Build the Union

UCU - Organising in Oxbridge

11 July 2013 | last updated: 15 January 2018

Oxbridge is different. Not in the way the university managements like to think perhaps, but even for UCU organising at these universities presents particular challenges. Both are very decentralised universities with heavy concentrations of researchers, particularly in sciences, struggling for stable career paths in 'elite' institutions. So the trick for UCU's activists in Oxford and Cambridge has been to try to adapt their work to these realities.

In the last couple of months, both local associations have also been working to adapt the recruitment and organising initiatives at the heart of the Build the Union campaign to the different structures and membership profiles at their universities. With national support, the two associations have made a big push to recruit new local contacts and have enjoyed considerable success. Over the last couple of months, Cambridge have recruited 9 new contacts. The branch, assisted by National Organiser Ronnie Kershaw, have been organising meetings with their new contacts to discuss how they can best support the branch and will be organising a short training session in September on raising UCU's local profile.

At Oxford, the branch have been working to raise their profile with a new Facebook site. As we saw in a recent post, they're also mapping their potential membership to support a sustained recruitment campaign and have been similarly successful in recruiting new contacts. A recent letter from the president asking for volunteers resulted in  9 members coming forward to support the local association, in addition to other volunteers in the last couple of months. Like Cambridge, the association is organising a short meeting and training session for its new volunteers. Critically important, according to membership secretary Chloe Jeffries, has been the way the Oxford association have sought to recruit contacts at organizational levels that make sense in the Oxford context: colleges, buildings, projects or labs.

If you're interested in getting national support for efforts to recruit new contacts, email for more details.