UCU elections
Taking action in higher education

Dr Mark Pendleton (University of Sheffield)

Election address

Lecturer in Japanese Studies, University of Sheffield

Our union is transforming, and I want to continue contributing to that transformation.

I've been an activist for twenty years, first as a student in Australia around education cuts, LGBTQ+ politics and refugees/borders, during late 1990s anti-capitalist movements. My activism remains centred on those issues, underpinned by the knowledge that collective action achieves social change.

I joined UCU on moving to the UK in 2012; before that I was a member of NTEU, our Australian counterpart. My involvement increased after the 2016 Brexit referendum and the 2018 strike.

Appalled by divisions fostered by employers between EU and non-EU migrants, I organised with my branch to win visa reimbursement and increased support in 2018; this was extended in 2019. 

Our union has rightly opposed xenophobia, but hasn't always understood the material and psychological impact for migrant members of massive increases to fees and surveillance. In early 2018, I co-founded the group International & Broke, a peer network for HE migrant staff that has supported campaigns in various branches, and, alongside groups like Unis Resist Border Controls, forced migrant issues onto the union's agenda. I co-wrote a USSBriefs on the Hostile Environment (#24), and was a core member of the successful URBC-initiated #LetAhmedStay campaign. I actively supported the Leeds-led campaign for migrant representation in UCU.

I have been a long-term advocate for equality and diversity. During the 2018 strike, I publicly resigned from university roles in disgust at punitive threats against members. I was subsequently elected to my branch E&D role, where I have taken on work addressing pay gaps and trans inclusion, among other issues. I also contributed to concluding a local claim on casualised teaching; we won agreement that all scheduled teaching would be through regularised contracts, and created GTA roles at higher grades.

I was elected to the UCU LGBT+ committee in 2019 and proudly stand with our trans and non-binary siblings in their struggle for recognition, respect and rights.

If elected, I would seek to extend the focus on equality in our campaigns on workload, casualisation and pay, both for academic and professional staff. As a researcher, teacher and one of our branch REF leads, I also believe our union needs to be much more proactive and strategic about combating REF and other 'excellence' frameworks - we were too late this cycle. 

Our union can be more democratic and member-led; our structures should reflect the diversity of our membership. I would continue to support initiatives like the Rank & File meetings that emerged from 2018's strike, one of which I helped organise in Sheffield. I'm an unaligned candidate committing to be open, transparent and responsive to members and grassroots campaigns.

Last updated: 30 January 2020