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Congress 2024: Higher Education Sector Conference

21 May 2024

UCU Congress 2024: Thursday 30 May 2024, 09:00-18:00

Sector conferences scheduled for Thursday 30 May did not take place.

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 3: Business of the higher education committee (HEC)

Section 3.2: New JNCHES

HE1  National Claim/New JNCHES - Higher education committee

HE Sector conference notes the report and approves the recommendations of the national negotiators contained in UCUBANHE/89.

HE2  Four Fights: One Dispute - University of Liverpool

Conference notes: 

  1. the Four Fights united 4 issues into a single dispute: pay, casualisation, equal pay, workloads
  2. when branches negotiate on casualisation, workloads or pay gaps alone, progress is extremely slow.

Conference believes: 

  1. we must not abandon our most vulnerable staff to job insecurity
  2. casualisation and equality issues are inextricably linked
  3. excessive workloads damage members' physical and mental health
  4. we all deserve a pay rise.

Conference resolves: 

  1. to keep pay, casualisation, equal pay and workloads together as part of national bargaining
  2. if/when we enter into dispute, immediately call a Strike Committee (as agreed at Congress 2023) comprised of branch delegates, to decide the frequency of Strike Committee meetings

HE2A.1  University of Leeds

Add new point 3 to 'Conference Notes':

  1. the published heads of claim appear to accept UCEA terminology on the Four Fights, which was rejected by UCU members.

Add new point iii to 'Conference resolves':

  1. to instruct HEC, GS, and HE negotiators to include substantive demands on all Four Fights, modelled on 2022-23 demands, in all HE claims.

HE2A.2  Women Members Standing Committee

To add further bullet points to 'conference resolves to':

  1. campaign linking ongoing redundancies with increasing casualisation and decreasing job security for all
  2. call for a timed framework to eliminate all precarious employment (save for emergency cover) from higher education
  3. end outsourcing of HE staff bringing them back to equal in-house employment
  4. agree on a timed framework to end race, gender, disability pay, and progression gaps across HE including the disproportionate number of women in low-paid and casualised employment.

HE3  A winning UCU strategy: 'Breathe, Rebuild, and Regroup' - University of Bristol

HESC notes UCU must break out of an approach to UK-wide industrial action strategy that, for members, feels like a repetitive process of balloting, with too-distant decision-making bodies making decisions.

HESC believes UCU needs higher membership density, higher participation and more democratic negotiation.

HESC resolves:

  1. to establish a clear multi-year IA plan for higher education that the whole union can support
  2. to enable the general secretary to consult with UCU members, at every stage, on a clear multi-year industrial action strategy, the nature and timing of industrial action, on negotiating outcomes, on members' preferences concerning disputes and industrial action decision-making
  3. to instruct HEC to enable and action members' preferences regarding our industrial action strategy.

HE4  Put the LGBT+ in national bargaining - LGBT+ members standing committee

Conference notes:

  1. the importance of the Four Fights campaign in HE
  2. the lack of sufficient data on LGBT+ pay
  3. HE40 carried at HESC 2023 to include making LGBT+ pay gap inclusion in HE industrial campaigning policy
  4. FE12 carried at FESC 2023 calling for engagement with FE sector organisations to develop LGBT+ work across all FE provision
  5. recent TUC work on this area.

Conference resolves:

  1. to urgently implement HE and FE policy and include LGBT+ pay and equality in sectoral bargaining
  2. to work with LGBT+ MSC and LGBT+ members to develop LGBT+ specific campaign resources for branches focusing on pay, workload, casualisation, equality, and workplace wellbeing.

HE5  Affordable and equitable industrial action (IA) - University of Southampton

Conference notes that:

  1. in the 2022-23 pay dispute, UCU called more days of strike action than any other UK trade union
  2. UCU confirmed limited financial compensation for punitive deductions a month after the MAB commenced
  3. lengthy, uncompensated or partially compensated IA disproportionately affects staff on part-time and fixed-term contracts, more likely to be women and ethnic minorities
  4. the unsustainable cost of lengthy periods of IA creates a risk of disengagement among members.

Conference resolves that:

  1. UCU commits to conduct an affordability assessment before calls for IA, assessing the likely cost of proposed action to members and support available from the fighting fund, and to circulate it to branches
  2. UCU commits to conduct an equality impact assessment before calling IA and to plan mitigations against any disproportionate impacts on specific groups
  3. HEC must consider the outcomes of affordability and equality assessments when calling IA.

HE6  Industrial unionism in HE - University of Essex

Conference notes:

  1. the crisis facing HE, including the wave of redundancies
  2. UCU is not the only union organising in HE.

Conference believes:

  1. industrial unionism (in which all workers in an industry can be part of the same union) provides a model for how we can fight in HE
  2. while some branches have effective relationships with other HE unions, this is often not the case locally or nationally
  3. 'practical' industrial unionism where UCU branches have regular meetings and coordinate could strengthen organising across HE.

Conference resolves:

  1. UCU to meet with other unions in HE to develop joint activities and campaigns, reporting back to the membership
  2. encourage branches to establish joint union committees and meetings at HE institutions

HE7  Learning from the Nations - Aberystwyth University

Conference notes:

  1. that higher education is a devolved matter in Scotland, Wales and Northen Ireland
  2. reference to 'regions and devolved nations' is commonplace in UCU material
  3. constituent nations of the UK are not directly analogous to UCU English 'regions', having their own specific powers, systems and responsibilities with regard to education
  4. in the context of New JNCHES, the English Office for Students, funding models and student caps this can result in suboptimal negotiating positions and outcomes for the other UK nations
  5. divergences in approach provides a basis for raising standards for all nations


  1. for UCU to prepare a report into 'Divergence and commonalities in Higher Education across the UK nations'
  2. for HEC to convene a 'nations working group' to review national negotiating positions, government policies and legislation, and changes in government of the constituent nations
  3. for HEC to review HESC motions for consistency with different national education systems.

Section 3.4: Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS) and Section 3.10: post-92

HE8  TPS in post-92 and equality implications for women - Women members standing committee 

Women on the TPS pension scheme retire with much smaller pensions than men eroding their retirement income. Following April's rise in employers' contributions to the TPS, post-92 employers must pay extra TPS contributions as (unlike FE and schools) they are not funded by the government. Employers are seeking to put staff on inferior pensions because they do not meet the criteria for joining the TPS. This impacts those who identify as women in post-92s and disproportionately affects black, migrant, and disabled women who are more likely to be on lower pay, part-time, and less secure contracts.

HESC resolves to: 

  1. campaign for the Government to fund the post-92 TPS scheme for all employees
  2. campaign on the inequality of women's pensions
  3. UCU to lobby MPs for future reforms in pension scheme funding due to ongoing salary and pension detriments due to women's disproportionately lower pay, part-time work, and casualised.

HE9  Defence of Post-92s - Composite: Higher education committee, University of Brighton

Conference notes:

  1. a developing crisis in post-92 institutions caused by their particular vulnerabilities to the marketised system and exacerbated by the recent increase in TPS employer contributions
  2. that post-92 employers are responding with renewed attacks on jobs and working conditions.

Conference believes:

  1. that the post-92 National Contract, HE2000, and other agreements block a race to the bottom across the whole sector and must be vigorously defended
  2. that individual branches should not be left to fight alone in defence of national agreements.

Conference resolves:

  1. to urgently collect and disseminate data on the extent of contract erosion across post-92s
  2. to find ways to frame a cross-institution dispute over breaches to national agreements
  3. to launch a campaign for the defence of the post-92 National Contract, HE2000 and other national agreements in preparation for declaring a dispute.

HE9A.1  Queen Margaret University

in 'Conference believes' bullet point a, after 'defended', add 'yet remain inadequate.'

Add new bullet point under 'Conference resolves'

  1. to seek to reopen negotiations on post-92 and HE2000 contracts with a view to improving conditions for post-92 employees and achieving parity in the sector.

HE10  Post 92s - Higher education committee

This HESC:

  1. notes the attacks on members working in post-92 institutions including cuts to jobs, attacks on terms and conditions (including pensions) and detrimental changes to agreed policies.
  2. welcomes the establishment of a post-92 Steering Group to focus on these issues, the survey of post-92 branches and the convening of a national meeting of post-92 branches.

HESC believes:

  1. that is it paramount to defend the provisions of the post-92 contract and the National Framework Agreement
  2. that we need a co-ordinated response to the attacks on the sector.

HESC resolves to call on HEC:

  1. to continue to support focussed work in this area
  2. to use the outcomes from the post-92 survey and national meeting to develop a work plan for the post-92 sector for 2024/25
  3. to coordinate any work on post-92s with general campaigns to protect HE
  4. to report on progress to HESC 2025.

HE10A.1  Glasgow Caledonian University

Point 2. Before 'meeting of post-92 branches.' change 'national' to 'UK'.

Point a. After 'provisions of the post-92 contract' add 'in England and Wales'.

Point a. Before 'the National Framework Agreement' delete 'and'.

Point a. After 'the National Framework Agreement' add ', and the HE2000 contract in Scotland.'

Point i. Add at end, 'taking into account the devolved nature of academic contracts and working conditions.'

Add new point iv (renumber existing point iv):

  1. to acknowledge at all times the devolved nature of academic contracts and working conditions

Section 3.3: USS

HE11  USS - Higher education committee

HE sector conference notes the report and approves the recommendations of the SWG contained in UCUBANHE89

HE12  Improve USS Defined Benefit (DB) Pensions - UCU Scotland

HESC notes:

  1. the amazing victory won by USS members in getting the 2022 cuts overturned, benefits restored in full and a payment for the lost benefits
  2. policy of encouraging negotiators to engage in preparations toward more detailed analysis and consultation in the medium-term on models of conditional indexation (CI)
  3. all the evidence shows that members particularly value DB pensions.

HESC believes:

  1. the CI policy was introduced when there was a real threat of DB pensions being eroded
  2. CI is more risky to members than DB and will not improve pension benefits
  3. members are best served by negotiators focusing on improving DB pensions and investigating CI uses up time and energy that could be better used in working for DB improvements.

Conference calls on negotiators to cease work on CI and to focus on working to improving members' DB benefits.

HE12A.1  Higher Education Committee

Final sentence, delete all after 'Conference calls on negotiators', replace with ':

  1. participate in discussions with employers and USS on CI while taking a very sceptical perspective so as to know their intentions and best defend members' interests.


  1. focus on working to improving members' DB benefits and making the valuation and investment moderately prudent, including by increasing the discount rate and removing or reducing the importance of gilt yields in the valuation and monitoring data.'

HE13  Ending age discrimination and forced retirement (EJRA) in UK HE - University of Oxford 

HESC notes that:

  1. UCU supports the established legal position of there being no default retirement age
  2. UCU opposes unlawful discrimination
  3. the EJRA (Employer Justified Retirement Age) was introduced to aspire to improve diversity
  4. objectively, in Oxford and Cambridge, those aspirations have failed, with no concrete data or verifiable statistics shared to confirm otherwise
  5. the EJRA policy at Oxford was found by Employment Tribunal (March 2023) not to be a justified means of achieving a legitimate aim, and thus unlawful
  6. 120 Cambridge professors signed a letter to the Vice-Chancellor in November 2023, emphasising their belief that the EJRA is immoral, illegal, unfair, uneconomic, and bad employment practice'.

Conference believes that age discrimination is harmful, personally and communally, as is all other unlawful discrimination.

Conference resolves to lobby and organise for an end to the unfair discrimination and lasting, damaging effects of EJRA.

HE14  USS pensions and dependents' pension discrimination - Higher education committee

HESC notes:

  1. USS provides automatic pensions for dependents who are married or in civil partnerships of deceased members
  2. non-married/non-civil partnership dependents are not automatically entitled to dependent's pensions
  3. the Brewster (2017) case affirmed that non-married or non-civil partnership arrangements should be recognised automatically for dependent's allowance in pension provision.

HESC believes that discrimination on the basis of marital or civil partnership status is unlawful and USS should follow other pension schemes in recognising the Brewster ruling to award dependents of non-married/non-civil partnerships automatic awarding of dependents' pensions.

HESC resolves to:

  1. ensure USS negotiators seek to extend automatic dependents' pensions to non-married/non-civil partnership arrangements
  2. in the absence of agreement by USS and UUK, to replicate the Brewster case and bring forward a case against USS, and/or to bring forward a case on refusal to marry or enter a civil partnership being a protected characteristic under the 2016 Equality Act.

Section 3.6: Anti-casualisation

HE15  Fair contract duration and ending agency work for GTAs/demonstrators - University of Manchester

Conference recognises the importance of GTA/demonstrators in providing core teaching, marking and support.

Conference notes that GTA/demonstrators:

  1. can be employed through external agencies, and not the university they deliver teaching at
  2. are often employed on 4-month contracts
  3. work in precarious conditions due to the shortness of contract.

Conference believes that GTAs/demonstrators should have access to the same employment rights as other university staff (continuous employment, USS pension).

Conference resolves to:

  1. demand the removal of agency employment so that UCU can support branches to negotiate contracts for GTA/demonstrators
  2. demand contracts with a minimum length of two years for GTA/demonstrators and equivalent roles (in line with the current pay claim for all employees)
  3. include the above demands i. and ii. in the 'casualisation' aspect of the four fights.

HE16  Bargaining for PGR demonstrators - Anti-casualisation committee

HESC notes:

  1. the database launched by UCU's PGRs as Staff campaign to track PGR employment terms and conditions across the country is extremely useful
  2. despite their employment conditions often being poorer, we know comparatively less about PGR demonstrators than GTAs
  3. demonstrating is often underpaid despite often being safety critical.

HESC believes a focus on demonstrators conditions can help build union density amongst STEM subject PGRs.

HESC resolves:

  1. use FOI requests to universities to ascertain what differences exist between GTAs (or equivalent) and demonstrators pay, terms and conditions, and recruitment processes
  2. instruct branches to submit the data they have available on casualised teaching pay, terms and conditions, especially in relation to demonstrator contracts
  3. add this data to the existing PGR employment database
  4. use this data to create a bargaining guide for branches outlining best practice for PGR demonstrator employment
  5. encourage branches to launch claims to improve demonstrator pay, terms and conditions.

Section 3.7: Research staff

HE17  Recognition and support for long-term casualised researchers (LTCR) in UCU - Composite: Edinburgh University, Higher education committee

Conference notes:

  1. the huge numbers of research staff who are employed on insecure contracts, including those employed on bogus 'open ended' contracts containing a clearly identified 'at risk' date
  2. long-term casualised researchers (LTCRs) often belong to intersectionally underrepresented groups while ambiguous promotion guidelines limit their career advancement. Funding eligibility criteria further marginalise them in academia
  3. the publication of the recent UCU report on support for research staff containing information from responses to an FOI from 98 research intensive employers and the accompanying branch guidance
  4. the on-going development of a researcher manifesto to be used as a recruitment, campaigning and negotiating tool.

Conference believes:

  1. that a better research environment, offering security of employment to research staff, is possible
  2. we need to put maximum pressure on employers both nationally and locally to embrace better practice
  3. recognising LTCRs as a distinct subsection of research staff is essential for addressing their unique challenges
  4. LTCRs deserve job security, fair career progression opportunities, and equitable access to opportunities. Data on LTCRs is necessary for effective policy-making.

Conferences resolves to:

  1. continue to support work in this area, identify a work plan to take this forward in 2024/25 and report on progress to HESC 2025
  2. formally recognise and support LTCRs and obtain comprehensive data on them
  3. advocate for transparent promotion opportunities for LTCRs while addressing discrimination faces by LTCRs and lobbying for inclusive funding criteria and more 'truly' open-ended contracts
  4. engage with branch-level efforts to establish best practices for supporting LTCRs
  5. address discrimination faced by LTCRs.

HE18  Discrimination and research resources - Higher education committee 

HESC deplores:

  1. the continuing discrimination in access to resources for research experienced by women and minority group members
  2. government statements downplaying the importance of EDI in research and denigrating measures to achieve it as bureaucracy
  3. the continued casualisation of researches, particularly women and minority group members. 

HESC agrees to:

  1. obtain suggestions of good practice from members and put pressure on research councils and employers to implement them
  2. put pressure on research councils and funding councils to require universities to take and publish measures to increase diversity in access to research resources.

Section 3.8: Academic related professional staff

HE19  ARPS members deserve career progression - Academic related, professional staff committee

HESC notes:

  1. UCU's ARPS Manifesto demand number one is the establishment of a career framework, promotional pathways and reward structure for ARPS staff as envisaged by the 2003 Framework Agreement
  2. ARPS members surveys indicate career progression is the next most important issue after workload
  3. promotional pathways are not available to most ARPS members.

HESC believes:

  1.  higher education cannot function without ARPS staff
  2.  ARPS members are a key part of UCU
  3. ARPS members deserve career progression and clear promotional pathways, reflecting skills and expertise.

HESC resolves to: 

  1. remind national negotiators of the central role of ARPS members in HE and UCU
  2. pursue meaningful career progression pathways for ARPS staff as part of future rounds of JNCHES negotiation
  3. develop guidance and training for branches to pursue pay, progression and promotion parity per the ARPS model claim
  4. promote these, and ARPS member engagement via email network, online drop-ins, participation in ARPS annual meetings.

HE20  Appropriate union membership for ARPS staff - Academic related, professional staff committee

HESC notes:

  1. restructures and redundancies are common in our sector 
  2. attacks on our workplaces can only be challenged by union membership.

HESC believes:

  1. it is crucial that workers in higher education join a union
  2. it is not always clear which union ARPS staff should join
  3. the most appropriate union for ARPS staff may vary between institutions and joint union membership is not usually appropriate for ARPS staff
  4. ARPS staff who are promoted may not always move unions to the most appropriate one for their new grade.

HESC resolves to call upon HEC to constitute a working group to produce guidelines for ARPS staff to help them decide which union is the most appropriate for their grade, and advice for branches on approaching the recruitment of promoted staff. 

Section 3.9: Future of work in post-16 education project

HE21  Future of Work in Post-16 Education Project - Higher education committee 

HESC notes: 

  1. work to establish a Future of Work in Post-16 Education working group bringing together UCU members from across the union
  2. OECD and Education International guidelines launched in 2023 and EI strategic recommendations for integrating AI into education systems ethically and effectively
  3. initial exploratory discussions between UCU, NEU, NASUWT and EIS on joint work they could undertake on responding to AI and new technology in education.

HESC believes it is crucial that UCU has policy on the use of artificial intelligence in education which can inform a bargaining approach both nationally with employers and locally by branches. 

HESC resolves to call on HEC to: 

  1. resource the work of the Future of Post-16 Education working group, ensuring that its recommendations can be considered at Congress 2025 at the latest
  2. continue a dialogue with other education unions to ensure we have a coherent, united policy and bargaining approach on AI.

HE21A.1  Composite: Disabled Members Standing Committee, Anti-Casualisation Committee

Paragraph beginning 'HESC believes..', add new sentence at the end, after 'and locally by branches':

HESC believes that the working group should explore the equalities impact of AI especially on disabled workers, and the potentially disastrous impact of AI on casualised workers.

HE21A.2  Academic-related, professional services staff committee

Split the existing 'HESC believes' statement into point a. and add a second point b. as follows

  1. existing staff at HEIs can provide key expertise in the review and rollout of new technology for use in the sector.

Add new point c. under 'HESC resolves...' as follows

  1. reject outsourcing by recommending to HEIs:
  • that the skills and expertise of on-the-ground staff affected are utilised on internal working groups when rolling out new technology.


  • that in the first instance new roles created by a rollout of new technology should where possible be filled by existing staff.

Other higher education issues

HE22  HE-sector redundancies support and campaign - Higher education committee 

HESC notes: 

  1. mass redundancies in HE, and members' extraordinary efforts to resist them
  2. that probable declines in 2024-25 student applications, and uneven student distribution, are ongoing concerns
  3. the success of the Organising and Bargaining Information System (OBIS) project in FE campaigns. 


  1. campaigns against redundancies will be most effective when informed by research, and when branches collaborate to share experiences and tactics.

Resolves to establish an anti-redundancy campaign that:

  1. investigates HEI finances, relevant corporate interests, and equalities data of those targeted for redundancy, with findings included in OBIS
  2. updates redundancy guidance for branches
  3. schedules time for knowledge-sharing in branch officer meetings
  4. offers legal support to affected branches, and shares information about evidencing legal claims with members
  5. seeks test cases of, for example, trade union victimisation, and supports such cases at employment tribunals
  6. explore a hardship fund for those taking strike action and/or affected by job losses resulting from redundancies.

HE22A.1  University of Dundee

Add at end:

'Organise a UK wide demonstration in defence of Higher Education as part of the UCU political campaign to place during the election period.'

HE22A.2  Open University

Add at the end:

'Recognises that we may have to take industrial action while work on (i) to (vi) above is still a work in progress'

HE23  Stop the attack on 'low value' courses—Save Higher Education - University of Kent

Conference notes Tory plans to limit student numbers on 'low value' courses already threatens provision of arts and humanities and will restrict access to university education.

Conference believes this is an ideological attack designed to restrict the possibility of traditionally excluded groups from entry into courses that would provide them with some cultural capital, and an education that offers them more possibilities in life.

Conference instructs NEC:

  1. to develop a vigorous campaign, led by branches where courses and jobs are threatened, to defend wide HE provision involving students & communities. This needs to include explanation of the value of these courses & ideological challenge to the Tory notion of 'value' in education. This linked to a save Post -16 education campaign
  2. to establish a working group to examine how deregulation of numbers in each institution has impacted the expansion of capitalist processes of concentration and monopoly in HE.

HE24  Creative arts and humanities under attack - London regional HE committee

HESC notes:

  1. proposed cuts to funding for creative arts (C1.2) courses at English universities, announced 4 April
  2. cuts are taking place in the context of multiple attacks on UKHE including redundancies and restructuring proposals especially, but not only, affecting arts and humanities.

HESC believes:

  1. such cuts are ideological attacks on the creative arts, working class students and the jobs of both UCU HE and FE members
  2. this disproportionately impacts students from marginalised backgrounds, limiting access to the privileged few
  3. this is a matter of urgent national importance for UCU.

HESC resolves to:

  1. defend creative arts courses in all institutions as a social, cultural & economic good
  2. enact HE30 of HESC 2023, which includes setting up an Arts and Culture Campaign Group and additionally invite FE representation
  3. call on the GS to urgently lobby government and opposition parties to oppose these cuts.

HE25  Solidarity with Goldsmiths UCU - London regional HE committee

Conference notes

  1. Goldsmiths senior management is attempting to push through 130+ redundancies, in excess of 1/4 of the workforce. We must see this as part of a broader fight back against a wave of ideologically-driven cuts in the sector targeting critical and political education and research in HE
  2. our solidarity and support are needed to fight this and build confidence in members to win this dispute of national significance, alongside other disputes.

Conference resolves to

  1. designate this dispute as one of national significance
  2. support solidarity rallies for Goldsmiths and wider cuts against Arts and Humanities in other institutions
  3. support a dedicated strike fund for any future Goldsmiths strike and/or MAB action.

HE26  Building the Union: Private Provision in Higher Education - Higher education committee

HESC notes:

  1. the existence of private HE providers represents a clear threat to terms and conditions and job security across the sector
  2. the hard work of UCU members to collectively organise and build the union for recognition at a range of private providers.

HESC believes we need to map all private provision and develop a comprehensive strategy with the aim of reaching national agreements and delivering coordinated support to UCU members.

HESC resolves to continue to support focussed work in private provision including:

  1. research into the scope and scale, workforce compilation; terms and conditions and financial assessment and impact of private provision
  2. conduct a survey of UCU members who work for private providers and satellite campuses
  3. to call a national organising conference of UCU members who work for private providers
  4. update bargaining advice with private provider profile information to maximise successful campaigns.

HE26A.1  Disabled Members Standing Committee

Insert new point 2. and renumber accordingly

  1. notes that the lack of reasonable adjustments is endemic in precarious employment

Add new point 'e' at end

  1. challenging and campaigning against the casualisation of work and casualised contracts by the private providers which will have a disproportionate impact on disabled workers.

HE26A.2  Anti-Casualisation Committee

After C add new D and E; renumber subsequent points:

  1. organise this meeting in such a way as to maximise attendance from workers in private providers and draw upon UCU's successes in private providers such as at the University of Sheffield International College and Sussex International Study Centre to demonstrate what is possible
  2. challenging and campaigning against the casualisation of work by the private providers

HE26A.3  Yorkshire and Humberside HE regional committee

Add new point b, renumber accordingly:

New point b:

  1. Construct a list detailing:
    1. existing UCU branches at private providers
    2. HE institutions with staff working for private providers forming part of a broader branch or where there is no branch
    3. irecognition status of each branch / group"

Add to existing point 'c' at end:

where: delegates must be employed by private providers branches at institutions where private providers exist may send an observer experiences of private provider education workers inform format'

Add new point at end of resolves after existing point d:

  1. establish email network for UCU members employed by private providers.

HE27  Opposing the deskilling of teaching - Southern regional committee

HESC notes:

  1. the development of new learning models that are driven by finances not pedagogy
  2. the drive towards the 'blandification' of degrees
  3. that there are clear attempts to deskill the sector and the profession; and to diminish the human contact between students and tutors.


  1. opposes all of these changes at every level
  2. instructs UCU to survey these developments and monitor them
  3. develop a national campaign strategy to opposes these changes.

HE28  For evidence-based staff-student policies against misconduct - Higher education committee 

HESC believes: 

  1. UCU should support evidence-based policy to prevent abuses of power in HE
  2. policy must account for intersectional power relations and establish professional boundaries. 

HESC notes:

  1.  OFS proposals on regulating harassment and sexual misconduct include implementing a register or ban on staff-student sexual and romantic relationships
  2. most students are uncomfortable with such relationships.

HESC calls branches to:

  1. work with employers and students' unions, drawing on peer-reviewed research to develop professional boundaries between staff and students 
  2. seek policies to prohibit staff from entering into intimate relationships with students for whom they have current or potential teaching, learning, or pastoral support responsibilities 
  3. include in such work:
  • awareness raising on professional boundaries and preventing sexual harassment across academic hierarchies (including between staff) 
  • development of training for staff handling disclosures in this area.

HE28A.1  University of Durham

Under 'HESC believes...' add new points 3 and 4:

  1. prohibiting staff from entering into sexual relationships with students would make it easier to tackle sexual violence and abuses of power in higher education, by establishing that any sexualised behaviour is inappropriate in the teaching and learning or student support relationship and removing the requirement to further prove that such behaviour constituted harassment
  2. clarity on staff-student relationships protects both staff and students.

HE28A.2  Birkbeck

Add new HESC believes 3:

  1. we need a decolonial approach to gender-based violence that recognises how HE institutions are shaped by legacies of colonialism, and how patriarchal, racist, queerphobic and ableist histories of HE institutions enable abuses of power.

Add new HESC notes 3:

  1. Black and Asian students are particularly uncomfortable with 'personalised interactions' with staff (Bull et al, 2023).

In HESC calls iii first bullet point, add at beginning before 'awareness': 'Comprehensive, intersectional training and'.

In HESC calls 3a, add 'for members' after 'raising' and before 'on professional boundaries'.

In HESC calls iii second bullet point, add after 'Development of' and before 'training': 'comprehensive, intersectional'

HE28A.3  University of Leeds

Add new point 3 under 'HESC believes':

  1. UCU needs a clear stance on this issue

Add a further section 'HESC resolves' between 'HESC notes' and 'HESC calls branches to'.

Under new section 'HESC resolves' add:

  1. to consult with the Equalities Standing Committees and Anti-Casualisation Committee, as well as the NUS, The 1752 Group, and other relevant specialist and survivor organisations
  2. to oppose institution-wide registers of relationships.

HE28A.4  LGBT+ members' standing committee

Add at end:

Work with Black, Disabled, LGBT+, Migrant and other marginalised members to consider the intersectional benefits and risks posed by policies related to staff-student relationships.

Take advice from other trade unions and transformative justice organisations experienced in preventing abuses of power.

HE28A.5  University of Edinburgh

Add under 'HESC notes':

  1.  LGBTQ+ students are more at risk of sexual harassment from staff than heterosexual students (NUS, 2018), with this harassment often overlapping with homophobia. LGBTQ+ people are also equally at risk of abuses of power within relationships as heterosexual people (Donovan and Hester, 2015).

HE29  Inclusive recruitment procedures in HE - Disabled members standing committee

Inaccessible online recruitment procedures across HE discriminate against people with disabilities, increasing pay and progression gaps, and impeding workplace diversity.

The '4 Ideas Changing How You Hire' report, a global survey of 8000 recruiters, found that 6 out of 10 recruitment processes are online; not inclusive or managed to account for disabilities including ADHD, MS, dyslexia, and many others. The Equality Act 2010 requires every employer to make recruitment processes fully accessible. Online recruitment in HE - without built-in anonymous reasonable adjustments - creates a further barrier to disabled people.

HESC resolves to campaign for

  1. for inclusive candidate journeys in HE
  2. recruitment diversity and inclusion training for UCU staff and branch offices
  3. automation of job processes and built-in anonymous reasonable adjustment identification
  4. campaign for universities to abide by existing legislation on inclusion
  5. pressure institutions to use 'Recite Me' or equivalent to equalize the process.

HE29A.1  London Metropolitan University

Second paragraph, first sentence, delete 'managed to account for disabilities including ADHD, MS, dyslexia, and many others', replace with 'meet the accessibility requirement of disabled, neurodivergent and deaf workers'.

Under 'Resolves'

Add new point 3:

  1. ensure all university websites are accessible, in consultation with disabled workers with diverse impairments

Delete existing point 3.

Add new point 4 and renumber accordingly:

  1. provide interview questions in advance and alternatives to interviews; make sure that all interview venues are fully accessible, including use of quiet venues; and consult with trade unions on other accessibility requirements. Normalise accessibility requirements and ask all candidates for them.

HE30  Political outreach/lobbying by UCU branches - University of Exeter

Conference notes:

  1. since 2010, direct government support for HE has declined dramatically
  2. since 2016, tuition fees have remained fixed
  3. in 2016, central gov abolished the university student cap.

Conference believes that:

  1. changes to legislation and administrative policy are essential to resolving the sector's manufactured funding crisis
  2. this union cannot trust employers associations to ardently and straightforwardly advocate on behalf of workers
  3. political outreach is not a replacement for industrial action, but a complement to it.

Conference resolves to:

  1. instructs regional to work with branches and other unions in the sector to lobby our local MPs and candidates
  2. for demarketizing the HE sector
  3. restoring fiscal fairness in HE funding disbursement

HE30A.1  Open University

Add two more points at the end:

  1. reassert our opposition to student fees
  2. campaign for a sustainable funding model in which education is free at the point of delivery"

HE30A.2  Higher Education Committee

Conference resolves point i:

After 'regional', add 'and devolved nations'

After 'MPs', add 'MSPs', Members of the Senedd and Northern Ireland Assembly'

Delete conference resolves point iii, replace with:

  1. significantly higher funding e.g. 50% more to the sector, including through pressure on Westminster with a much higher percentage of the total coming to smaller and post-92 institutions

Add new point iv:

  1. free education and abolition of tuition fees

HE31   General Election 2024, HE and tuition fees - Composite: Higher education committee, UCL, Open University

Conference notes:

  1. the continuing negative impact of tuition fees on participation in Higher Education by students from poorer backgrounds
  2. part-time mature student numbers have been dramatically affected
  3. UUK's 2022 call to increase home undergraduate tuition fees to £12,000 or more
  4. the Conservative government's changes to student loan conditions to compel students to repay RPI-based loans for 40 years
  5. UUK's Price Waterhouse Coopers January 2024 report claiming that 80% of universities will be in financial difficulties if international student recruitment falls
  6. the imminent General Election
  7. existing policy opposed to tuition fees or graduate tax as a tax on learning.

Conference believes the incoming Labour government will be put under pressure to increase home undergraduate tuition fees, further pricing out working class students.

Conference resolves:

  1. to build a public campaign in the run-up to a General Election to publicise and popularise UCU's priorities for a sustainable alternative funding for Higher Education, paid for via progressive taxation
  2. to emphasise higher education's value as a public good for an educated population, the right to education throughout life and benefits to individuals and society.

HE32  University Governance - University of Brighton

Conference notes:

  1. the lack of democracy and the deterioration in standards of accountability in university governance
  2. the growing trend of management decisions which directly oppose the interests of staff and students and erode the quality of education.

Conference believes:

  1. staff voices have been increasingly marginalised in decision-making
  2. governing bodies often fail to hold vice-chancellors and executives to account
  3. the Higher Education Governance (Scotland) Act 2016 represents a recognition of the problem and identifies some steps to improve it.

Conference calls for a campaign on reform of HEI governance which:

  1. lobbies for a UK-wide equivalent of the Scottish act as a minimum
  2. exposes the corrupt practice of boards of governors selected by executives
  3. makes the case for VCs and senior staff to be elected
  4. campaigns for structures which put staff and student voices at the centre of decision-making.

HE33  University democratisation: online poll of all UCU members - University of Cardiff

UCU HE Sector Conference notes that the worsening de-democratisation and resulting poor governance of UK universities underlies and exacerbates many of the problems of our sector.

Conference resolves to mandate HEC to conduct an anonymised online poll of all HE members working in UK universities, as soon as is practical, running for one month, asking the following questions:

1. Are you in favour of making your university more democratic? (Yes/No/Abstain)

1B. Should this be an industrial action demand? (Y/N/A)

2. Should staff elect at least half your university's governing body? (This is a practical "minimum baseline democracy", and could further democratise itself). (Y/N/A)

2B. Should this be an industrial action demand? (Y/N/A)

Box for Comments:

HE34  Defend pro-Palestinian Voices, academic freedom and trade union organising - Composite: Higher education committee, Open University

Conference notes:

  1. the attempts by numerous university managements to stifle expressions of support for the Palestinians and condemnation of Israel's genocidal assault on Gaza
  2. after two years of punitive responses to industrial action, on 20 February 2024 Queen Mary University of London's management ordered security to break into QMUCU's office to remove posters expressing solidarity with Palestine.

Conference believes: 

  1. QMUL's actions intensify a widespread sectoral attack on pro-Palestinian voices, academic freedom and trade union organising.
  2. the rights to criticise and to protest are indispensable to higher education and the extent of freedom of speech and academic freedom in universities is a measure of democracy in society
  3. academics should heed Birzeit University's call to 'take concrete action to stop the genocidal war on the Palestinian people and to end Israeli settler colonialism'
  4. UCU has an important role to play in defending free speech on campuses. 

Conference resolves:

  1. coordinate with UCU branches and other trade unions to resist the increasing re-strictions placed on trade union organising and academic freedom by successive governments
  2. expand our resources and support for members who maintain 'critical distance from state-sponsored propaganda, and to hold the perpetrators of genocide and those complicit with them accountable' (Birzeit Open Letter)
  3. to encourage branches to challenge censorship by organising, sponsoring or otherwise supporting meetings and teach-ins on Palestine on campus, defying bans as necessary
  4. to provide resources to help branches resist the adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism and to campaign for rescinding it where it has been adopted
  5. to provide full support for every member threatened with disciplinary action whose only 'crime' is to speak out against Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians.

HE35  Demilitarise NOW! - Kings College London

Conference notes:

  1. UCU policy to demilitarise and democratise USS and HE
  2. International Court of Justice's ruling over Israel's plausible genocide in Gaza
  3. USS's refusal to review investment links with Israel
  4. USS invests in companies like BAE systems that profit from increased military spending on the war in Ukraine and Israel's assault on Gaza.

Conferences believes that:

  1. USS investments are complicit in western imperialism and Israeli war crimes
  2. ICJ ruling strengthens demands to demilitarise and democratise USS and HE.

Conference resolves for UCU to:

  1. launch a national 'Demilitarize NOW!' campaign to:
    1. review top 100 USS investments and campaign for divestment from companies profiting from war, occupation, borders and environmental destruction
    2. couple a USS demilitarised investment framework with reform of USS governance
    3. identify and publicise highly militarised HE institutions
    4. support branches to map and break links between their institution and militarisation.
Last updated: 3 June 2024