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Sean Wallis (University College London)

25 January 2024

Election address

I am a principal research fellow at UCL. I have been a researcher in AI, statistics and linguistics for 26 years: 6 in Nottingham and 25 at UCL. I spent over 20 years on serial fixed term contracts.

Recent service

2013-present   Branch president/VP, UCL UCU

2008-              HE secretary, London Region UCU

2013-2020      Member of NEC

2018-              JNCHES national negotiator


I am asking you to vote for me because I have spent my career speaking up for research staff in Higher Education. I believe UCU activists should be more than defenders of the status quo. We have to fight for the future of the University.

Every time I stood for national election, I argued the same point:

The basic idea of a University is under attack from a Government and a political class who fear a critical, independently-minded, University-educated populace. We need to respond by mobilising our own members: both in their own immediate interests, over pay and conditions, and in a wider defence of the University ideal.

The last time I stood, it was in 2016. HE faced further deregulation in the form of the Higher Education and Research Act. Through the UCU and through organisations like the Convention for Higher Education, Campaign for the Public University and Council for the Defence of British Universities, we organised a grass roots opposition that blunted the worst excesses of the Tories' plans.

But five years on, and ten years of the tuition fee market system, the market is pulling our sector apart. Costs are mounting, with universities borrowing £10bn+ for capital projects and the student loan debt mountain exceeding £160bn.

Our employers' 'strategies' are governed by self-interest. Attack the USS pension, as the employers try to get it off their books. Drive pay down, drive casualisation and workload up. The employers want to break up national pay bargaining.

We need to fight back, and we need a leadership that leads.

We can win. At UCL we fought off an attempt to rewrite our college Statutes. Last year we rejected the attempt to impose the ill-conceived IHRA "working definition" of anti-semitism.

We are fighting for the future.

We also have to win an argument among the population: Universities are crucial for an educated society! The pandemic and climate change prove this. Academic freedom and transparency is crucial to win public trust in publicly funded science.

Defending education means reversing Government cuts and dismantling the fees+loans system. It means standing up for ourselves, fighting for our own pay, pensions and rights.

I am a member of UCU Left, a hard-working branch president and a staunch defender of research staff. Vote for me for a union that represents you and fights for you.

Last updated: 25 January 2024