that the employers’ proposals would be forced through at this meeting. Indeed this prospect and the lack of serious negotiations on the detrimental proposals which Universities UK have nevertheless described as ‘the best possible deal for employees’ has been a key driver for the calling of the assessment boycott by UCU.

The boycott is being strongly supported across the country and it is against that backdrop of strong union action in support of our negotiating strategy that today’s meeting finally saw some progress in three key areas:

  1. the employers agreed not to press their proposals to a vote
  2. a series of formal and informal negotiating meetings between now and the next joint negotiating committee (JNC) meeting on 15 January 2015 have been agreed
  3. tripartite agreement was reached that actuaries representing UCU, UUK and USS should meet to discuss the funding position.

In addition to this UCU has continued to raise the question of punitive pay deductions. In this regard the employers indicated that if UCU agreed to suspend the action until the JNC on 15 January then no money would be docked from members who had participated in the action so far. This would be contingent upon sensible agreement on clearing any backlog.

The jointly agreed statement is set out below this message.

A Higher Education Committee (HEC) meeting has now been called on 19 November to consider UCU’s response on all these matters. Please note that at present the industrial action continues and that members should observe the boycott in full.

The union has also now produced an online modeller so you can see the individual impact upon you of the employers’ current proposals.

I will write again following HEC. Thank you again for your support.

Sally Hunt
UCU general secretary

____________________________

JOINT UCU/UUK STATEMENT FOLLOWING THE USS JOINT NEGOTIATING COMMITTEE (JNC) HELD ON 13 NOVEMBER 2014

The JNC held today noted that both UUK and UCU had submitted negotiating position papers but did not regard the current iteration as their final positions. Accordingly, no proposals were submitted to vote at the meeting.

The parties have agreed to a series of negotiating meetings between now and the next scheduled JNC to be held on 15 January 2015. The purpose of these meetings is to close the differences between the stakeholders’ negotiating positions, with a view to reaching agreement. This will include a meeting between the respective actuaries of the USS Trustee Board, UUK, and UCU.

With the aim of encouraging productive discussions, UUK and UCU agree to consult their constituent structures on the prospect of suspending the current industrial action from 20 November 2014 until after the JNC scheduled for 15 January 2015.

The consultation will be concluded by 19 November. The intention of the consultation is to consider whether the parties are able to reach agreement that a suspension of industrial action at this early stage will mean that no member of staff will have had pay deducted and students will not have been adversely affected. This is on the basis that, at this point, institutions will not have found it necessary to apply their policies to withhold pay for the assessment and marking boycott and that individual members of staff who were participating in the industrial action will have been able to remedy, within a reasonable time scale, any backlog of work that actually resulted from the industrial action between 6 to 20 November.

100% pay penalty fails to see staff in round

From http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/comment/letters/100-pay-penalty-fails-to-see-staff-in-round/2016905.article

 

I am writing to complain about how the University of Surrey is handling the University and College Union marking boycott. I am a final-year undergraduate and feel ashamed of the university that I have, up until now, loved attending.

It has come to my attention that Surrey feels it necessary to fully dock the wages of all participating staff and has even suggested that they stay at home or they may be sent home.

To send staff home without pay ensures that I not only receive no marks for work submitted, but also receive no feedback, have no access to their expertise for tutorials and, most importantly, have no lectures to attend.

I understand that the position Sir Christopher Snowden, Surrey’s president and vice-chancellor, holds as president at Universities UK would compromise Surrey’s ability to publicly condemn the upcoming changes to pensions, and nor would I expect it to condemn them; however, taking such a hard line against those who are participating in legitimate union action is a step too far.

I urge all involved to reconsider pay withdrawal and, if docking pay is deemed necessary, to ensure that it is done appropriately, ie, stopping an amount of pay that correlates with how much time is spent marking versus other roles – such roles are not voluntary and should still be paid as usual.

I will not be complaining about the lack of marking in my module evaluation questionnaires, but will do so in the National Student Survey. I can only hope that doing this will make it clear that I do not hold the lecturers responsible for taking part in valid industrial action, but rather that I hold the university and UUK responsible for not trying to come to an agreement and advocating what is in essence union-busting.

Milly March
Final-year undergraduate, University of Surrey

Signatories to the open letter to the Vice-Chancellor, the Registrar, and the Vice-President of Human Resources, University of Surrey

We are uploading signatures received every half day, to enable us to monitor for inappropriate comments.

Link to the open letter to the Vice-Chancellor, the Registrar, and the Vice-President of Human Resources, University of Surrey.

There are currently 232 signatures on the letter (as of 10.21am, 8th December 2014)

Professor Rosalind Malcolm
Dr Ellen Seiss
Dr Rob Fidler
Ms Lois Davis
Dr Adam McNamara
Dr Jean Johnson-Jones
Miss Amanda Cleary
Dr Laura Harvey
Dr Alison Cottell
Peter Morris – “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams
Professor Steve Goss
Russell
Clive Williamson
Matthew Sansom
Prof Allan Moore
Sam Williams
Victoria Redclift
Dr Nicola Green
Prof Alex Warleigh-Lack
Dr Charlie Masquelier
Dr Sarah Earthy
Henriette Hogh – I am disgusted with the bullying nature of the current management style and the demoralising effect this has on staff. The well-being of staff members are being sacrificed for league table positioning that with the current loss of staff is unlikely to be kept. In other words, staff well-being is being put at risk for nothing. Change is needed!
Jon Garland
Mark Olssen
Cornel Sandvoss – P.S. I would add that this would be a rather more respectful approach to the students and the wider community we serve, too.
Ian Brunton-Smith
Ipshita Basu
Theofanis Exadaktylos
Dr Kate Burningham
Dr. Tereza Capelos
Lada Timotijevic
Dr Jenevora Williams
Dr Michael McGuire
Scared Professor – too scared to disclose my name; suffering from anxiety and depression associated with the work place. This is despite being submitted to REF, MEQ of 4.4, plenty of good papers and grant income. This says it all.
Maxine David
Angela Druckman
Dr Laura Chappell
Mr Leslie Blake
Roberta Guerrina
Russell Keable
Dr Jane Fielding
Andrew Mason – Top of the league table for bullying
Dr Matthew Turner
Professor Justin D Edwards
Michele Bartuccelli
Dr Victoria Alexander
Dr Ally Grandison
Professor Rebecca Hoyle
Daniel McCarthy
Malte Kaeding
Ellen Dowell
Harriet Tenenbaum
Jane Ogden
Dr Alexandra Penn
Scared academic staff  – “I am deeply concerned about the demise of Surrey in the THE world rankings that has been in the news recently see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-29429466. From number 190 in 2007 – http://www.moveonnet.eu/directory/institution?id=GBGUILDFO01. It fell to 400 in the 2014-15 rankings.. I expect this demise to continue unless senior management drastically change their strategy and start to treat academic staff with respect again. The University of Surrey can only become a work place again that attracts the best researchers if it allows space for creativity instead of imposing unreasonable pressure. Moreover, decentralization and devolution is needed, rather than central management imposing decisions on departments without consultation. Over the last half year I got the impression that senior management is destroying this university that is so dear to us. I urge senior management to review their strategy.
Jeevan Rai
Ms Deborah Davis
Ilka Gleibs – exactly why i left Surrey to a university that still has an operating Academic board with some decision-making power. But it was hard to leave my brilliant colleagues and great department behind! 
Amy Woodward
Dr Christopher Wiley
Prof Ian Roulstone
Mike Blow – Management should value their staff, not threaten them. Witholding 100% pay for ASOS is unethical and highly disrespectful. Daniel Noon – Although I am only a student at Surrey, I support the UCU and I am against the action of the UoS management
Jonathan Deane
Dr Spencer Thomas – As a young researcher, this has made me seriously consider alternative career paths and has opened my eyes to the University’s image of its staff.
Avril Lloyd – For some docking pay will mean that we cannot pay our rent this month meaning we have to choose between keeping our homes and the freedom to protest. As a new employee I am shocked at such tactics in a seat of learning where I would have thought reason and negotiation would be the preferred choice not taking away people’s incomes because they have concerns about their working conditions.
Philip Dean
Nigel Gilbert
Ozge Dilaver
Jack Holland
Victoria Senior
jess prior
Esther Zaff
Carolina Bank Muñoz
M.A. LA – As a typical researcher with only a few months contract left linked to a project I see few opportunities to continue working in Surrey. I feel this is not only an issue of shortage of funding affecting the research/academic community in general, but actions such as the University’s response to proposals for ASOS make the situation worse contributing to staff becoming more demoralised, intimidated and afraid of loosing their jobs. The current working environment in Surrey promotes a culture of ‘working alone and looking after oneself’ and hinders collaboration in activities such as bidding to bring research money in.
Jennifer Badham
Lu Yang
Dr. Elizabeth Palley
Emma Williams
Stephen Morse
Anne-Catherine Wera
Dr Jhuma Sadhukhan
Dr Susan Howard
Thomas Roberts – If Surrey university is serious about maintaining it’s top 10 ranking the management need to create an atmosphere which attracts the best possible staff. Promoting a culture of fear and intimidation will have the opposite effect
Emily Glorney
Prof Jeffrey Tostevin
Dr Gregory Tate
Dr Alexandra Bristow
Dora Brown
Janet Godolphin
Dr Stephen Mooney
David Faux
sara pasquetti
Jo Franklin
Julie Barnett
stacy uniack
Barbara Ward
Dr Paul Stevenson
Dr Barbara Engel
Paul Hodkinson
Prof Debra Skene
Allan Williams
Professor Andrzej Kierzek – I sign this letter to protest against the Vision2020 management style which in my view is accurately described in the letter. I am particularly concerned about University prioritising its position in newspaper league tables over academic integrity. For example, average Module Evaluation Questionnaire scores for statistics courses are reported without error bars. This is example of University contradicting its own teaching to pursue ill-conceived strategy of achieving newspaper league table targets (incorrect MEQ analysis is not predictive of NSS results).
Roland Clift – Morale and motivation at the university have sunk to the lowest level I have seen in more than 30 years. This is turning into a disaster for the University of Surrey.
Dr. Alma Lopez-Aviles
Richard Bacon
Peter Johnson
Barbara Steel – I have always loved working for the University of Surrey and have welcomed the opportunities for development it has bought to me as a former “Academic-Related” Member of staff – now reclassed as “Support”….I am proud of what I have achieved on behalf of the University and the financial contribution I have made. However, I am very disappointed with the attitude of USS towards our pensions, which we have all contributed to in good faith…… whilst I recognise that the final salary scheme cannot continue for ever, surely there can be room for cooperative negotiation on this rather than the apparently draconian attitude that USS and the University is taking towards its staff. Many of us feel powerless and demoralised in the current climate here and, as a long-term and loyal member of staff, this is very sad to see.
Gianne Derks
Anne Irving
Prof. Philip Harris (U. Sussex) – It is tragic to see a partner university, with whom we have worked closely and collegially, sink to such depths in the aggressive and intimidating manner in which it treats its staff. This is appalling, even in comparison with the already low standards set at many other institutions (including my own). How ironic that messages like this emerge from the very department – Human Resources – that also instructs employees to avoid workplace bullying.
Mr Chris Burt
Kirstie Hatcher
Dr Sarah Neal
David Lloyd
Dr Paul Tosey
Annika Lohstroh
Professor Adrian Coyle – Although I left Surrey in the summer after 23 years as a member of staff, I continue to supervise doctoral students there and retain a deep concern about the brutalist management style that has developed and intensified in recent years. The university’s approach to UCU action is horrifyingly typical of an institution where management has abandoned the values that drew so many of us to work in higher education. And most of us who have left know that any claim about Surrey’s approach being inevitable in the current HE context lacks an evidence base. A brutalist management style is not the only option.
Oliver Bond
Dr. Tom Armstrong
Dr Julie Howarth – 37 years at Surrey. Very sad to see staff under such pressure and intimidation having to resort to this to seek change.
Tijana Timotijevic, Queen Mary, University of London – I sign this in solidarity with the colleagues at the U. of Surrey in their stand against workplace bullying and an authoritarian management culture.
Dr Carlo Barbieri
Derek Stevenson
Anonymous Comment – I have signed above, but subsequently wondered which of Surrey’s strapline applies to management’s treatment of academic staff: ‘Wonderful things happen here’? ‘Innovation, Passion, Collaboration’? ‘Openness, Curiosity’?
Alex S. Vitale
Dr Churnjeet Mahn
Dr Glyn Steventon
Ian Christie
Anne Arber
Cornelius Medvei
Dr Dawn Sanders
Prof Stephen Ogin
Dr Lucy Bell
Milly March – Although I am just a student, I wish to declare my support for the teaching staff at Surrey and my opposition to both the changes to the pension scheme and the 100% pay docking. I am shocked that academics I value and respect so much can be treated like this by the management who owe so much to them.
Anne Glover
Silvia Pani
Dr Giselda Bucca
Kim Peters
Bill
Dr. Jonathan Gilhooly
Dr Bram Mertens
Radmila Mileusnic
Michelle Gibbs – This is just the tip of a massive, badly managed, insulting iceberg which is tearing the heart out of the greatest resource.  I’m off, good luck everyone!
Dr Mark Barnard
Teo de Campos
Khim Horton
Sue Thorpe
Dany Beste
Helen Cooper – I think what is most amazing is that many of us appreciate that the defined benefits pension model will need to change. What annoys us is the way this has been handled. The models from UUK treated us like idiots, as if academics used to dealing with statistics and numbers wouldn’t notice. The email we received regarding the ASOS was combative and generally unpleasant. The follow up email acted as if no one had complained about the way we were being treated. Communication is a 2 way process, it involves listening as well as talking, until the higher echelons understand this we will continue to see ‘communication issues’ highlighted in the staff survey.
Paul Couchman
Harry Ziegler
Rachel Cohen – I left the Surrey nearly two years ago, sorry to leave great colleagues. However, having experienced Surrey University’s aggressive management style, I’m disappointed, but not surprised at this total disregard for the work and commitment of staff. Solidarity to Surrey UCU branch.
Kelly Gardner
Ann Matthews
Pros Costas Ioannides
Kristina Massey – My undergraduate degree is from Surrey and I remember it as a very friendly, supportive University. It is such a shame to hear how staff are treated there now. How fast things can change under punitive management.
David Andrews
David Ponsonby
Dr Caroline Edwards
Andy Bloor
Dr Jim Butcher / Branch Chair, Canterbury Christ Church University – In Universities the pursuit of ‘performance’ is antithetical to the pursuit of knowledge. We need a renaissance of intellectual life, not more metrics and procedures.
Christopher Anderson
Dr Chris Harvey
dan donoghue – I support the views of UCU on this….
Dr Katja Hallenberg
Dr Bernice Murphy, Trinity College Dublin.
Dara Downey
Monica Germana
Dr Christine Ferguson
Emilia
Dr Richard Henson – Pension contributions are deferred pay and are a long term agreement between the employee and employer. The proposed changes to USS pension scheme are wrong as it forces staff to take up AVC which thereby amounts to yet a further pay cut. It also breaks the social contract between the employee and employer making it less likely that academics will remain within the sector.
Derek Walton
Susie Willis
Robert Stone – Having recently seen the Crucible it is only to clear that if these measures are adopted nationally that the Witch Hunt is coming .To deliver effectively academics need to trust that their opinion will at times go against the grain of student satisfaction. What they deliver is a challenge to complacency.
Dr. Kate Houlden
Dr Sally Robinson
Dr. Jill Galvan
Dennis Denisoff
Prof. Ian Davidson
Rachael Taylor
Russell Hitchings
Dr. Simon Hadfield
Professor Jessica Ringrose
Kae Smith – “In solidarity, NUS NEC Part Time Rep”
Dr Martin Eve
Patrizia Kokot
Kim Allen
Steven James Lally – This is a disgrace. Fix it.
Dr Mark Williams
Professor Emma Renold
Dr Heather Mendick
Matt Marter
Miriam Wlasny – Absolutely disgusting treatment of staff, and incredibly demoralising for those of us who are PGR students at this university.
Dr Anna Catherine Hickey-Moody
Dr Jane Essex
Zoë Skoulding
soizick
peter wilkin
Anne Chappell
Remy Martin
Andy Seaman
Rachel O’Neill
Helen Hughes
Heather Gage
Prof. Jayne Osgood
Rochelle Harris
Dr Richard Sear
Connie Nolan
Professor Stephen Gourley
Dr E. Schroder – Industrial action is a democratic right. By attempting to take away this right through bullying and extreme pay docking, the University of Surrey has shown its commitment to anti-democratic policies that have no place in the UK. The anti-democratic policies of the institution will destroy its reputation as a place committed to international research and higher learning, both nationally and internationally. We have already seen the impact of Vision2020 on the international league tables: Surrey has fallen to below 400. If these management policies continue, this drop in the international league tables will just be the tip of the iceberg.
Ed Jacobs – The disrespect with which management has treated its staff in this dispute is an outrage. The branch UCU has approved a motion for a vote of no confidence in the VC, Prof Christopher Snowden. This motion has my support. From my perspective, the VC has begun a process that is destroying the university.
Kerry Brown
Dr Shumaisa Khan
Phil Buckley
Dr Emilia Bertolo
Prof Peter Buckle – I left the University of Surrey at the end of 2009. I was saddened to read this letter but, I confess, not surprised, based on my experiences in the latter years of my tenure there. I have since worked at both Imperial College and the Royal College of Art. I have encountered no such adverse climates of fear in either location. I hope the damage is reversible. Good luck colleagues.
Stuart Swanton
Dr Dimitris Asimakoulas
Dr Alison Yeung
Rosina Marquez
Professor Chris Flood (emeritus) In solidarity with former colleagues and UCU members.
Jose M. Fernandez-Tunon
Dr Jane Marriott
tom mendum
Dr Philip Hancock
Ms Jennifer Jackson
Birgit Linton
Discouraged Academic – “There are two ways in general to do management:
1. Set the rules and lay the law down.
2. Work with staff to help them perform their best and develop.
The executive board definitely go for option 1, because it’s easy for them, they earn their lucrative salaries and roll in the money while others suffer. The managers in faculties below them are pressured and they pressure the people below them and dictorial bullying culture is rife. A University that does that kind of thing becomes a bad place and people outside are certainly seeing through the advertising banners that try to cover up the problem.
I went to a great hotel one weekend. The reason that it was so good and the reason the staff were so good to us was that it was obvious their management were doing good management for them. Please can the executive board learn form this and change your ways so they are in line with option number 2? If you do, then you will have far more to be satisfied with yourselves and so will the University have a lot to unashamedly smile over. Success needs to happen in practise, not just on paper.”
Sharlene Ting – I wholly support the motion for a vote of no confidence in the Vice Chancellor, Christopher Snowden and his followers.
Bob Birtwell
Gareth Dale
Peter Thomas

UCU advice on response to letter from management about the assessment boycott

UCU have advised that staff participating in the assessment boycott should respond to the email as follows:

‘I intend to support the UCU assessment and marking boycott but will not be doing so until x date when I have scheduled work to do which is included in the boycott. I will not be engaged in marking every day after that date. Please note that I would have expected all the work I can currently anticipate and which is covered by the boycott to have been completed by x date.’

UCU have advised that you calculate the date you would anticipate completing the work based on how long this would usually take you from the start date.

For example, if I have scheduled assignments to pick up on 19th November, and it would usually take me two days to complete this, I would state that I would have expected all the work I can currently anticipate and which is covered by the boycott to have been completed by 21st November. If the boycott is still ongoing at the time of your next piece of scheduled work, you would need to inform them of these dates again.

You should be aware that the employer retains a legal right to deduct pay from day one of action so long as they are clear that they intend to do so irrespective of whether you are taking action on each day or not. However, we have been advised that the strategy which will minimise risk for members is to state the dates during which they would have anticipated undertaking assessment work covered by the boycott.

Please see UCU Assessment boycott FAQs for the full list of national FAQs.

Information for students – assessment boycott

Surrey Learn News / Email to Students

NATIONWIDE ASSESSMENT BOYCOTT BECAUSE OF PENSION DISPUTE

Dear Students,

From 6 November 2014 the University and College Union (UCU) will be operating a nationwide university assessment boycott, which will stop students being set coursework or receiving formal marks and feedback, as well as halting exams. Our dispute is with university management and not with students and we will do all we can to limit the impact of this action on your studies.  As always, we are concerned for our students.  The action will not affect teaching in any of its forms so lectures, tutorials, lab work etc. will continue as normal.  While feedback given as part of the teaching and learning process will not be affected, the action does mean that you might not receive your grades as punctually as usual. However, the university management have threatened that they will withdraw 100% of pay from any staff participating in the boycott. Implementing such a draconian policy will only serve to exacerbate and prolong this dispute. We are doing all we can to avoid this, and will be asking management to withdraw this threat.

Why a boycott?

Pensions might seem not an interesting topic for students as the issues seem to be far away in the future. However, they are important for academic and teaching staff because they are part of the pay that employees get. Salaries and pensions for teaching and research staff have been eroded over the years and the recent attack on our pensions will slowly and surely destroy the long established USS pension scheme for your lecturers.

You might not know but your high tuition fees did not result in the hiring of well-paid staff or in improvement of their employment benefits. However, these are the people who teach you every day and your education depends on them. The problem is that lower salaries and pensions mean a “brain drain” from the universities. Why should very good staff teach you when they can earn more elsewhere? It might not be worth starting a career in this profession anymore.

Therefore, your education is at risk when our pension benefits are reduced.

Who takes part?

UCU members in 69 UK universities began an assessment boycott on Thursday 6 November 2014, and will continue until a better pension deal is negotiated.

What can you do to support your lecturers, your education standards, and get assessments set and marked soon?

  • You can show your lecturer your understanding of the situation. For example, you could write supporting emails so that they know that you do understand that this is the only way to save lecturers’ pensions.
  • If you are frustrated about not getting your assessments set or your grades in time, write emails to the USS (mediateam@uss.co.uk) or your President and Vice Chancellor Sir Christopher Snowden (snowden@surrey.ac.uk). He is also the President of Universities UK and therefore he has huge influence on higher education issues.
  • You can also ask the student union, USSU, to become active in supporting our action. The more people support us, the earlier we have a chance for a decent pension deal and an end of the assessment boycott.

Please support us,

XXXX