UCU elections
Taking action in higher education

David Harvie (University of Leicester)

Election address

Climate catastrophe and mass extinction; growing inequality; automation, nationalism and xenophobia on the rise; ageing populations and a looming crisis of care. Staff overworked and undervalued; students overcharged; the fees-and-debt model in crisis.

University VCs and principals are seemingly incapable of doing the thinking required to respond to these various challenges - neither those we face as a society nor those specific to post-16 education. The world they refer to hardly exists. The task falls on us - on UCU and other unions - to ask the necessary questions:

What should universities and colleges be like in the 21st century? How should they meet the needs of those who work in them - employees and students alike - and of the communities and societies in which they are located? What should we research? What should we teach? To whom? To what purpose? How?

Since 2005 I've been an employee of University of Leicester, where I'm an associate professor in finance and political economy. Before that, I worked for Nottingham Trent University and Leeds University, where I was employed on a series of short-term contracts. As part of my job, I've written about the academic labour process and about the way measure and metrics are used - and the way we resist them. I've also used my 'professional skills' to investigate my employer's finances: this analysis has informed several campaigns against attempted 'institutional transformation', as well our branch's efforts to get out the vote in national ballots. (See my entry on 'counter-accounting' in the Branch Solidarity Network's The University is Ours.)

For the past three years I've been Leicester UCU's Communications Officer. As such I've been centrally involved in all our campaigns during this period: two periods of sustained strike action; and also battles against compulsory redundancies. In 2018, my branch was runner-up in Midlands TUC's campaign of the year award for our struggle against 200-odd compulsory redundancies - 'workers not widgets; brains before buildings'. In spring 2019 I organised a University of Leicester 'Convocation', an occasion to discuss our institution's 2nd century - and response to the crises I mentioned above.

If elected to UCU's national executive committee, I would bring with me this experience of campaigning, the belief that UCU members have many skills that can inform and drive its campaigns, and the vision outlined above, namely that our union should be asking the big questions: it should be reimagining what universities and colleges could and should be like in the 21st century.

 

Last updated: 31 January 2020