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UCU Rising survey results: your views on the disputes

19 December 2023

In October we opened a survey on the future strategy for winning in higher education. The survey was produced after holding a series of open meetings with UCU members, where you gave us feedback on the questions you felt needed exploring. At the same time, the Higher Education Committee (HEC) voted to endorse the development of a longer-term industrial and political strategy. This was about members inputting into the direction of your union.

You can find a report on the survey results here and examine the results here. (Login using your membership number - - is required.)

One thing is clear: the vast majority (82%) of members feel the development of a longer-term strategy is important. I am really pleased to see us unified behind this.

It has been an intense year. A year that has been defined by tremendous effort and sacrifice and of course our historic win on USS pensions. A year in which we forced a higher pay offer from university employers than we have seen in recent years. A year in which we made more progress than ever before on non-pay matters; pushing employers to agree to negotiations on frameworks for workload, casualisation and pay inequality. But this was not enough. And despite taking sustained strike action and a marking and assessment boycott, we were not able this time to push the employer any further.

The results of the survey are clear: we need to change our strategy, and members support us taking the time to develop one. This has not been possible in recent years. The union's decision-making structures have taken decisions that have led to rapid reballots.

Notwithstanding the role of the restrictive and anti-trade unions laws in the UK, the pace of these decisions has left us unable to take stock, or even determine whether an immediate reballot is the best course of action. But our survey reveals that almost 2 in 3 respondents (64%) think we are far from winning the dispute (either quite far (39%) or very far (24%) from winning). This is feedback that we must listen to. We require more than tinkering. And we aren't going to carry members with us - or win - by hitting the repeat button.

The members are calling for a very different approach to organising, campaigning and negotiations. This means significant changes and breaking out of the recent internal strategy that has delivered a cycle of ballot/action, and the survey results demonstrate this is a widely held view.

The good news is that this is entirely achievable, and working towards this does not mean we have to shy away from tackling the issues that members have made clear matter - workload, inequality, and casualisation. We need to take stock, reflect, learn and develop a coherent and strategic national plan that has widespread support. We can see from the survey that there is also support for campaigning and local bargaining in HE to continue and play a vital role in getting wins whilst we do this.

There is much to learn from the last 12 months. But we need to make sure we are forward-looking in our reflections, building a stronger and more resilient union.

Well done to every member who took part in the survey - you have played a role in shaping your union. Please do engage in any branch meeting that may be happening on this matter. We will also discuss these results with our branches and the Higher Education Committee next week.

Finally, the survey results do not mean we will shy away from continuing to tackle the issues that you have made clear matter - workload, inequality, and casualisation. Your negotiators are continuing to work with our fellow trade unions and employers to make a national framework for negotiations on these matters a reality in the early new year.

In solidarity

Jo Grady
UCU general secretary

Last updated: 19 December 2023