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UCU Northern Ireland

UCU represents members in further and higher education across Northern Ireland. We also represent staff in a number of training organisations.

Post-school education and training in the region are issues devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly and its executive. The NI Assembly was re-structured following the May 2016 elections - with the number of departments reduced from eleven to eight.

The Department of Employment and Learning merged with the Department for Enterprise Trade and Industry to become the Department for the Economy. Higher and further education in Northern Ireland now fall under the remit of the Department for the Economy.

Funding is now provided via the Department for the Economy, which receives an allocation from the executive out of the UK Treasury grant.

UCU in Northern Ireland engages with the Department for the Economy at all levels up to and including the minister. We seek to influence policy in relation to post school education through lobbying politicians and making submissions directly to government.

On this page:

See also UCU Northern Ireland contacts:

Higher education

Northern Ireland has five dedicated HE institutions. These are:

All HE institutions are part of UCEA and are part of UK negotiating machinery for the determination of pay. Each institution has its own locally negotiated conditions of service.

Most academic and related staff at Queens, UU and OU are members of the University Superannuation Scheme for pension purposes. Lecturers at St.Mary's and Stranmillis for the most part are members of the Northern Ireland Teachers' Pension Scheme.

Some 15% of higher education in Northern Ireland is also delivered through the six further education colleges.

Key information for HE members in Northern Ireland:

Further education

Northern Ireland has six further education colleges which are area based. These are:

  • Belfast Metropolitan College: contact BMC UCU 
  • Southern Regional College: contact SRC UCU 
  • South Eastern Regional College: contact SERC UCU 
  • South West College: contact SWC UCU 
  • Northern Regional College: contact NRC UCU 
  • North West Regional College: contact NWRC UCU

All colleges are part of the Colleges' Employers Forum and Colleges NI. The pay and conditions of service for lecturing staff are determined centrally at the Lecturers Negotiating Committee. A separate bargaining forum determines the pay and conditions of service of directors and deputies.

In February 2020 UCU reluctantly declared a dispute over the pay and conditions of staff working in Northern Ireland's further education sector.

With wages falling well behind cost of living increases and spiralling workloads, the union has been pressing employers to work with us to improve conditions for our members but unfortunately negotiations have thus far failed.

We are therefore preparing to ballot our members for industrial action but continue to urge employers to meet with us to negotiate a better deal for staff, students and the colleges that communities in Northern Ireland depend on. 

Political work

UCU Northern Ireland: equality talks debate

As part of UCU Queens University Belfast series of lunchtime debates on equality issues, the union is hosting a talk on Brexit and our rights, with MLA Caiomhe Archibald (Sinn Fein) on 10 October 2018 from 12 noon to 1pm. All welcome.

UCU election manifesto

10 big ideas for the next Northern Ireland Assembly, March 16 [49kb]

Government consultations

Government consults widely in Northern Ireland on proposed policy initiatives and legislation. UCU makes comment in respect of education policy. Recent comments include:

UCU NI 'new FE strategy' consultation response, Sep 15 [440kb]

UCU NI 'The HE big conversation' consultation response, Oct 15 [189kb]

Sharing works: a policy for shared education - UCU consultation response, Mar 15 [258kb]

UCUNI DEL draft budget response [152kb]

UCUNI zero hours consultation response [121kb]

UCUNI TPS consultation response [66kb]

Political contacts

The Northern Ireland Assembly  has been dissolved since January 2017. While the political impasse continues, the Department of the Economy - which has responsibility for further and higher education - is being led by its senior civil servants (in the absence of an executive, a minister for the economy, a functioning assembly and its scrutinising committees).

The Permanent Secretary of the Department for the Economy since February 2018 is Noel Lavery.

Details of current higher education policy can be found here; and further education policy here.

Information on the previous work of the Committee for the Economy can be found here.