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Higher education sector conference 2021

HE sector conference 2021 motions: online, Wednesday 2 June 2021

Motions have been allocated to a section of the NEC's report to Congress (UCU1080). Paragraph headings refer to paragraphs within this report. (EP = existing policy.)

Section 3: Higher education committee

Motions HE1-HE17 take place in closed session.

HE1  HE pay - Higher education committee

HE sector conference notes the report and approves the recommendations of the national negotiators contained in UCUBANHE/76.

Carried unopposed

HE2  Pay: 4 fights - Higher education committee

HESC notes:

  1. the continued support for a focus upon the four fights (pay, pay inequalities, casualisation and workloads) in our pay claim among members as witnessed by the branch delegate meetings in 2020
  2. HESC believes standing committees of UCU should continue to have input into the demands in each of their respective areas.

HESC resolves:

  1. to continue to ensure that the four fights, informed by the decisions of the equalities standing committees and anti-casualisation committee, should remain a central element of our claim in 2021.

UCU commits to re-launch a campaign over the four fights among UCU members with publicity and social media prior to balloting for industrial action up to and including strike action where these are not met.

Carried as amended

HE2A.1 University College London

Add at end, 'Where possible, to coordinate this campaign with ongoing national HE dispute(s) over USS to maximise unity and organisational efficiency, and ballot and call action according to this principle.'

Carried

Substantive motion

HESC notes:

  1. the continued support for a focus upon the four fights (pay, pay inequalities, casualisation and workloads) in our pay claim among members as witnessed by the branch delegate meetings in 2020
  2. HESC believes standing committees of UCU should continue to have input into the demands in each of their respective areas.

HESC resolves:

  1. to continue to ensure that the four fights, informed by the decisions of the equalities standing committees and anti-casualisation committee, should remain a central element of our claim in 2021.

UCU commits to re-launch a campaign over the four fights among UCU members with publicity and social media prior to balloting for industrial action up to and including strike action where these are not met. Where possible, to coordinate this campaign with ongoing national HE dispute(s) over USS to maximise unity and organisational efficiency, and ballot and call action according to this principle.

HE3  Response to the New JNCHES 2021-22 negotiating round - Higher education committee

Conference notes:

  1. the unacceptable 2021-22 UCEA offer, the 0% pay adjustment of 2020-21, and over a decade of prior subpar offers
  2. local attacks on member conditions and job security by individual HEIs
  3. ongoing threats to pension security, both in USS and TPS.

Conference resolves to:

  1. reject UCEA's 2021-22 offer and formally enter into dispute
  2. task HEC chair and elected negotiating team with developing materials to raise member awareness around the headline issues of the 2021-22 New JNCHES claim during summer 2021, and to actively organize towards the possibility of balloting
  3. task HEC with holding a special HE sector conference in the first two weeks of August 2021 on the topic of HE dispute(s), including New JNCHES, USS, TPS, and any possible links between them
  4. schedule a HEC meeting the week following this Special HESC to action the policy determined by conference.

Carried

HE4  Building on the successes of the Four Fights dispute - Anti-casualisation committee 

Conference notes:

  1. the four fights campaign was built by broadening our pay claim to include casualisation, pay inequality and workload and on the basis of these demands we delivered the largest national university strike in history
  2. that the four fights campaign succeeded in forcing UCEA to negotiate around these issues for the first time
  3. that while there are lessons to be learnt, the principle of combining the issues that motivate our members into one dispute was correct and that members and branches demonstrated incredible determination and resolve to deliver 22 days of industrial action
  4. that while the 2020/21 pay claim contains demands around casualisation, workload and pay inequality, the profile of these demands has been reduced 

Conference resolves:

  1. to build on the progress made by including demands around casualisation, workload and pay inequality in future claims
  2. to embed/promote these demands in all future campaigns.

    Carried

HE5  Maintaining the 'four fights' - University of Brighton, Moulsecoomb, University of Brighton, Grand Parade

Conference notes:

  1. the 86% rejection by members of the 0% pay 'offer' for HE staff for 2020-21
  2. the unfinished business of the four fights dispute of 2019-20
  3. the success of recent UK-wide action in building the UCU.

Conference believes

  1. issues of pay, casualisation, equality and workload have become more not less urgent as a result of the pandemic
  2. the HE sector has the ability and the resources to address these issues.

Conference resolves to develop a strategy to mobilise members over the Four Fights issues.

This should include:

  1. a timetable for balloting and for taking UK-wide industrial action
  2. a campaign making the case that staff and students deserve better in HE
  3. a GTVO strategy.

Carried

HE6  For a national campaign on workload and casualisation - Bournemouth University

Conference notes:

  1. a crisis of spiralling workloads during the pandemic
  2. a failure to offer secure jobs to casualised members
  3. a number of institutions restructuring for the market.

Conference believes that there is an opportunity to argue for consolidating casualised jobs to relieve the workload crisis for 2021/22

Conference resolves:

  1. to launch a UK-wide public campaign for decent jobs in HE with publicity materials (e-posters, petitions, twitterstorms), resources for reps, launch events, etc
  2. to integrate this public campaign with the national pay dispute, including the demand for a decent pay rise
  3. to use this to drive up turnout for the national JNCHES ballot.

    Carried as amended

HE6A.1 Southern regional HE sector committee

Delete 'and casualisation' (title) and replace with ': impact on casualised and disabled members.'

Add at end of point 2 (Conference notes) after 'members' 'impacting disproportionally on disabled staff.'

Add at end of b. (Conference resolves) after 'pay rise' 'with additional focus on casualised and disabled staff.'

Carried

Substantive motion

HE6  For a national campaign on workload: impact on casualised and disabled members

Conference notes:

  1. a crisis of spiralling workloads during the pandemic
  2. a failure to offer secure jobs to casualised members impacting disproportionally on disabled staff
  3. a number of institutions restructuring for the market.

Conference believes that there is an opportunity to argue for consolidating casualised jobs to relieve the workload crisis for 2021/22

Conference resolves:

  1. to launch a UK-wide public campaign for decent jobs in HE with publicity materials (e-posters, petitions, twitterstorms), resources for reps, launch events, etc
  2. to integrate this public campaign with the national pay dispute, including the demand for a decent pay rise with additional focus on casualised and disabled staff
  3. to use this to drive up turnout for the national JNCHES ballot.

HE7  Formula for the election of HE negotiators - Higher education committee

Conference notes that the current formula for the election of HE negotiators is out of its keeping with UCU's approach to equality and representation in its requirement to elect 'at least two men'.

Conference therefore agrees that the formula for the election of HE negotiators (which also applies, as relevant, to the election of USS negotiators) should be amended as follows:

Paragraph E, clause b, delete 'and at least two are men'.

Carried

HE8  Composite: Support for branches pursuing the model claim for ARPS - Academic related, professional staff committee, University of Liverpool

HESC notes:

  1. the work of the ARPS committee and ARPS members in branches
  2. the development of a draft model claim for branches on ARPS
  3. the erosion of terms and conditions for ARPS members by employers
  4. that pursuing the claim under current circumstances represents a significant challenge for already stretched.

HESC instructs HEC to:

  1. ensure support and resource is provided via all relevant UCU national and regional structures to branches and ARPS members to pursue the claim via template campaign plans including data and information requests, and regular, ongoing support for negotiators within branches
  2. develop a coordinated campaign in support of the model claim for branches that is centred around wage theft and pay inequality
  3. facilitate communications between ARPS reps and members and the ARPS committee as a priority work.

Carried

HE9  Risk assessment, health and safety and black workers - Black members standing committee

Conference notes that according to the ONS, the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted black communities with a disproportionate number of deaths recorded. A lack of appropriate risks assessment has impacted profoundly on the health and well-being of black members. 

Conference resolves that:

  1. the impact of Covid-19 on black members must be considered in the institutional risk assessment and workload allocation
  2. HE institutions should carry out a complete and sufficient risk assessment.
  3. the risk assessment must be carried out for black staff and staff who live with a black person, based on ethnicity, and taking into account all relevant factors
  4. all redeployment options should be considered for black staff, including specialist staff working from home if appropriate
  5. appropriate workload allocation and the health and wellbeing measures for black members must be considered
  6. the health, safety and well-being of black members must be assured.

Carried

HE10  USS - Higher education committee

HE sector conference notes the report and approves the recommendations of the Superannuation Working Group contained in UCUBANHE/77.

Carried

HE11  Composite: Condemn the USS valuation, defend USS - Newcastle University, Northern regional HE sector committee

HESC condemns:

  1. the unnecessary valuation during Covid
  2. USS's valuation proposals giving likely member contributions of 13.6-18.6%
  3. UUK proposals to slash benefits and a lower value scheme for casualised and lower paid members.

HESC believes:

  1. current benefits can be maintained at 26% total contributions
  2. very high member opt-outs due to soaring costs or slashed benefits could lead to USS closure.

HESC mandates negotiators to maintain current benefits at very close to 8% member costs.

HESC mandates HEC to:

  1. implement multi-pronged strategy to defend USS
  2. call on employers to (i) withdraw proposals for benefit reductions and worse benefits for lower paid members and (ii) put pressure on USS to modify valuation approach to give total costs of 26%
  3. otherwise to call a ballot for industrial action to start at the start of the autumn term which involves strikes and action short of a strike.

Remitted

HE11A.1 University of Dundee

HESC condemns: add at end of 2. 'including deficit recovery contributions of 2.3-6.0%.'

HESC believes: add 'b. Expecting members, especially those early in their career, to pay DRCs is unjust and will lead to more opt-outs.'

Delete sentence 'HESC mandates negotiators to maintain current benefits at very close to 8% member costs.'

HESC mandates:

ii (ii) delete and replace with 'support a rule change so that cost-sharing only applies to future service contributions.'

Add iv. Reject any settlement within the 2020 valuation.

Fell

HE11A.2 Heriot-Watt University

Believes a. replace 'at 26%' with ', and it will be possible to return ' add 'back to past levels in due course' after 'contributions'

Replace from 'very close' to 'costs,' with 'the best cost achievable whilst keeping lower member costs in future within reach'.

  1. (ii) replace from 'to give' to '26%' with 'and to scrap the 2020 valuation'
  2. (ii) remove 'otherwise to' replace 'start at' with 'obtain a mandate running from'

Fell

HE12  USS - build the resistance - UCL

To remit HE12

Lost

HESC notes:

  1. the 2020 USS valuation, claiming a very large projected deficit dueto 'de-risking'. Yet in reality, assets have grown to ~£80bn. 100% DC or swingeing cuts are likely to be re-imposed
  2. strikes in 2018 stopped a similar attack. Now USS and the employers are attempting to repeat it
  3. pension cuts affect those beginning their careers the most
  4. we will likely need to take industrial action to stop the attack, potentially as early as autumn 2021.

HESC resolves to:

  1. organise a member-level campaign to stop detrimental USS changes
  2. develop campaign materials, invite speakers and call meetings to demystify the valuation and projected deficit
  3. call on university leaders to support UCU's position in negotiations with USS and lobby to adopt a more credible valuation methodology
  4. support initiatives to build the campaign, alongside organisations including USS Briefs, HE Convention and UCU Solidarity Movement
  5. ballot members for industrial action.

Carried as amended

HE12A.1 Imperial College, University College London

Insert before 'invite speakers' in point b. 'encourage branches and regions to'

Replace point e. with 'If the employers have not joined UCU to pressure USS and the pension regulator to cancel the 2020 valuation and use an evidence-based moderately prudent approach in 2021, ballot members from June to September 2021 for escalating industrial action in the autumn, using the full resources of the union to deliver a resounding Yes vote and a high turnout.'

Carried

Substantive motion

HESC notes:

  1. the 2020 USS valuation, claiming a very large projected deficit dueto 'de-risking'. Yet in reality, assets have grown to ~£80bn. 100% DC or swingeing cuts are likely to be re-imposed
  2. strikes in 2018 stopped a similar attack. Now USS and the employers are attempting to repeat it
  3. pension cuts affect those beginning their careers the most
  4. we will likely need to take industrial action to stop the attack, potentially as early as autumn 2021.

HESC resolves to:

  1. organise a member-level campaign to stop detrimental USS changes
  2. develop campaign materials, encourage branches and regions to invite speakers and call meetings to demystify the valuation and projected deficit
  3. call on university leaders to support UCU's position in negotiations with USS and lobby to adopt a more credible valuation methodology
  4. support initiatives to build the campaign, alongside organisations including USS Briefs, HE Convention and UCU Solidarity Movement
  5. if the employers have not joined UCU to pressure USS and the pension regulator to cancel the 2020 valuation and use an evidence-based moderately prudent approach in 2021, ballot members from June to September 2021 for escalating industrial action in the autumn, using the full resources of the union to deliver a resounding Yes vote and a high turnout.

HE13  USS 'SWG principles' - University College London

HESC notes

  1. HEC's proposed 'SWG principles' for negotiation with UUK over USS
  2. that exploring conditional benefits represents a new policy - which is the role of HESC to determine, not SWG
  3. that we need a solution to the 2020 valuation, which could include it being cancelled, or we will be faced with unaffordable contributions and smaller benefits than contributions
  4. that negotiations around additional covenant support require a similar high level of care.

Notwithstanding the importance of keeping open negotiations with the employers, HESC believes that issuing these two 'principles' at this time sends the wrong message to the employers and union members.

HESC therefore resolves to withdraw them and instruct negotiators to focus on clear demands to set aside the valuation and to preserve members' benefits and contribution levels.

Carried

HE14  Composite: Initiating legal action on USS - Lancaster University, University of Glasgow

To remit HE14

Lost

HESC notes:

  1. USS's proposed 2020 Covid valuation risks members' contributions rising to 14-20%
  2. Academics for Pension Justice's QC opinion that there are good grounds for taking legal action against USS on breach of trust.

HESC believes:

  1. there is an urgent need to defend USS
  2. what happens to USS will probably affect all DB schemes, including those in post-92 and FE, and members of the wider trade union movement.

HESC agrees that legal action is an appropriate means of defending USS and should be initiated as soon as possible.

HESC instructs Strategy and Finance Committee to:

  1. take immediate steps to initiate urgent legal action, eg. to delay current and overturn previous valuations and replace them by a better process. This will require obtaining legal advice on the most appropriate forms of legal action
  2. actively involve the UCU Superannuation Working Group (minus directors) and endeavour to get them included in the legally privileged group with access to the legal advice.

Carried

HE15  Replacing USS ltd. as the trustee company of the USS - Lancaster University

Conference notes:

  1. USS having acquired master-trust status, UCU (and UUK) have lost the right to dismiss/replace their nominated trustees
  2. repeated calls in previous HESCs for USS executive to resign
  3. the wish of members to regain control of our pensions.

Conference believes -

  1. USS governance structures are not transparent or fit for purpose
  2. USS executive is not acting in the best interest of members as demonstrated by the non-implementation of JEP 1&2 reports.

Conference resolves that:

  1. UCU should immediately initiate an investigation to explore mechanisms by which USS ltd (trustee company) can be replaced, and explore options to appoint a successor to administer the scheme
  2. the investigation should explore the advantages and disadvantages of replacing the trustee company with another, and make recommendations to UCU
  3. this investigation should be completed within the next 6 months to allow UCU to effectively evaluate its options.

Carried

HE16  Pension policy: reverse the governance deficit, divest from fossil fuels - King's College London

Conference notes that:

  1. USS trustees valued our pension assets in March 2020 when the FTSE 100 was down 36.7%
  2. USS annual 'personnel costs' inflated 1240% from 2008 to 2020
  3. five USS trustees are board-appointed, and have backgrounds at JP Morgan, Citi, HSBC and in coal
  4. the USS ethical investment survey showed members want to divest from fossil fuels. Trustees have refused to follow, and have no credible policy for casting shareholder voting rights.

Conference resolves that:

  1. we must elect at least half of USS trustees. It's our money, not theirs
  2. USS personnel costs must be reduced to pre-2008 levels
  3. USS assets must be managed through an in-house, low-cost indexed fund by default
  4. USS must divest from coal, oil and gas, and have a shareholder voting policy that follows members' views.

Carried

HE17  Women and pensions - Women members standing committee

Conference notes that women have lower pensions, due to structural discrimination in promotion and the greater casualisation of female staff. Women are harder-hit by contribution increases, and also by reductions in benefits as they generally have fewer savings. This applies to both USS and TPS. The move from final salary to CARE has also led to indirect discrimination as women tend to get promoted later. The situation for BAME, disabled and precariously employed women even worse as they experience multiple discrimination.

Conference agrees: 

  1. to demand that USS and TPS carry out equality impact assessments
  2. to fight contribution increases and benefit cuts to the maximum, including industrial action 
  3. to make links with women politicians to put pressure on USS and call for a public inquiry including equality impact assessment
  4. to organise webinars about women and pensions (USS and TPS).

Carried

HE18  Resisting cuts to research funding, defending academic freedom - Anti-casualisation committee

Conference notes:

  1. the almost 50% cuts to the UKRI ODA budget announced March 2021 
  2. the almost immediate withdrawal of funding, including from grants in progress
  3. fears of further cuts to research funding, such as Horizon funding.

Conference believes:

  1. the speed and size of cuts is an intentional assault on the HE sector's finances, stability and strength
  2. volatile, narrowly-defined funding streams are an assault on academic freedom that erodes the stability required to support an independent voice 
  3. the harms of withdrawing funding will disproportionately fall on casualised staff.

 Conference calls on employers to:

  1. guarantee no compulsory redundancies
  2. provide replacement funding for PhD students
  3. provide adequate funded time to bring in replacement funding from other sources or be redeployed.

Conference commits UCU to lobby the government to reverse the cuts and increase research funding, allocated according to academic excellence.

Carried

HE19  Stop the government cuts to UKRI ODA projects - University of Leeds

Conference notes:

  1. 49% government cuts to the £245million UKRI ODA budget for 2021-22
  2. these cuts, in an unprecedented breach of faith, affect projects mid-contract in around 30 Universities employing researchers working with developing nations
  3. managements are considering closing projects and making researchers redundant
  4. many pre-92 Universities affected have £multimillion operating surplus/reserves; they need to take exceptional measures
  5. public opposition from professional bodies.

Conference believes:

  1. UCU must urgently act on these short-notice cuts
  2. this scandal exposes the fragility of the neoliberal research funding model with its permanently vulnerable casualised workforce.

Conference resolves to:

  1. launch an immediate campaign demanding the government reverses the cut
  2. demand that universities guarantee the jobs of their research staff for at least the duration of the awarded project
  3. initiate a national petition
  4. plan for industrial action
  5. establish a network open to all research staff.

Carried

HE20  Discrimination in promotion - Higher education committee

HESC notes:

  1. continuing promotion discrimination of women and minority groups, particularly BAME and disabled members
  2. negative impact of casualisation
  3. limited promotion opportunities for T&S and ARPS members
  4. continuously increasing criteria and resulting indirect discrimination.

HESC instructs HEC to:

  1. produce campaigning pack to support branches to get management to:
    1. provide data on promotion of people in equality strands, L&T and ARPR staff, existing policy and how implemented in practice
    2. carry out equality impact assessments of promotion procedures and changes in them and provide results to branch committee
    3. make criteria more flexible to take account of individual circumstances such as disability and separate this from the promotion form and monitor the impact
    4. implement and monitor measures for equality in promotion of L&T and ARPR staff
    5. promote equal numbers of women/non-binary people to men in male dominated areas
  2. negotiate an agreement with UCEA.

Carried

HE21  Disputes of national significance - University of Liverpool

HESC notes:

  1. more than a dozen UCU branches face threats of compulsory redundancies, including Liverpool, Leicester, Dundee, Roehampton, UEL, Solent, Goldsmiths, Leeds and more
  2. many of these are targeting union activists, including UEL, Leicester and Dundee
  3. elements of success have been seen at Northumbria where a formal ballot was initiated immediately without a consultative ballot and at Heriot Watt with their rapid activation of the academic boycott and censure process
  4. UCU existing policy recognising disputes of national significance.

HESC resolves to:

  1. declare all current disputes to be of national significance
  2. streamline the process of balloting, remove the requirement for consultative ballots
  3. allow academic boycott and censure to be declared immediately on request of the branch
  4. report back to HEC on all branches in dispute with the time taken from an employer declaring proposed job cuts to beginning of the balloting of members.

Carried

HE22  Defending international students - Migrant members standing committee 

HESC notes:

  1. UCU has existing policy against tuition fees
  2. historically, international student fees opened the door to the marketised HE sector that we now face
  3. the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown many international students into financial destitution
  4. many international students in UKHE participate in tuition/rent strikes; many face withdrawal from their courses for both unwillingness and inability to pay.

HESC believes in free and accessible higher education for all, the end of the hostile environment, and the importance of students, staff, and broader community working together to fight for justice.

HESC resolves: 

  1. to campaign to end all international student tuition fees, endorsing campaigns such as that run by Unis Resist Border Controls
  2. to lobby government to end no recourse to public funds for Tier 4 students 
  3. to campaign at national and branch level to defend protesting international students from course withdrawals and visa cancellations.

Not taken - remitted

HE22A.1 Migrant members standing committee

Replace existing resolves a with 'to campaign with Unis Resist Border Controls and others for tuition fee amnesty and an end to international student fees'.

HE23  IHRA definition of antisemitism - Higher education committee

HESC notes the:

  1. the unions commitment to opposing antisemitism
  2. divergent HEI responses to the IHRA definition of antisemitism - adoption, adoption with caveats, review of adoption decision, rejection
  3. careful investigation of antisemitic incidents and of the IHRA definition in the UCL working group report and its relevance for the whole sector
  4. unfounded accusations of antisemitism against academic staff, using the IHRA definition
  5. scurrilous attack on Ken Loach, and attempt to 'no platform' him at Oxford.

HESC believes defence of members' integrity and job security requires negotiated agreements to reject use of the IHRA definition, adopting an alternative, if appropriate.

HESC resolves to:

  1. circulate, in a dedicated message, links to the UCL Report, PSC/BRICUP Guide, legal opinions, and relevant statements of opposition
  2. urge branches to share these with all members, open negotiations with managements, and mount staff-student campaigns in favour of academic freedom to teach Middle East studies on campuses.

Not taken - remitted

HE24  Rebate of accommodation costs for students - West Midlands HE sector regional committee

HESC notes:

  1. most students that move away from home to attend university live in university or private sector accommodation at considerable cost to themselves
  2. during the '3rd lockdown' from January to March 2021, most students were unable to use their university accommodation because they returned home
  3. in many cases universities have given a rent rebate or refund for their own managed accommodation. However private sector landlords generally have not done so.

HESC believes that universities and private sector landlords should all treat students fairly, and provide a rent rebate for the lockdown period when the accommodation wasn't used.

HESC resolves:

  1. to support the UK Rent Strike's national 'Cut the Rent' campaign also backed by the NUS
  2. to encourage UCU branches to support their local student rent-strike campaigns for a rent refund or rebate from university, private partnerships in association with universities, and private sector landlords.

Not taken - remitted

HE25  Challenging the impact of online working for HE neurodivergent staff - Disabled members standing committee

HESC deplores the intensification of workloads, lack of resources and support for online working and their disproportionate and discriminatory impact on disabled and neurodivergent staff.

Conference reaffirms:

  1. its commitment to equality and ending discrimination against disabled members
  2. the need to act collectively to ensure that disabled members receive the reasonable adjustments they need.

Conference instructs HEC to:

  1. produce guidance for branches to negotiate policies for proactive approaches to reasonable adjustments for online working for disabled members, including (i) provision of all required equipment and support, (ii) support for doing tasks differently e.g. hard copies instead of online marking. (iii) reductions in workloads, but not pay due to longer time to carry out tasks
  2. survey disabled members on impact of online working and use results to improve guidance
  3. publicise examples of good practice
  4. support legal action against employers who engage in disability discrimination.

Not taken - remitted

HE26  LGBT+ liberation in higher education - LGBT+ members standing committee

Conference believes:

  1. hetero and cis-normative societal values are prevalent in HE and don't mirror LGBT+ lives
  2. HE can enable people to see different experiences and perspectives through teaching and research
  3. erosion of space for exploring non-normative lives is a by-product of ongoing marketisation of HE.

Conference notes:

  1. attempts to dilute commitments to support LGBT+ people and/or rights in policy and action
  2. hetero and cis-normative values lead to LGBT+ people experiencing micro-aggressions and discrimination in HE
  3. data collected in HEIs about LGBT+ people isn't routine
  4. some HEI's data collection questions demonstrate poor awareness and/or exclude some LGBT+ people

Conference resolves to:

  1. develop toolkit for branches to review HEI LGBT+ policies, data collection and implementation
  2. organise LGBT+ liberation training

Campaign for LGBT+ inclusion in teaching and research to be given increased value and undertaken by all not just LGBT+ people.

Not taken - remitted

HE27  Academic freedom and freedom of expression - SOAS

HESC notes:

  1. the education secretary threatened (9.10.20) to cut 'funding streams' if universities did not adopt the 'working definition' of antisemitism promulgated by the IHRA
  2. the IHRA so-called 'illustrative examples' were widely criticised as infringing upon freedom of speech and in particular by defenders of Palestinian rights
  3. some UK universities' have adopted the controversial IHRA definition.

HESC believes:

  1. these developments are detrimental to academic autonomy, freedom, and freedom of speech
  2. these developments intimidate and suppress speech by academics researching Israel and Palestine.

HESC resolves:

  1. to defend academic freedom and reject adopting and enforcing the IHRA working definition and its 'illustrative examples'
  2. to urge HEI management to reject pressure from government and OFS to adopt the flawed IHRA working definition and its 'illustrative examples'
  3. to urge UK higher education Institutions to defend academic freedom and student activism from external and politically motivated attacks.

Not taken - remitted

HE28  Peaceful protest and assembly - West Midlands HE sector regional committee

Conference asserts its full support for the right to peaceful protest on university campuses.

HESC recognises the right to peaceful protest and assembly under the HRA 1998 and the 1997 UNESCO definition of academic freedom. We recognise the right of staff and students to enter our campuses and note that this right cannot be removed or deemed to be 'trespass' without legally adequate justification.

HESC notes that picketing during strike action may take place at or near the entrances to our workplaces, which may be within the boundary of our employer's property if this is a public space.

HESC resolves:

  1. to replace reference to 'trespassing' in our guidance on picketing to clarify our legal right to peaceful protest on our own campuses.
  2. to ensure that full support under the UCU legal scheme is provided to any UCU member victimised for participating in peaceful protest.

Not taken - remitted

HE29  Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automated Decision Making (AD) - Higher education committee

HESC notes:

  1. the impact of the pandemic on the uptake of technology in the sector
  2. the Automatic University report
  3. the TUC working group on AI which produced the Technology Managing People report
  4. Data protection impact assessments should be carried out by employers when implementing new systems
  5. the importance of all technologies being fully accessible to all members
  6. potential cost implications.

HESC believes AI and ADM can be useful but must not infringe workers' rights or discriminate.

HESC resolves to:

  1. produce bargaining guidance for branches on how to approach the new technology with their employers and provide training to support this. This guidance should include the importance of accessibility to all members and the employer covering all costs
  2. include an element in HE national claim on agreeing an ethical AI policy with UCEA which universities can implement with local branches
  3. involve members with expertise in this area in drawing up guidance.

Not taken - remitted

HE30  Governance standards - University of Sussex

Conference notes that:

  1. UK universities are charitable institutions with a duty to uphold ethical standards
  2. UK universities have become increasingly marketised.

Conference believes that the increasing pressures on UK universities have seen some university executives systematically bypass University formal academic and governance structures to the detriment of academic assurance, ethics and transparency.

Conference instructs Higher Education Committee to commission a report investigating the current standards of University governance in order to inform future national and local campaigns.

Not taken - remitted

HE31  LGBT+ International working - LGBT+ members standing committee

Conference notes:

  1. HEIs have established international campuses
  2. some campuses are in countries that don't support LGBT+ rights
  3. LGBT+ staff have expressed concern about not having the same support or rights as non-LGBT+ colleagues when working in some countries

Conference believes:

  1. LGBT+ workers shouldn't have to hide their protected characteristics to enjoy a full working life
  2. LGBT+ workers shouldn't be put in positions where they fear criminal prosecution, unequal protection for their employment status, and / or family life just for being themselves

Conference resolves to:

  1. engage with and initiate campaigns to stop HEIs opening campuses where LGBT+ rights aren't recognised
  2. organise and lobby for protection of LGBT+ workers lives and careers particularly where compromised by HEIs international operations
  3. call on employers to provide equal progression routes for LGBT+ workers who don't wish to work in countries where their rights aren't recognised.

Not taken - remitted

HE32  Exploring open negotiation - University of Sheffield

Conference notes that the General Secretary's election manifesto included a suggestion that 'we should consider adopting alternative approaches that might deliver more for our members: in particular, open negotiations', and that the UCU ran a workshop on open negotiation in February 2021.Conference believes that there is merit in further consideration of open negotiations in various aspects of the union's operations, and supports its adoption in principle in any forum where there is a good case as to its desirability and feasibility.Conference requests that the HEC commissions a paper on the merits of open negotiation for debate within branches, and asks that the Superannuation Working Group and pay negotiating team explore and report back to HEC at the earliest opportunity, and within six months, on the desirability and feasibility of implementing open negotiation at the USS Joint Negotiating Committee and New JNCHES fora.

Not taken - remitted

HE33  Building UCU in private HE 'Pathway' colleges - University of Sheffield International College

Conference notes:

  1. the rapid expansion of private HE providers such as Kaplan, Study Group and OnCampus
  2. that universities collaborate with these providers to secure profitable international students while sidestepping UCU-negotiated terms and conditions. In the vast majority, UCU is not even recognised
  3. that the expansion of these providers (which are outside of sector pension schemes and where staff are highly casualised and overworked, often working evenings and weekends) normalises shocking working conditions in our sector
  4. that although Congress 2019 resolved to 'organise campaigns through local branches to recruit private providers' staff and support them in building new branches' this is a massive challenge and little progress has been made so far.

Conference resolves to initiate a serious campaign of recruitment and organising in private provider institutions, aimed at building branches and securing local recognition agreements, as a step towards national collective bargaining in each provider.

Not taken - remitted

HE34  Academic freedom, black workers/students and the IHRA - Black members standing committee

HESC notes that universities have been instructed to adopt the 'IHRA working definition of antisemitism', and implement it in staff and student codes of conduct.

HESC also notes that only a quarter of HEIs have adopted the definition.

Furthermore, UCU has established policy opposition to the IHRA definition. UCU also has a proud track record of fighting antisemitism.

HESC believes that:

  1. the struggle of the Palestinian people and all oppressed peoples across the world is inextricably linked with our own freedom.

HESC resolves to:

  1. condemn the government's intervention as an attack on institutional autonomy, on academic freedom and freedom of expression
  2. publicly oppose this assault on academic freedom
  3. call on branches to organise against the adoption, and to develop a briefing document for branches
  4. organise a grassroots campaign on academic freedom and free speech on Israel.

Not taken - remitted

HE35  Build Back Better - Higher education committee

HESC notes the Build Back Better campaign which seeks to ensure society's response to the pandemic is to protect public services, tackle inequality and provide quality jobs whilst addressing the climate crisis.

HESC notes the bargaining priority areas to tackle the race & gender pay gaps; insecure work and unmanageable workloads, as well policy on democratic governance and ending outsourcing and the Green New Deal bargaining guidance to branches.

HESC believes that the pandemic has left branches struggling to address these priority areas whilst ensuring that their workplace is a safe environment to work. As such there is a need for bargaining support to be streamlined to help branches achieve maximum impact in all these areas with the resources they have.

HESC therefore instructs HEC to draw up a model claim and accompanying guidance for branches which includes the principles of the Build Back Better campaign and UCU's bargaining priorities.

Not taken - remitted

HE36  Digital Learning Technologies study - SOAS

HESC notes:

While digital technologies offer many potential advantages for staff and for student learning, they also bring potential changes in workplace relationships. The implementation of classroom recording, online learning support, remote teaching tools and marking software as well as other A.I. and digital technologies can raise issues such as workplace surveillance, intellectual property, student and staff privacy, automation of teaching and/or deskilling. Implementation of these technologies has been accelerated by the pandemic, often without proper planning or consideration of the long-term consequences.

HESC resolves:

UCU should investigate the role and impact of online and digital teaching software and the variety of implementation policies used across the education sector in the U.K. Such a study would help support individual branches as well as identify the long-term threats and potentials that digital teaching software presents for the future of further and higher education.

Not taken - remitted

HE37  Re-dressing the leaky pipeline for disabled graduates - Disabled members standing committee

Conference notes:

  1. 5% of students are disabled and 5.7% of HE academics declared a disability, compared to proportion 19% of working age people in the UK.
  2. disabled workers are twice as likely to be made redundant than non-disabled workers

Conference believes this is due to disability discrimination in the employment of disabled people within academic roles.

Conference instructs HEC to develop a fully resourced campaign to address this inequality to include the following elements:

  1. encourage disclosure of disability status for students and academics
  2. mandate negotiators at branch and national level to push employers to release data on disability status for staff at different pay scales.
  3. create campaigning materials and branch action plans to increase the proportion of disabled academic staff
  4. include disability pay gap the next pay negotiations
  5. prevent redundancies for the few disabled staff in HE.

Not taken - remitted

HE38  Teaching only institutions do not benefit staff, students and stakeholders - Southern regional HE sector committee

HESC believes:

  1. high quality research is found in all HEIs
  2. that the government should support research at all HEIs; and
  3. that teaching only institutions will be to the detriment to staff, students and the general public.

HESC instructs UCU to fully support any branch that resists any attempts to turn their HEI into a teaching-only institution under any circumstance.

Not taken - remitted

HE39  University libraries opening during the pandemic - Academic related, professional staff committee

HESC notes:

  1. during the first Covid-19 lockdown many campuses were closed, including libraries
  2. many libraries operated a 'click and collect' service for access to books/materials
  3. UCU's strong campaign to ensure most teaching moved online, with considerable success in many universities
  4. many universities have now opened study space in libraries, claiming they are 'covid-secure'
  5. library staff (and their communities) are therefore at unnecessary elevated risk of contracting coronavirus.

HESC instructs HEC to:

  1. ensure that risks to ARPS staff (including library staff) are highlighted in all Covid-19 campaigns, materials, and press releases.
  2. launch a UK campaign for university libraries to return to click and collect access only during the Covid-19 pandemic
  3. provide specific central and regional support to branches where library staff feel they are being placed in serious and imminent danger.

Not taken - remitted

HE40  Defending academic freedom and defending equality - University of Glasgow

HESC affirms the importance of defending both academic freedom and equality and diversity.

HESC believes that academic freedom should not be used to justify racism, eugenics, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia in research or teaching.

HESC is equally concerned about the misuse of equality concerns to suppress academic freedom.

HESC calls on HEC to:

  1. organise online meetings with input from the Equality Standing Committees in regions and devolved nations to discuss these issues
  2. with input from the Equality Standing Committees to produce a discussion document on guidelines on intersection between equality issues and academic freedom and what is and is not acceptable
  3. to provide support for branches negotiating the guidelines with management and for making public statements where required to condemn management practice in this area.

Not taken - remitted

HE40A.1 LGBT+ members standing committee

Add after first sentence:

HESC notes the conflation of academic freedom with 'freedom of speech', and the use of both concepts to justify hate speech and the so-called debating of the rights of trans people and other minority groups

Delete sentence 3.

HE40A.2 University of Bristol

After third sentence insert 'HESC deplores the online abuse, harassment and targeted intimidation of staff who have demonstrated publicly whether on social media or as signatories of open letters their defence of David Miller, his academic freedom and employment rights'.

After point 3. insert '4. Publicly call upon all Universities to address any testable allegations according to their own procedures, following principles of justice and due process and not bow to lobbying campaigns to pre-empt them.'

Last updated: 15 June 2021