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Dr Alex Prichard (University of Exeter)

25 January 2024

Election address

Dr Alex Prichard (he/him),

Associate Professor, International Relations, University of Exeter.

I am a dedicated and active member of UCU and determined to protect education as a public good. But while HE has been transformed over the last ten years, UCU strategy and structures have stayed broadly the same. For us to win, we need to change too. UCU needs to better reflect the fact that only c.40% of UCU members have USS pensions, which is roughly a fifth of total staff in HE (April 2023 USS strike ballot return/HESA data 2021). UCU membership has not kept up with growth in total staff numbers over the last ten years, especially in professional services, and our branches are insufficiently trained and empowered to deliver for head office, for their members, and grow.

More voting is not enough to make the UCU a more democratic, member-led union. Giving voice to the membership also means encouraging comradely debate about the plural internal and external structures of power we face. Increasing density would change the terms of that debate again. But having that debate will help clarify who and what the UCU is for.

Aligning our different visions is a necessary part of building a successful union. If I'm elected, alongside holding the General Secretary to account, supporting our paid staff and the work of the national executive and Higher Education Committee, I would lobby for a review of UCU's democratic and constitutional processes. I have relevant experience to support this. I've spent the last seven years co-producing democratic and constitutional theory and practice with activist groups. From 2016-2020 I worked with the Industrial Workers of the World (a revolutionary syndicalist union), and Radical Routes (a federation of anarchist worker and housing co-ops), to support their constitutional processes, and have published on this topic.

I've been a UCU member since 2008, rep and caseworker since 2018, and was branch President between 2022-2023. Exeter's casualisation problem, gender paygap, and equalities issues, are well documented. While continuing the ongoing work of the branch in these areas, we met legal voting thresholds, negotiated a Joint Statement with the University executive that reset industrial relations for the better, and began local negotiations, alongside Unite and Unison, to restructure our local payspine. We maintained committee cohesion despite strong views on all sides, increased participation in branch meetings, and maintained casework support for our members. Local membership increased by c.20%. These struggles are ongoing, but we now have a better collective understanding of the structural problems facing the sector, the UCU, and our university.

 I have been a member of UCU Commons since May 2023.

I endorse Jo Grady for re-election as General Secretary and David Hunter for Vice President.

Last updated: 25 January 2024