Heriot Watt UCU Rotating Header Image

Education Conference, 26 October 2017 – Hold the Date

UCU Scotland are hosting a conference on Thursday 26 October 2017 at the teaching and learning centre at the University of Strathclyde.  The full agenda is still being brought together but Professor John Holmwood from the Campaign for the Public University and the Scottish Commissioner for Fair Access, Professor Peter Scott, are confirmed and will be joined by other keynote speakers.  The conference will examine various issues including the purpose and funding of higher education in Scotland and academic freedom.  Further information on the conference and how to book will follow but if you’re interested in attending this conference please mark the date in your diary and e-mail mmathison@ucu.org.uk to ensure details on how to book are sent direct to you.

Heriot-Watt University petition – no compulsory redundancies

https://www.change.org/p/no-compulsory-redundancies-at-heriot-watt

On March 3, 2017 Heriot-Watt University announced plans to make 100 staff redundant – a saving of £4.5m and a reduction in 5 per cent of all staff employed at the Riccarton, Galashiels and Orkney campuses.

At the same time, the University also set out a two-year “recruitment chill”, which is likely to see a further 100 job losses due to the non-replacement of 100 staff. Furthermore, University management have repeatedly refused to rule out compulsory redundancies, despite the obvious impact on the student experience and the local economy.

The University have cited a “Brexit effect”, which had “created uncertainty affecting postgraduate uptake”, as well as “the UK government’s immigration policies and messaging” as key factors. However, last year alone they spent in excess of £9m on consultants. The University is proceeding with plans to fully convert the James Watt Centre into a learning and teaching facility at the cost of £4m and plans to refurbish the Edinburgh campus library at the cost of £6m – neither are likely to improve student experience if staff numbers drop by approximately 200 by the end of 2018.

UCU wants Heriot Watt to continue to be one of the best universities, and we want to support investment in the University. We want the University to withdraw the threat of compulsory redundancies, and to consult meaningfully with UCU and all the trade unions to avoid making unnecessary job cuts.

What about the students?

These job cuts will adversely affect the student experience and course quality and choice. We believe preserving the quality of the research and learning environment is key to creating a vibrant and innovative student experience.

But what can I do to help?

Please sign and widely share this petition, a petition that will be presented to University Court on 26 June 2017, and aimed at simply requesting the University refrain from making compulsory redundancies.

If you wish to express your concerns further, consider writing to your MP or MSP and/or email the University’s Principal, Professor Richard Williams, on R.A.Williams@hw.ac.uk.

https://www.change.org/p/no-compulsory-redundancies-at-heriot-watt

Academic freedom: a neglected right in the UK

A new report shows nearly a quarter of academics say they have been bullied because of their views and that the UK has significantly lower levels of protection for academic freedom when compared to other EU countries. The wide ranging survey was commissioned by UCU as part of our campaign to define and protect academic freedom in post-school education.

See here for full update including:

  • London Metropolitan University boycott: please support your colleagues
  • Further education campaign winning for members
  • Gender pay gap in higher education
  • Hope Not Hate: we stand with Manchester
  • Save Our Schools: protest in Brighton today
  • Defend jobs and education at Plymouth Marjon University

General election 2017: what are parties promising on education?

As we approach the general election on 8 June, UCU has taken a look at how some of the main UK political party manifestos stack up against UCU’s own priorities for the next government. Visit UCU’s policy comparison page to see how different parties fare on issues like education funding, adult learning, research and immigration.

Gender pay gap in HE – new UCU report

UCU’s 2015/16 higher education gender pay gap data report, shows that the gap remains at 12% for all academics. This is driven by a continuing gender imbalance among senior academics, with women making up more than half of early career academics but only 23% of professors at universities UK wide.

Change attitudes to avoid pensions bust-up

Sally Hunt, General Secretary of UCU, has written the following article for the THES to explain why employers must change their ‘counterproductive’ attitudes towards risk to avoid further cuts to academic pensions. It can also be found online via the THES website.

The past six years have been bad ones for members of the UK’s Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), the largest pension scheme in the higher education sector and one of the biggest private sector schemes in the UK. Twice have members seen the value of their pensions reduced and been asked to pay more for the privilege.

The reason is the valuation of the fund’s deficit by the USS, which uses methodology so prudently that it has become counterproductive and now stands in the way of efforts to retain benefits at a sustainable and attractive level.

Make no mistake, this is storing up fundamental problems in the academic labour market. Ten years ago, a report commissioned for Universities UK examined, among other things, the feasibility of having one pension scheme for academic staff rather than two. It concluded that a major barrier to any move of staff from the predominantly pre-92-based USS into the mainly post-92 Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS) was that the USS had superior benefits such as an earlier retirement age.

Now, after two damaging rounds of USS benefit cuts, the world has turned on its head. Research from First Actuarial, recently commissioned by the University and College Union, finds that while TPS members pay a little more in contributions, their cumulative pension benefits are far superior.

To give an example, a lecturer at the pre-92 University of Oxford, who makes normal progression up the national pay spine and retires after 30 years’ service, would receive about £150,000 less over the course of their retirement than a similar lecturer at post-92 Oxford Brookes University.

With pre and post-92 universities existing cheek by jowl in most major cities, this situation is repeated throughout the UK, so that we now have in effect a two-tier pensions system for academic staff, with those in the TPS doing best.

I commissioned the research because members have been telling me since 2015 that the rival pension packages now on offer are influencing their decisions about where to work and, having seen the figures for myself, I believe them.

I am sure that some of our most famous institutions will be as concerned as I am about the recruitment, retention and reputational issues this creates as the news that Russell Group and other pre-92 institutions pay out the lowest pensions in the sector permeates outwards.

Yet, while urgent action is needed to address the issue, if we are not careful the situation could be about to get even worse. The next estimate of the USS deficit is currently under discussion. The UCU has real concerns about the methodology used but nonetheless I do believe that it is possible to reach an agreement that will at least retain benefits for members without increasing costs for employers.

But to achieve that, employers need to move away a little from their own assessment of risk. The USS is fundamentally a healthy and growing scheme that has enough cash flow to pay benefits at the current level for the next 100 years. Similarly, the higher education sector itself, while buffeted no doubt by Brexit, has seen income continue to rise and staff costs as a proportion of its expenditure continue to fall.

Most importantly, in an extensive independent study of the pre-92 sector commissioned by the USS itself, the conclusion is that the sector is strong and stable for at least the next 30 years. The USS is so assertive about this that they have even put it in the information videos that they make for members.

To make it plain, a small adjustment to the risk that employers are prepared to take would allow the sector some breathing space.

I will now be seeking meetings with vice-chancellors in USS institutions and my message will be clear: if you are prepared to work with us to find a way to retain benefits and keep contributions as they stand then you will find a willing partner in the UCU.

While we will not hesitate to act to defend members’ interests, I will do everything in my power to reach an agreement which, at the very least, does not further worsen the competitive position of USS institutions compared with TPS ones. Given how important pensions are as part of the sector’s overall pay package, I hope that others will work with us to achieve that sensible aim.

Sally Hunt
UCU General Secretary

HWUCU EU Forum – March 22nd

Heriot-Watt UCU is starting a Forum for colleagues who feel that they will be adversely affected by Brexit. The first meeting will be held from 12.30 to 13.30 on Wednesday 22nd March in MB G20. The agenda will focus on how the Forum might be organised and what support we might seek from the University, and wider afield, to ensure that all our EU colleagues can feel more secure about their futures.

The Forum is open to colleagues who aren’t HWUCU members. 

HWUCU Branch Committee 

 

 

What Do Trade Unions Do?

The branch is running an information stall this week, Tuesday to Thursday from 12pm – 2pm, outside the student hub. We have also scheduled an informal meeting Why Join a Trade Union?, to explain what trade unions do and the benefits of UCU membership at Heriot Watt. We hope that this event will be of particular interest to postgraduate research students, post docs, early career starts and staff new to the UK, but all staff eligible to join UCU (grade 6 and above) are welcome. Please pop by the stall to say hello, and encourage any colleagues who are not members of a campus union to attend this special information event.

Why join a Trade Union?
Thursday 2nd March – 1.15pm @ Postgraduate Centre Room 102
https://www.hw.ac.uk/uk/edinburgh/map/18-postgraduate-centre.htm

  • James Richards (Branch President, UCU Heriot Watt) will give a background to Trade Unions in the UK and the work of the local branch at Heriot Watt.
  • Louise McGurk (Regional Support Official, UCU Scotland) will speak on the wider campaigning work of UCU in Scotland

There will be an opportunity for attendees to ask questions during the meeting, or afterwards on a one-to-one basis. Please feel free to pass this information on to RAs, postdocs and PGR students.

Thank you
HWUCU Branch Committee

The Future of Higher Education and UCU: UCU General Secretary Election Hustings

HWUCU branch committee would like to draw attention to a very important event in terms of the future of UCU and national campaigning.pp

Elections for UCU General Secretary and NEC begin 1st February and continue until 1st March. We would encourage all members to vote and have their say in the way the union is run. Higher education is undergoing profound change with the passage of the HE Teaching and Research Bill, the introduction of TEF along with other external influences including Brexit and threats to the freedom of movement of labour. Come and hear candidates for the General Secretary position and Vice President positions in UCU. All welcome.

 Edinburgh: Monday 6th Feb 12:00 noon
Room 50 George Square (G.05) University of Edinburgh http://www.ed.ac.uk/maps/maps?building=50-george-square

Candidates for General Secretary are:
Sally Hunt
Jo McNeill

Candidates for Vice President are:
Douglas Chalmers
Carlo Morelli

All candidates are invited. Where they are unable to attend in person we will seek to provide a conference call link and / or their election material.

pp Heriot Watt UCU Committee

Open Meeting Wednesday 21st December

The next General Meeting of the HWUCU will be on Wednesday 21st of December 2016 in the Post Graduate Centre room 1.02 (Confucius Centre).

Please forward to G.S.Bruce@hw.ac.uk , or your local Rep/ Committee member, any questions/ items that you wish to be considered for the Agenda.

Douglas Chalmers, President of UCU Scotland, will be speaking and there will also be an update from your Branch Officers on what the Branch has done in the past year and what is on the horizon for the year ahead.

At this meeting we will also be announcing the winner of the Branch Banner design competition, in which the Students at the Scottish Borders Textiles and Design department have been competing.

It would be appreciated for the purposes of  catering if you could indicate if you are going to attend. Please also feel free to bring along any colleague who may be interested in becoming a member.

Heriot Watt UCU Committee