Category Archives: News

Motion: Surrey Space Centre (SSC)

UCU Surrey Notes:

  • The proposal to move Surrey Space Centre (SSC) to the School of Maths and Physics was announced in September 2023 with a very short consultation period.
  • The rationale was shallow and did not include a detailed long term plan for how the move would assure SSC’s long term sustainability and growth.
  • The manner in which the move has been handled is not to anyone’s approval.

UCU Surrey Believes:

  • The reasons for the move of SSC have not been made known and are a result of a knee jerk reaction to recent circumstances.
  • The move will have substantial impact on the long term reputation of SSC and Electronic Engineering at the University.
  • The move will not best support the delivery and development of our courses in Astronautics and Space Engineering at undergraduate and postgraduate level.

UCU Surrey Resolves:

  • To form an open letter to the executive board expressing concern about the mishandling of the process.
  • To write to the chair of council and invite them to a meeting to discuss concerns raised.
  • To demand that the FEPS Executive Board work with members and staff through deeper consultation and negotiation on the best solution for long term sustainability and growth of SSC.
  • To submit a Freedom of Information request for minutes of meetings and communications regarding the proposed move prior to consultation.

[Passed at a quorate branch meeting 27.11.23]

Marking and Assessment Boycott – MAB

UCU’s higher education committee (HEC) voted to begin a marking and assessment boycott (MAB) from Thursday 20 April 2023. This means that from Thursday 20 April 2023, we are asking all UCU members in universities which are part of the UCU Rising disputes to cease undertaking all summative marking and associated assessment activities/duties. The boycott also covers assessment-related work such as exam invigilation and the processing of marks.

UCU HQ MAB FAQs: UCU – Marking and assessment boycott FAQs

UCU HQ Recorded MAB Training session, delivery notes and slides: UCU – Marking and assessment boycott 2023

UCU Branch Resources:

UCU University of Liverpool MAB video

UCU Goldsmiths University MAB notes

Notes From Below MAB Road Map

UCU QMUL 2022 notes on strikes and MABs

UCU QMUL 2022 MAB advice for students

UCU University of Leeds FAQs on MABs for students

Open Letter from the Surrey UCU Committee re Staff Survey 2022

We draw to your attention the concern that UCU has over the lack of free text comments in the 2022 staff survey, even though this matter had been raised previously in a Joint Negotiation and Consultative Committee. We find from members that the survey was inhibiting staff from communicating what needs to be heard, which we believe such inhibition is silencing what management do not want to hear.

In light of this we have allowed members to complete a “Not the staff survey” in which they were given the opportunity to write free text. We have taken care to ensure that references to or indications of named people if they occurred have been removed. Our members had given consent to allow the free text to be shared with Senior Management in confidence.

We draw particular attention to the following points where we expect management to take concerns on board and seek changes to address them:

· Workloads and wellbeing of staff.
· Managerial decisions and the inhumane way that re-organisation is taking place in parts of the University.
· The lack of fully embracing flexible working.
· That employees were not given the opportunity in the staff survey to distinguish their opinions on different levels of management.
· Lack of reward and progression for professional service staff in places.
· Implementation of the curriculum development review and its workload demands.
· Support for disabled and neurodivergent staff and equality pay gaps.
· The need for senior management to actively lobby to revoke the cuts in the USS pension dispute.
· Gender pay gap issues and gender bias.

In light of the overwhelming response to this exercise from members, we request that in future years the staff survey will be clear about allowing free expression of thoughts and concerns with a free text box. We would also seek clear consultation with the campus trade unions on the questionsthat will be set. We note the importance of this particularly in regards to one question from the 2021 survey: “My views are considered when the University makes significant decisions”, which scored only 24% positive and was re-written in 2022 to become: “I have the opportunity to feed into my department/faculty when significant decisions are being made” to subsequently get 51% positive. We further note that the University has considered this to be a 27 percentage point rise, yet the two questions are clearly different. We are in unanimous agreement that a like for like comparison cannot be made between these two questions and that there is no means to prove whether there has been an improvement or decline in this matter since 2021.

We would not only wish to request to be involved in the formation of next year’s staff survey, but furthermore we would like to discuss the possibility of working together with the University on analysing the findings from the current survey. A working group of members have already expressed interest in this and as such it is an important way of evidencing clear collegiality between the University, trade unions and likewise staff in understanding what the survey is informing us on and how we can actively improve upon it.

We hope that you will take these matters on board and look forward to positive ways of working together.

Kind regards,

UCU Surrey Committee

Strike Resources

UCU members will take strike action for five consecutive days from Monday 25 September 2023 to Friday 29 September 2023

1 UCU HQ Out of Office (Strike and Action Short of Strike)

UCU – Out of office messages

2 Surrey UCU Branch Out of Office (Strike)

I am not able to check email today as members of Surrey UCU are taking industrial action, along with members at 150 other universities, due to the urgent need to press for fair pay, manageable workloads, secure contracts and equality at work. The real-terms pay of HE staff has fallen by an estimated 25% since 2009. Members of Surrey UCU will be on strike on the following days – please do not email on these days as I will not be able to respond to emails sent to me on strike days on my return.

If you would like more information about the dispute, please go to UCU – FAQs. If you are a student, please do contact [email protected] to find out what steps the University is taking to avoid a dispute, we are urgently looking for meaningful negotiations so that we can all return to work. If you are a student affected by strike action, you can also contact the Students’ Union for independent advice and support at University of Surrey Students’ Union (

3 Surrey UCU Branch PPT slide for talking through the action with students 

4 Template response if asked whether you are taking strike action

‘Dear …. 

In accordance with legal requirements, UCU has provided employers with statistical information about UCU members taking industrial action, but not individual names.  I have been advised that there is no obligation for individuals to inform their employer / managers in advance as to whether they will be taking part in strike action or action short of a strike and am therefore not in a position to answer your enquiry.’ 

UCU HQ Strike FAQs

Surrey UCU Strike Calendar

Monday 25th September 2023

Tuesday 26th September 2023

Wednesday 27th September 2023

Thursday 28th September 2023

Friday 29th September 2023

Physical Pickets

Monday 25th September 2023 08:00-10:00 Stag Entrance

Tuesday 26th September 2023 08:00-10:00 Stag Entrance

Virtual Picket

Friday 29th September 2023 Virtual Picket 08:00-09:00 (link sent to inboxes)

Emails and Outlook forwarding

Please set up auto forwarding during the strike days if your usual mode of communication for Surrey UCU is your work email. This means you will receive any updates from us without having to access your work email account.

Informing the University about your strike action

Members are under no obligation to inform HR, or indeed any other member of staff, about their intentions to undertake strike action if you are going to be on strike. If a manager asks, you can politely decline to answer that question in advance of taking part in any forthcoming action.

Members also do not need to notify the Director of HR, or anyone else, immediately after every day of strike action if strike days are consecutive.  Our first day of strike action is on Monday 25th September. After that period of strike action, if full time, your next day of work would be Monday 2nd October. That’s the day to confirm that you have taken part in action, once you have been asked to notify. If you work part-time, then you would notify, if asked, the next day that you are scheduled to work after this period of strike action.


Action Short of A Strike

Please see the ASOS FAQ on the national UCU website here:’action_short_of_a_strike’_(ASOS)

Staff will begin action short of a strike (ASOS) from Wednesday 23 November onwards at institutions in England, Wales and Scotland.

Action short of a strike will consist of the following until further notice:

  • working to contract
  • not covering for absent colleagues
  • removing uploaded materials related to, and/or not sharing materials related to, lectures or classes that will be or have been cancelled as a result of strike action
  • not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
  • not undertaking any voluntary activities.

In terms of ​rescheduling, the national UCU FAQs linked above state that by ‘lectures or classes’ we mean any activity between any UCU member and a student or group of students which involves any instruction, tuition, communicating or sharing of knowledge or guidance.

This includes teaching which would have taken place on one of UCU’s strike days and covers instructional activities undertaken by UCU members who are academic-related professional services staff, as well as academic staff. You should, if asked, refuse to reschedule such sessions, stating that you are supporting UCU’s action short of a strike.

If someone else such as a line manager or head of department has already scheduled your classes, the FAQ state that once the action has started you should not teach rescheduled classes whoever has rescheduled them.

The national UCU FAQS also outline that the reasonability of any request will depend on the terms of your contract and custom and practice. If in doubt, or if your actions are challenged by someone senior to you, you should temporarily suspend your action and contact your branch who will seek further advice.

As a result, please do not hesitate to get in touch for support if you need to, for example by contacting the Branch Administrator in the first instance. We can ask for additional guidance from our regional office on your behalf.

ASOS – Legal Guidance

In addition to the national advice above, the branch has requested additional information from our regional office. The legal advice as regards ‘rescheduling’ is as follows:

Asking for work to be made up from a strike day IF other work is not being required so that time is freed up for members to do it, is likely to be feasible legally. However,

•             the employer has to explain how they are going to free up time

•             the employer has to reschedule not the individual member

•             the employer has to be explicit about precisely what our members do not have to undertake to allow re-prioritisation

•             the employer has to explain how this will affect marking timelines

•             the employer has to explain how any rooming issues will be dealt with

•             the employer has to be clear on recognition as to how dropping other activities such as research will affect quality

UCU Picketing guidance

What is the law on picketing?

JOINT UNION STATEMENT [RE OUTSOURCING] Thoughts on the latest webinar

Another all-staff webinar was held on 11 May 2022: Creating the Conditions for Success at Surrey.

The webinar was hosted by the Vice-President Strategy, Planning and Performance. The main speakers were the Chief Operating Officer and the Chief People Officer. There were no academic speakers on the webinar.

Staff can watch a recording or read the transcript via the SurreyNet intranet pages here:

Professional Services and key worker loyalty

The discussion around outsourcing began with a recognition that Professional Services staff are essential to the success of the University. However, this was quickly followed-up with a warning that the University must start thinking differently in the current economic climate. Reference was made to digitisation, simplification and fundamentally changing the way things are done.

We would urge the institution’s leadership team to never forget the fantastic work of our essential frontline staff in keeping our University operating during the pandemic. The loyalty of these key workers should never be forgotten, and it is an absolute priority that they are retained in-house, with sector staff benefits, embedded in our University ‘culture’. This is the appropriate way to demonstrate that our Professional Services staff are valued properly.

Outsourcing models: a Reverse Robin Hood?

Management was asked to explain the benefits of the Cervus+ model (a separate company into which many colleagues have already been outsourced). They said that many commercial organisations would immediately outsource to a third-party provider. The potential and demonstrated negative impact/s of this was acknowledged. However, reference was made to the University creating its own companies (or ‘vehicles’ as they were referred to).

It seems reasonable to conclude that the motivation behind outsourcing (or creating our own vehicles) at Surrey would be to lower costs. This would normally be achieved by lowering the value of the benefits package for those staff affected. Management made a comparison to the Sports Park which was set up as a separate company. They did not mention that the benefits packages for most staff are lower there.

Management then went on to explain that the benefit of the Cervus+ model was that the University was able to pay specialist staff more.

As a result, another reasonable conclusion appears to be that a small number of people will be paid more when they are outsourced to Cervus+, but large numbers of staff in other areas would receive less after being outsourced to another ‘vehicle’ (for example, potentially one of the other companies that appear to have already been set up at Companies House). It would be Robin Hood Reversed.

Fair pay and reward

We cannot understand why the University feels it is necessary to go to all the time, effort, and expense of setting-up new companies to pay people more. The argument that they can’t pay people fairly under the existing University pay scheme is flawed. The unions have no objections to people being paid more when there is transparent decision-making, and this is justified. The formal annual joint Union pay claims repeatedly lobby HE employers to pay their staff increases at least in line with inflation, and for years, the employers have implemented substandard offers in return. You don’t need to outsource people to pay them fairly. We have also noticed that Cervus+ have been recruiting new administrative staff at what appears to be below the normal University pay scales.

When asked if there were specific plans to outsource particular parts of the University, Management said that it was a work in progress. They went on to outline the considerations that would be made when making decisions on which areas should be outsourced. They vaguely stated that ‘affinity’ with the University and specialism for the HE sector would be a key factor in this.

Two-tiered workforce

There was much talk about affinity, loyalty, and commitment, but this seems to clash with the potential outcome that many loyal, committed staff with a deep connection to the University could be outsourced to a separate company. They would no longer work for the University and would be very likely to receive an inferior benefits package. How this would demonstrate University values to these colleagues is mystifying.

When specifically asked if there were plans to outsource cleaning teams, Management replied that they did not like the word ‘outsource’ but that they would consider putting staff into one of the University’s ‘vehicles’.

Our view is simple: we oppose any process that deteriorates staff terms and conditions, whatever terminology is used to do this. Let us not forget, an alternative phrase to ‘outsourcing’ could be ‘fire and rehire’.

Race to the bottom?

The three campus unions at Surrey oppose harmful outsourcing and are deeply concerned by the potential for this to spread to all parts of our campus. A culture of declining workplace benefits affects us all sooner or later. Rather than racing to the bottom, we encourage the University to strive to be an employer of choice.

Please help us to spread the word by displaying one of our posters, sharing the link to this website:


BREAKING: @UCUSurrey, @unis_unison and Surrey Unite are launching a joint CAMPAIGN AGAINST OUTSOURCING at University of Surrey. More updates to follow.

Please visit the joint website here: Home – Outsourcing at Surrey

Please share widely on social media:

220228 Open Letter from the Campus Trade Unions regarding outsourcing

Three departments central to the efficient operation of the University will be outsourced to Cervus Plus Consulting LLP on 1 March 2022, and yet there remain many unanswered questions. Our hope, in writing this open letter to you both, is to receive satisfactory responses to these questions so that staff and students can be assured of their continued safety both on campus and also whilst travelling on University business. We also hope to allay the concerns of the staff affected and those more broadly impacted by this outsourcing.

For anyone reading this letter ‘cold’, the central Health & Safety function, University insurance function and the internal audit and risk assurance function will all be operated from Cervus Plus Consulting LLP as of 1 March 2022. The University Information Governance function (including the Data Protection Officer and the team with responsibility for managing GDPR compliance, responding to Freedom of Information requests, etc) will also move to Cervus Plus Consulting LLP on 1May 2022. For anyone wanting further information on what the ‘LLP’ stands for in the name of the new company, there are a number of useful sites on the internet.

From those start dates, University staff within those functions will cease to be University employees and they will lose their eligibility for membership of the University Superannuation Scheme (USS pension) along with many other benefits of working for the University including, for instance, access to the Centre for Wellbeing. Cervus Plus Consulting LLP staff will have contracts of employment that specify that they are Home Workers, meaning that they will also lose the many benefits of working on campus, including face-to-face contact with colleagues and an ergonomic, fit for purpose desk/workstation.

The consultation for those staff transferring was short (33 days) and was negatively impacted by being held over the Christmas and New Year holidays. This has resulted in many questions remaining unanswered and has necessitated this letter to you both. Whilst we do not expect that you should be responsible for providing responses to the many detailed operational queries (and we have purposefully left those out from this letter, for the moment), your respective positions of President and Vice Chancellor and Chair of the University Council, do make you the right persons to answer the following:

  1. During the limited consultation we were told that there was “Significant support from EB [Executive Board] and Council. EB approved the approach and Council discussed and support the way forward at their away day”. To aid transparency and instil confidence that the transfer process was and is being completed with proper University governance, please can you:
  1. as Chair of the EB (Max), provide details of what you agreed at your meeting in September 2021 (or on any other occasion during which the proposal was discussed)?
    1. as Chair of the University Council (Michael), provide details of what you agreed at your meeting in November 2021 (or on any other occasion during which the proposal was discussed).

We understand that some of the commercially sensitive detail may need to be redacted but expect the overall proposal, direction of travel and the current and future scope of the transfer arrangements to be shared.

  • What future plans exist for other members of University staff (i.e. those not in scope for 1 March 2022 and 1 May 2022) to be transferred into Cervus Plus Consulting LLP or another new separate company?
    • Will this include staff working in professional services i.e.: HR, Finance, Estates and Facilities, as well as Student Services?
  • A new company called Operate Surrey Ltd was incorporated by Companies House on 1 February 2022. Is this the company into which some or all members of staff in HR, Finance, Estates and Facilities and Student Services may be transferred? If so, when will they be informed?
  • It would appear reasonable to conclude that hundreds of members of University staff could potentially be outsourced to either Cervus Plus Consulting LLP, Operate Surrey Ltd, Innovate Surrey Ltd or another new entity. Please can you provide your personal assurance that the consultation period for all future staff is of adequate length and will not coincide with peak holiday times?
  • How will you ensure that there is both good governance and a safe environment when, from 1 March 2022, the current University Director of Health & Safety will be employed by a third-party company – the same third-party company that has been awarded an exclusive contract to provide advice on health & safety? Who will ensure, from the University’s perspective, that the advice and service received from the third party is adequate, when the University will no longer employ a Director of Health & Safety?
  • The University of Sussex outsourced their health & safety function, only to bring it back in house. Please can you share with us details of all the actions taken by the University to ensure that:
    • Our staff and students are not going to be endangered.
    • The health & safety service provided by Cervus Plus Consulting LLP is fit for purpose when both the existing Director of Health and Safety and the existing University internal audit and risk assurance function will both be provided by Cervus Plus Consulting LLP (i.e., the supplier).
  • We understand the imperative of running the University effectively within a budget and of maximising both the student and staff experience whilst also capitalising on our fantastic research and innovative partnerships with many external bodies. However, it would appear to be counterintuitive to good housekeeping to purposefully incur multiple sets of overheads in the running of multiple separate companies to provide the same, and potentially worse service. Please can you explain the financial logic?

Given the timings of the proposed transfer, and the very great impact that these changes will have on the University, potentially hundreds of members of staff and to our current and future students, we would hope to receive a fulsome and detailed response at your earliest convenience.

Kind regards

Surrey UNISON, UCU, Unite

220216 Open Letter from Surrey UCU Committee regarding the USS Pension Scheme

Dear Vice-Chancellor,

You would have seen that the University and College Union (UCU) issued a set of new proposals for the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) on 26 January 2022: ]

These new proposals would see retirement benefits protected in return for a small increase in contributions for both members and employers ahead of a new evidence-based valuation of the scheme. A USS consultation of scheme members concluded on 17 January 2022, and UCU understands that a significant majority preferred increasing contributions of members and employers in order to protect benefits over the alternatives, including benefit cuts. Moreover, USS confirmed on Thursday 20 January that its assets have jumped to over £92bn, more than £25bn higher than the previous valuation.   

Last year UCU tabled proposals that would have protected benefits, but Universities UK (UUK) refused to provide the same level of covenant support to underwrite UCU’s proposals as they provided for their own.  

UCU’s proposals are as follows:

  • that UUK call on USS to issue a moderately prudent, evidence-based valuation of the financial health of the scheme as at 31 March 2022, to be issued for consultation in June (at the latest)
  • that employers agree to provide the same level of covenant support as for their own proposals to facilitate a cost-sharing of current benefits throughout the 2022/23 scheme year, starting 1 April 2022 at 11% member/23.7% employer until 1 October 2022, and 11.8%/25.2% thereafter
  • that employers agree to pay a maximum of 25.2% and members a maximum of 9.8% from 1 April 2023 so as to secure current benefits or, if not possible, the best achievable as a result of the call on USS to issue a moderately prudent, evidence-based valuation.

On the 10th February, the USS trustee confirmed that UCU proposals can be implemented: UCU – USS trustee confirms UCU proposals can be implemented

However, there has been subsequent concern that UUK have misrepresented the UCU proposals to Vice Chancellors:

UUK’s serious misrepresentations of UCU’s proposals (Pt I) | by Michael Otsuka | Feb, 2022 | Medium

UUK’s escalating misrepresentation of UCU’s proposals (Pt II) | by Michael Otsuka | Feb, 2022 | Medium

Although UCU members of the Surrey branch did not meet the ballot threshold for strike action to take place, it cannot be underemphasised from the ballot result the substantial anger that our members have with regard to pensions. It is important to draw the concerns above to the attention of every Vice-Chancellor, including those from Universities where strike action is currently not taking place.

We are therefore writing to ask whether you would support UCU’s proposals instead of UUK’s plan. Under UUK’s plan university staff would see an approximate 35% cut to their guaranteed retirement income based on a flawed USS valuation conducted in March 2020.

Yours sincerely

Surrey UCU branch committee

Surrey UCU Committee Motion: A motion to enter into a formal dispute with the University of Surrey over setting MEQ scores as compulsory targets in appraisals and probation processes.

Surrey UCU:

1. Notes that

a. Module Evaluation Questionnaire (MEQ) scores have only ever been used in University of Surrey academic appraisals as an example of a target. Appraisees are not compelled to sign up to targets which involve MEQs as individual performance metrics.

b. Changes to appraisal targets are subject to negotiation and agreement between HR and UCU under the Terms of Reference of the Joint Negotiating and Consultative Committee (JNCC).

c. The recent instruction sent to line managers (27/07/2021) indicated the inclusion of MEQ scores as compulsory targets in both appraisals and probations. This had not been negotiated with this UCU Branch and is therefore in breach of the JNCC agreement.

d. UCU committee proposed a reasonable remedy was for further communication to be sent to line managers to explicitly clarify that MEQ metrics should not be used as compulsory targets, rather that they remain as one of several optional examples of evidence of teaching performance, and a basis for discussion.

e. The appraisal form itself was altered several times mid cycle with changes to section 3.2, again without consultation.

f. The subsequent communication sent to all staff from the PVC Education (19/08/21) failed to clarify points made in (d) nor prevent any potential misapprehension, despite numerous attempts from UCU to ameliorate and correct this.

2. Believes that

a. MEQ scores are an unsuitable metric for use as a compulsory performance indicator

b. Any use of MEQ scores in appraisals or probations must remain optional.

c. Any alteration of appraisal/probation targets, procedures or documentation must be subject to negotiation and agreement with UCU.

3. Resolves that

a. We will raise a formal Dispute with the University over communications to staff that obfuscate the principle that MEQ scores are optional appraisal and probation targets.

b. We will maintain the position that appraisers/line managers should not use MEQ scores as compulsory targets for any appraisee.

c. We reaffirm the principle that any proposed alteration of working conditions including those subsumed within appraisal procedures must continue to be subject to negotiation and agreement with UCU.