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Laura Chuhan Campbell (Durham University)

25 January 2024

Election address

Post-16 education has reached a crucial turning point. As this government pins its dying hopes on culture wars and anti-intellectual agendas, higher and further education are increasingly beset by crises of precarious employment, inadequate funding, extreme workloads, low and unequal pay, and the lowest level of morale I have ever seen in my career. As a UCU caseworker, member of the Women's Committee, and departmental rep in HE, I have seen exploitation and inequality worsen in recent years, while employers' intransigence has only hardened.

The higher education MAB represented one final pushback against employers, and it failed because universities simply decided that giving out marked degrees was unnecessary. And that was what really stung: if they don't care when we strike from teaching, research, and admin, and they don't care whether or not we graduate students, then what are we even here for? That's why now is the moment for UCU to fight backā€”but we have to have a plan. I am standing for re-election for NEC because I believe that the USS victory in HE has shown that our action can and does work, but we must recognise that, by de-valuing our labour, the employers have moved the goalposts. We must reassess and create a long-term strategy. We must identify weak points in our density, and build towards stronger and more hard-hitting action. We must learn from our mistakes, forge new ways forward, and we must win.

We must empower and support branches to address Four Fights issues on a local as well as national level. As a casualised worker for 8 years, I led the campaign to scrap 9 month contracts at Durham University (where I am now employed as an Associate Professor in Modern Languages). The ensuing local agreement on casualisation raised the bar for other universities. Supporting local agreements within the context of a collective dispute challenges the sector-wide race to the bottom, gives branches autonomy to address the issues that matter most to them, and allows us to build a sector-wide consensus on what a fair workplace looks like.

I have voted to call upon the General Secretary to put in place a 5 year strategy involving extensive branch consultation, because I believe that this will put us in the strongest possible position to reclaim post-16 education. This strategy must involve engaging members by de-mystifying UCU's governing structures, capitalising on our successes to further recruitment, researching university finances and the effects of student distribution, and identifying opportunities for targeted local campaigns. I am supporting Jo Grady for re-election as General Secretary and David Hunter as Vice-President. I am a member of UCU Commons:

Last updated: 25 January 2024