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Sophia Woodman (University of Edinburgh)

25 January 2024


Election address

I've come into union work through organizing around conditions for work and study in the neoliberal marketized university. During the 2018 USS dispute, a six-week student occupation supporting the strikes at the University of Edinburgh was the catalyst for a collective diagnosis of how this model of the university exploits staff and students in different, yet intersecting ways. This analysis has continued as a practice in our local organizing, and contributed to the amazing solidarity our students demonstrated last summer during the MAB. 

Until this year, much of my union work has been within the School of Social and Political Science where I am a senior lecturer. I've worked with my hourly-paid casualized colleagues to push for them to be paid for all their work. I've also been a strong advocate for international students, who are often treated as cash cows and subjected to casual racism. I've been involved in campaigns against Prevent and the hostile environment. Following the Covid-19 outbreak, I was involved in our branch's struggle to be consulted on academic matters when working conditions radically changed. I joined the branch committee in April 2023, and became co-president in June. While it did not succeed in moving UCEA, the strong impact of Edinburgh's MAB was due to granular organizing and support networks; grassroots deliberation on effective strategy; the long-standing cooperation with students noted above; and, drawing on these, effective fundraising. 

This experience of building coalitions and understanding across difference, and working cooperatively, has shaped my approach to trade union work. We have a diverse membership, with varied status and experiences, as well as differing political perspectives. If elected, I will advocate for more support for local organizing, as without strong, organized branches that provide channels for member input and engagement, we cannot build membership or make progress on addressing the crisis in HE, as well as in FE and education more broadly. If campus unions could work together, we could better address declining pay and working conditions. I advocate working towards an agreement on joint membership for unions representing HE workers.  

A long-term focus of my research and activism is how the dual forces of securitization and marketization are threatening academic freedom in the UK and beyond. Academic freedom also means self-governance and the right to criticize the institution in which one works. If elected, I will use my role to push for UCU to campaign on this broad vision of academic freedom. I also work on gender equality and human rights, and am an unequivocal supporter of trans inclusion. 

I am supporting Jo Grady for re-election as General Secretary and David Hunter as UCU Vice-President. I am a member of UCU Commons 

Last updated: 25 January 2024