Trevithick Teaching Star Competition:

The Anti-casualisation group was made aware of a scheme developed in the School of Engineering for post-doctoral researchers to gain teaching experience for which they are paid in the form of a travel grant, with extra funding for the award winner. This Trevithick Teaching Star Competition ran for the first time in the last academic year. We passed on members’ concerns about the principles and fairness of the scheme.


When the scheme was announced again this year, we met the new Head of School, Professor Jianzhong Wu, to reiterate our concerns and ask for teaching roles to be paid as a salary and not as a prize in the form of a travelling grant. Professor Wu acknowledged that the competition element of the scheme and its evaluation through student feedback could be problematic and is open to discuss a better solution with the union, although he commented that the School had received only positive feedback from those researchers who participated last year.


If any members of the School of Engineering are happy to discuss this with us, please let us know so that we can build a strong case for a fairer approach. If similar schemes are happening in other schools, please let us know.

Anti-casualisation meeting Monday 26th October 9.30-10.30am:

The anti-casualisation working group will be holding an online meeting on Monday 26th October at 9.30 to 10.30am to provide an update on the current situation, collective consultations on redundancies, and the Teaching Delivery Governance group.

The meeting will be held on Zoom and is open to all UCU members. You can join on the following link:

All members four fights discussion:

In July, UCU members voted to reject the current offer from UCEA, as the latest step in our Four Fights dispute. We have an upcoming HE Special Sector conference, which was called to consider the union’s response to the attack on jobs, pay, and conditions resulting from the actions of employers during the Covid-19 pandemic. These issues, each exacerbated by the pandemic, relate directly to those at the heart of the Four Fights dispute, and the discussions at the conference will impact what we do next as a sector.

How should we continue our fight for secure work, reasonable workloads, and fair and equal pay? What different types of industrial action are available to us, and what kinds of leverage would we have with these different actions? What might an escalation strategy look like, and how can we resource sustained action?

The University of Sheffield UCU and Sheffield Hallam UCU branches are hosting an online discussion of all of these issues, centred around three questions:

1. Should UCU ballot for industrial action now (or very soon)? If so, what type of industrial action?

2. How do we advance our Four Fights campaign at a UK-wide level (either in parallel with a ballot or separate to that)?

3. How can we coordinate UK-wide campaigning with local branch work (particularly given attacks on casualised jobs during Covid)?

This discussion will take place on 3 September, from 5-7pm. We welcome activists from all branches, and we want to encourage participation from as many members as possible.

Register to attend here. Zoom login info will be set to participants on the morning of the event.

Don’t Forget To Vote:

There is just over a week to go for UCU members to vote in the consultation on the final “four fights” offer made by UCEA on behalf of higher education employers.

This is a very important e-ballot and it is crucial that all of our members use their democratic right to vote.

The “four fights” are pay, gender and race pay gaps, workload, and casualised work.

The UCEA offer is here.

National UCU negotiators believe that the current offer represents “significant movement” on three (pay inequality, workload, and casualised work) of the four fights, but “falls short on the fullest extent of our demands”.

Our negotiators decided to consult members. Their statement can be found here.

The UCU Higher Education Committee (HEC) are advising the offer should be rejected.

The ballot itself contains further information from UCU negotiators on why the offer should be rejected.

All members eligible to vote should have received an email from CES (Civica Election Services) with a unique link to vote.

If you did not receive your e-ballot, click here.

The ballot will close next week, at noon on Wednesday 29th July 2020. 

Further legal guidance from UCU: action short of a strike (ASOS), “voluntary duties”, and how to refuse them

UCU General Secretary Jo Grady this week released the following guidance:
“Following our strike action in higher education branches last year, UCU members have been taking ASOS. A number of you have asked me how you can use ASOS to help the union achieve its objectives, and specifically which ‘voluntary duties’ we are asking you not to perform. UCU has now produced detailed, updated guidance based on legal advice about the range of activities you may be able to refuse to undertake.
Industrial disputes are about more than picket lines and there are plenty of other ways you can join in and increase our leverage. This guidance should allow you to take a more expansive approach to ASOS and increase the pressure on employers to address the issues which we are in dispute over.

In particular, we are asking you to withdraw, where possible, from activities relating to the REF, TEF, the new Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF), and the National Student Survey (NSS). 

These activities are important to employers but they damage our sector. They rely on inappropriate metrics of ‘quality’ that create perverse incentives and prevent us from doing the front line teaching, research and professional services work that really matters. Exercises like the REF tend to increase our workloads, waste money that could be invested in staff, and exacerbate our anxiety and insecurity by subjecting us to unfair, unhelpful performance management procedures. Often our involvement in these activities is voluntary. It’s time to challenge the unsustainable ‘goodwill economy’ which our employers depend on to make them work.

Please talk to your colleagues and fellow members about the activities you are withdrawing from and publicise what you are doing as much as possible via social media, using the #UCUASOS hashtag.”

Action Short of a Strike (ASOS) guidance and bilingual automatic email notification:

We have collated info about how to engage with, and sustain, our current Action Short of a Strike (ASOS)

Members’ observation of ASOS is going to be very important to our success in the current dispute. “Working to contract” is an especially powerful tool, given that one of the things we’re striking about are the mental health effects of unsustainable workloads. One powerful way of our members can signal their continued ASOS is by using an automatic reply to all emails to let the receiver know what’s going on, and what this might mean for them.
We encourage members to use or adapt this one:

Diolch am eich e-bost.
Rwy’n gweithio i gontract fel rhan o weithred sy’n brin o streic UCU dros gynllun pensiwn yr USS a’n tâl a’n hamodau. Mae hyn yn golygu mai dim ond yr oriau y telir amdanynt y byddaf yn gweithio (37 awr yr wythnos) ac na fyddaf yn gweithio gyda’r nos nac ar benwythnosau – ac felly efallai y bydd oedi yn fy ymateb i’ch e-bost.
Disgwylir y bydd aelodau UCU yn ‘gweithio i gontract’ tan Ebrill 2020. I darganfod mwy darllenwch yr erthygly fyr hon gan Ysgrifennydd Cyffredinol UCU, Dr. Jo Grady, neu gwyliwch y fideo NUS-UCU ar y cyd hon.
Cysylltwch â’r Is-Ganghellor Colin Reardon i ddarganfod pa gamau y mae’r Brifysgol yn eu cymryd i osgoi anghydfod. Gallwch anfon e-bost ato yma:
Dymuniadau gorau


Thank you for your email.
I am working to contract as part of UCU’s action short of a strike over the USS pension scheme and our pay and conditions. This means that I will only be working the hours that I am paid for (37 hours per week) and will not be working in the evenings or at the weekends -and so there may be a delay in my response to your email.

It is expected that UCU members will be ‘working to contract’ until April 2020. To find out more you can read this short article by UCU General Secretary, Dr. Jo Grady, or watch this joint NUS-UCU video.

Please do contact Vice-Chancellor Colin Reardon to find out what steps the University is taking to avoid a dispute. You can email him here:

Information on Action Short of Strike (ASOS):

The focus is now on Action short of Strike (ASOS) and keeping pressure on Cardiff University by working to contract. Under the ASOS mandate UCU asks members to:

  • work to contract
  • not cover for absent colleagues
  • not reschedule lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
  • not undertake any voluntary activities.

It is worth familiarising yourself with the extensive guidance on ASOS on the UCU action centre webpage:

UCU Strike 2019: Summary of key issues

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at sixty universities in the UK, including Cardiff University, will be engaging in a wave of 8 days of strike action from Monday 25th November to Wednesday 4th December followed by ‘action short of a strike’ which involves strictly working to contract, not covering for absent colleagues, and refusing to reschedule lectures lost during the strike action. Continue reading