Fighting fund banner


UCU's responses to Michelle Donelan and UKRI

1 November 2023

Today I have written to UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Chief Executive Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, following the disgraceful actions of this government and the cowardly response of UKRI.

On 28 October 2023, Michelle Donelan MP, the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology wrote to UKRI, singling out two academics for criticism over their social media activity in relation to events in Israel and Palestine, and the responses of the UK government to those events. Both UCU members are currently members of UKRI's Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) advisory board.

On 30 October 2023, we wrote to Michelle Donelan to point out that this position was an outrageous misrepresentation of our members' posts but also a heavy handed and provocative direct intervention from government without any care for due process.

It is therefore deeply worrying that, instead of pushing back against the inappropriate and disproportionate demands from the Secretary of State, UKRI decided to suspend the EDI advisory board.

We are now clear. Unless UKRI step back from this position we will immediately call for our members to withdraw from all advisory positions within UKRI. We have given UKRI until Friday 3 November to do this.

This is a totemic moment in higher education. We are under attack. Our colleagues are under attack. Our profession is under attack.

Our union will not sit back and accept this. This battle has been coming for a while now, and we are ready for it.

We will be launching a major new campaign to table these issues and address the creeping hand of government. I also want to remind everyone that UCU has clear policy in defence of academic freedom and if you have been targeted in this way please contact your local branch or regional office for support.

For now, please share all of our content online and offer solidarity to our targeted colleagues whenever you can. I will be back in touch at the end of this week.

In solidarity

Jo Grady
UCU general secretary

Last updated: 3 November 2023