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Warwick, TeachHigher and UCU's campaign against casualisation

24 June 2015 | last updated: 22 January 2016

At a meeting hosted by Warwick UCU on 19 June 2015 activists involved in campaigning against casualisation were able to participate in a discussion about the union's victory in persuading the university to abandon its 'TeachHigher' initiative, discuss its relevance to UCU's national campaign against casualisation and share ideas for future work.

In the discussion, Warwick UCU reps identified what they saw as the key features of the campaign against Teachhigher.

Firstly, there was the combination of forensic analysis and highly effective social media campaigning by the branch, members and the hourly paid group at the campus. This meant that the university management were always on the back foot and always struggling to contain the message about their proposal, particularly the future plans to expand TeachHigher.

Second, they identified the successful forging of strategic alliances on the campus. The campaign was notably successful in building and sustaining alliances between established academics and casualised staff, between staff and students and between the union and academic departments. This was vital because it enabled the articulation of opposition from every part of the university campus across a wide range of stakeholders. Warwick looked like a campus united against TeachHigher.

Finally, there was the mobilising of wider support, partly a function of the success in building media profile for the issue. The support from UCU's national Congress and the wider union, as well as the press attention fixed on Warwick were seen as critical in the process of making TeachHigher toxic.

TeachHigher may have gone but the hourly paid staff still remain and Warwick UCU is now pushing to ensure that the University engages with the union to improve pay and conditions for these precarious workers.

But the wider lessons of the campaign against TeachHigher resonate very closely the key lessons from other successful campaigns against casualisation. In a recent document, UCU pulled together examples at Edinburgh University, Glasgow University, Manchester, Goldsmiths, City of Bristol College, Gower College, Wiltshire College and others to highlight some of the key ingredients for successful campaigning against casualisation. Echoing the TeachHigher campaign, these included:

  1. the importance of targeting institutional reputation: colleges concerned with their Ofsted ratings and prestige-conscious universities are vulnerable to focused attacks on their treatment of casualised staff and winning profile that illuminates this issue is a key part of effective campaigns.
  2. the importance of unity and solidarity: it's hard to understate the importance of this. When managements are able to divide and rule precarious workers and permanent staff, everyone loses. That's why the UCU branch is so vital. It's a place where solidarity between different staff groups can be forged and their interests mediated.
  3. the need for a strategic and long-term perspective: tackling casualisation is a long-term project and it needs the thoughtful identification of immediate and longer-term objectives.

You can download UCU's document here [281kb].