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Reclaim Higher Education

14 February 2024

The ravages of marketisation have torn up the higher education sector as we know it and has created a system which is bad for students, staff, universities, and taxpayers alike.

Students are graduating with a lifetime of debt, spending on staff is at record lows, workload and job insecurity is sky high, and financial inequality across the sector is growing as institutions are forced to battle for student income.

Our sector has been placed at the centre of a divisive culture war - manifested in cuts to arts and humanities funding, surveillance of staff and a damaging instrumentalisation of education where value is measured solely in terms of graduate earnings.

It's time to reclaim higher education for the interests of staff and students. We need radical reform based on the following:

A fair funding model

  • an end to tuition fees in higher education
  • secure, long-term funding for all subjects and types of higher education institution
  • fair distribution of students across the sector
  • employers paying more to develop the supply of skilled graduates on which they rely, through a Business Education Tax.

Professional autonomy and respect for staff

  • fair and equal pay and an end to exploitative working practices
  • collaborative approaches to regulation and quality assurance
  • meaningful representation for staff on decision-making structures.


Tell your election candidates: support the funding of Teachers' Pensions Scheme rises

Employer contributions to the Teachers' Pensions Scheme (TPS) are due to rise but despite covering this cost for schools and colleges, the Department for Education is not covering the cost for universities. This will increase the financial pressure on higher education institutions.

We are encouraging our members in England and Wales to ask their parliamentary candidates whether they support government intervention to cover the cost. See also UCU's dedicated page for the UK general election 2024.

UCU members in Scotland: ask your MSPs to sign motion on the Scottish Teachers' Pension Scheme

Pam Duncan-Glancy MSP has lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament on increased employer costs to the Scottish Teachers' Pension Scheme (STPS). The 3% increase will worsen the financial situation in post-92 universities and put jobs at risk. The motion calls on the Scottish government to evaluate urgently the impact of the absence of additional funding for universities covering the increase in STPS contributions on education provision, university access and jobs. Activists and branches in Scotland are asked to encourage their MSPs to sign the motion. You can find out who your MSPs are and their email addresses here. You can also contact MSPs via the 'Write to them' website.

Read UCU's reports on higher education

In May 2024 UCU has published two reports:

Extend your solidarity to current industrial disputes

UCU is determined to resist the waves of job cuts and attacks on working conditions taking place in post-16 education throughout the UK. You can click here for a list of current industrial disputes and find out how you can support them and extend your solidarity. The list is updated continually by UCU staff so please check back regularly.


Details of future events will be updated here.

Previous events

Reclaim Higher Education UCU Live, Wednesday 19 June

Hosted by Afua Hagan, with UCU general secretary Jo Grady, PA industrial correspondent Alan Jones, Goldsmiths UCU, and former Shadow Chancellor of the Exechequer John McDonnell.

Special higher education sector conference, Friday 17 May

The elected representatives of UCU's higher education committee (HEC) have called for a special higher education sector conference (HESC) to identify a strategy for branches to mount a significant, coordinated, sector level response to threats to jobs, disciplines, T&Cs, including attacks on TPS and academic freedom. This will be held on Friday 17 May 2024. Click here for further information including motions debated.

Reclaim Higher Education launch, Thursday 9 May

Reclaim HE launched on Thursday 9 May and you can click here for a recording of the online event.

Post-92 university branches meeting, Wednesday 17 April

A UK-wide post-92 university branches meeting was arranged on Wednesday 17 April 2024. We discussed job cuts, attacks to terms and conditions and threats to our national contracts and agreements.

Campaigning workshop for branches, Tuesday 9 April

We are always stronger when we are united. We want to help branches build solidarity and share strategies to win. As part of this, we are organising a series of campaign workshops for UCU branches facing threats to jobs and working conditions.

The first workshop took place on Tuesday 9 April 2024.

Last updated: 20 June 2024