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University statutes

3 May 2007

In chartered institutions (pre-92 sector), university governance is set out in statutes. There is an employment statute covering redundancy, disciplinary, dismissal and grievance procedures which determine the procedures applying to staff covered by the statute. The employment statute will cover staff engaged in teaching and research and may also cover staff engaged in research, teaching and scholarship and academic-related staff.

A model employment statute was adopted by most chartered institutions in the late 1980s following the Education Reform Act.

The statues are pieces of legislation that can only be changed with agreement by the Privy Council.

In 2002 a working group of the UCEA/UUK, chaired by Professor Graham Zellick developed proposals to amend the university model employment statutes concerning redundancy, disciplinary, dismissal and grievance procedures.

The UCU (then AUT) made numerous representations to the working group, however, the final proposals - the 'Zellick' model - failed to address our major concerns.

The main concerns of the UCU with the Zellick model are that:

  • the right to appeal to an external party has been removed and this will impact adversely on academic freedom;
  • less favourable treatment is proposed for staff on fixed-term contracts in potential redundancy situations when fixed-term contracts come to an end;
  • the need for a redundancy committee is removed;
  • financial penalties are introduced for disciplinary cases;
  • the Zellick model contains very little detail - that is left to the ordinances which do not require approval by the Privy Council.

Despite our concerns, the Privy Council has indicated that it would find the proposed Zellick amendments acceptable, subject to the usual checking against requirements of general legislation and the statutory provisions governing higher education institutions.

Amendments to model statutes can only be made by application to the Privy Council by individual chartered institutions and there is no requirement on individual institutions to seek such changes.

Where changes are sought, it is our policy to oppose any statute revision unless there has been adequate and meaningful consultation on the nature of any changes and on the content of accompanying ordinances. UCU opposes any statute revision proposed to the Privy Council that does not retain the necessary protections for academic and academic related staff.

UCU (then AUT) produced negotiating guidance for local associations / branches in institutions where the employer is seeking to amend the current model statute. This advice, contained in LA/7526, 'Guidance on re-negotiating model statutes' was distributed in hard copy to local associations in September 2004. The guidance also contains an alternative, UCU, model statute which can be used in negotiations. Local associations/branches who are approached by their employer to discuss changes to their model statute should contact their UCU regional office for advice.

We have also noted the progress that was made by UMIST and Manchester LAs in negotiating a variant 'Employment Statute' for the new University of Manchester in 2004. Although based on the Zellick model, substantial improvements have been secured in the Manchester model due to the involvement of the UCU (then AUT).

These changes include:

  • a commitment to negotiate on future changes to this statute and related ordinances and regulations
  • an explicit application to academic and academic-related staff
  • a commitment to using open-ended contracts, with limited conditions specified for use of fixed-term contracts, in consultation with unions
  • the removal of the separate section on dismissal of fixed-term contracts
  • the introduction of a strategic committee for reviewing redundancy proposals made by the board of governors, which is obliged to consider alternative strategies and to take a pan-organisational view; and
  • appeals panels to have an external member.
Last updated: 23 July 2015