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Congress 2024: Business of the education committee

21 May 2024

UCU Congress 2024: 29 May - 11:30-12:15

Motions have been allocated to a section of the NEC's report to Congress (UCU2119). Paragraph headings refer to paragraphs within this report. CBC may have added some new paragraph headings to facilitate the ordering of motions.

Section 2: Business of the education committee

Section 2.2: Pushing for funding reform

10  Building a brighter future for post-16 education - National executive committee

Congress commends education committee's work and urges its continued development of practical, participative campaigns to pursue our education policy agenda, including:  

  1. a sustainable funding model to widen participation and ensure proper, stable resourcing across post-16 education 
  2. collaboration not competition between institutions  
  3. abolition of tuition fees  
  4. challenging "low value" narratives, instead celebrating all modes and fields of post-16 education  
  5. embedding climate justice in curricula and institutional practices 
  6. continuing UCU's Cradle to Grave conferences .

Congress calls on NEC and education committee to: 

  1. work with sibling unions (including NUS) to: 
  • develop joint approaches 
  • promote community dialogue about education 
  • combat cuts and ideological attacks upon disciplines and subject provision  
  • continue commitment to the Defend the Arts campaign 
  1. work with UCU Future of Work in Post-16 Education Working Group / International Working Group to understand and tackle global challenges including AI and education technologies 
  2. resist attacks on freedom of speech and academic freedom 
  3. defend professional autonomy.


10A.1   Migrant Members Standing Committee

Add in a new point 5, and renumber accordingly: '5. challenging the notion that international student recruitment comes at the expense of places for domestic students'

Add additional bullet point under a.: 'resist the scapegoating and policing of international students'


10A.2  Westminster Kingsway College

Add new point e: To call a UK wide demonstration in defence of post 16 education in Central London on a Saturday in the Autumn term.CARRIED

Section 2.3: Defending course choice, curriculum breadth and arts and humanities

11  Save post-16 education (for the many not the few) - University of Kent

Congress believes:

  1. the government attack on "low-value" courses combined with the funding crisis, threatens mass redundancies; loss of post-16 courses and bankruptcies
  2. post-16 education is a vital societal resource for development of people and knowledge. It's institutions provide the possibility of challenge to established thinking, allowing the interrogation, development, and expansion of knowledge and where minoritised and oppressed groups have opened space to decolonise and challenge establishment ideology.
  3. the attack on the value of arts and humanities in post-16 education is simultaneously an attack on the expansion of working class and minoritised people's access and an ideological attack on post-16 education

Congress instructs NEC: to launch a national campaign to save post-16 education, led by branches threatened with loss of courses, involving students and civil society, and focused on winning the argument for post-16 education centred on student's personal development and expansion of knowledge in all spheres.


Section 2.4: Resisting attacks on academic freedom

12  Guidance to Branches on Free Speech and Academic Freedom - University of Bath

Congress notes the outcome of a number of recent employment, and employment appeal tribunals. These have involved potential conflicts between academic freedom, free speech and standards of workplace conduct. As a result the rights and responsibilities of education staff are not clear, nor are the responsibilities of union branches in cases where there is a perceived conflict between academic freedom and contractual obligations.

Accordingly, Congress instructs the NEC to:

  1. commission expert advice on the law with regard to academic freedom, equalities, and conduct in the workplace, including the implications of recent decisions
  2. draw up and issue legally sound guidance for use by branches in cases where questions of academic freedom or free speech are raised, with particular reference to a branch's obligation to support members, and to the boundary between free expression and potential misconduct
  3. incorporate this guidance into statements of relevant policy.


13  Mischaracterisation of 'Academic Freedom' and freedom of speech - LGBT+ members standing committee

Congress notes:

  1. academic freedom, professional autonomy and freedom of speech are important central tenets of post-16 education and research
  2. some groups and individuals bend the principle of academic freedom to excuse exclusionary views that deny the humanity and rights of our trans and non-binary members, students and friends.

Congress believes:

  1. the right to hold beliefs does not give anyone the right to discriminate against or exclude others and does not mean that there is an automatic 'right to be heard' in any specific space
  2. supporting and fighting for the rights of trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people does not mean there are fewer rights of to go around for others.

Congress resolves:

  1. to develop guidance for branches and a CPD session on understanding academic freedom and freedom of speech.


14  Conflict, history education, academic freedom and free speech - Bradford College

Congress notes:

  1. where there are deadly conflicts, these come alongside information wars. These serve to sow discord between communities and so further the deadly conflicts.
  2. in education false neutrality agendas serve only to encourage educators to self-police
  3. where controversial topics are not covered students will only seek out information from unknown sources
  4. this conference also notes the threats and removal of history, politics and humanity courses across post-16 education.


  1. renew UCU's commitment to solidarity with the Palestinian, Ukrainian and all other people facing deadly attacks
  2. support education workers to use academic freedom to teach the history of such conflicts and provide safe educational spaces in all institutions to do this and take part in workplace protests
  3. call to defend and reinstate humanity courses in FE, ACE, HE and Prison Education in every community.


Section 2.5: Supporting professional autonomy and careers in post-16 education

15  Health and social care conference - Retired members committee

Congress notes that provision of health and social care throughout the UK has reached crisis level, with poor provision undermining the wellbeing of large numbers of vulnerable people.

Congress believes that UCU has an important role in addressing these issues through its members in health and social care education. There is a need for enhanced education, training and staff development to produce a well-qualified health and social care workforce and adequate staffing levels for these sectors. The post-16 education sector can make a vital contribution to achieving this.

Congress therefore instructs NEC to work with the Equality Committee and the NPC Health and Care Committee to set up a national conference on health and social care, with particular reference to the role of health educators in UCU and the wider trade union movement, to explore how post-16 education can contribute to the recruitment of well-trained and motivated professionals.


Last updated: 29 May 2024