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Support colleagues fighting back in FE!

Rachel Cohen (City University London)


Election address

I am Senior Lecturer in Sociology at City University London. Prior to joining City I was a Lecturer at Surrey and Fixed-Term Lecturer / Post-Doctoral Researcher at Warwick.

Union Service:
2005-           AUT/UCU member, UCU Left member
2006-2010   Warwick UCU Executive
2010-2013   Surrey UCU Executive
                    Branch Secretary 2011-12
                    South-East Region HE Chair 2011-2012
2013-           City UCU Executive

I know, from my own experience as well as from mountainous academic evidence, that strong trade unions make a huge positive difference to members and to society. Given the current onslaught from a government determined to impose market logic on HE and bring in private providers, a strong, united and active union offering an alternative vision of the purpose of education is essential. UCU has the capacity to be that union, but we have to organise.

Excellence / Performance Management

The hated REF is being supplemented by the TEF. Both formally identify 'excellence', but the logic of these ranking exercises is to reproduce the influence and power of elite institutions (and disciplines within these institutions) while identifying and encouraging market failure, thereby paving the way for alternative 'providers'.

Within our institutions the search for excellence has exacerbated the use of punitive performance management. Individually we face an increasing number and variety of targets. Since no-one can fully and consistently meet every target, we are all made vulnerable. 

Meanwhile, the likely end of HEFCE and de-funding of the research councils will dramatically reduce research capacity, especially in arts and social sciences where alternative funders are unavailable with potentially huge impacts for university organisational priorities.

Our university managers are preparing to make swingeing changes. We need to take the argument to them - clearly offering a sufficiently compelling alternative vision of education and developing support within our wider communities.

A member-led UCU

Our members include accountants, artists, computer-scientists, marketing experts, industrial relations and educational specialists among others. Members are regularly in the public eye: speaking and writing in the media. UCU will better represent us all if we develop ways of working that are inclusive, broaden the pool of UCU spokespeople and systematically incorporate our members' diverse skills and creativity in our campaigns.

Pay / Pensions

Like many, I was frustrated with recent pay and pension campaigns. Poorly coordinated national action is ineffective in achieving its aims, but also saps the strength of local branches and the activists who take part or have to 'sell' it, undermining local struggles. Conversely, well organised national campaigns build strength. I am standing for NEC because when we come to fight again, and we will have to, I want to be able to tell members that the action is well organised, coordinated and that we are fighting to win.

Last updated: 1 February 2016