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Open Letter to UEA VC re closure of counselling courses

UCU National Secretary Sally Hunt has written to Prof David Richardson, UEA Vice-Chancellor to express concern over the announced closure of counselling course at UEA.  She notes that the proposals would damage the education of existing students and significantly impact provision of counselling teaching in the region at a time when there is growing recognition of the need for more investment in mental health provision and education.


Letter to Prof D Richardson UEA


With the snap election just called, you might have thought that the current government’s Higher Education and Universities Bill was going to be delayed, but it looks as though they’re going to try to push it through next week before Parliament is prorogued. On 6 March the House of Lords voted for amendments to two of the most controversial features of the Government’s HE Bill: (1) the intention to link TEF to the ability to raise tuition fees, and (2) allowing new private providers degree-awarding powers without four years of validation by a university or approval by a quality assurance body. This was a rare instance of good news for our sector, and was the result of intense lobbying: from UCU, but also from concerned academics, students, parents, and others worried by the ramifications of these ill-conceived proposals.


With the final reading of the Bill looming, we cannot let up on the campaign now: the Lords were receptive to individuals raising their concerns, and when it returns to the House of Commons, we need to put pressure on our local MPs–especially for those of us who live in a constituency with a Conservative MP–to agree to these amendments. With the election foremost on MPs’ minds, they’ll be particularly likely to be attentive to their constituents’ concerns, especially where a university is so integral to the economic and cultural life of the area.


Make no mistake: the HE Bill as it currently stands is an existential threat to academic life in this country. And it is UCU that is fighting it: the representative bodies of university leaders, GuildHE and UUK, sent out a joint letter on 2 March ‘signalling [their] strong support’ for the Bill, so we cannot rely on our employers to defend British Universities.


Why go to conference?

Sitting in a windowless hall during a debate on the amendment of a motion, I wondered this.

And realised – it’s democracy in action, which isn’t always as exciting as it sounds!

UEA UCU President at conference

UEA UCU President Amanda Williams speaking to a motion

Like everything, there are good and bad bits.

Procedure, policy, rule changes.







But also networking, inspirational stories, different experiences.


Sheila Coleman


I’ve come back fortified by solidarity, and reminded of everything a union achieves, not just pay, but much, much more: improved, fairer working conditions and rights, highlighting the issues faced by those on casual contracts, or because of colour, gender, sexuality, or disability.





The incoming Trade Union Act means all members need to engage, not just the activists.


It’s our union, our voice, our vote.UCU mug your union your voice your vote

Message re strike action at UEA

As you will no doubt have seen, the UCU Higher Education Committee has announced strike action for 25-26 May, as part of the current pay campaign.  It also marks the start of working to contract.


This is after negotiations with the University and College Employers’ Association stalled, and members were balloted on both strike action and action short of a strike. Strike action was passed with 65.4% of the vote.


Strike action is always a last resort, and never taken lightly. Unfortunately, the Employers’ increased pay offer, from 1% to 1.1%, fell well short of the claim UCU had submitted, of 5%. It also falls short of the reported 3% pay increase that vice-chancellors and principals have enjoyed this year.

The headline figure of 5% may well seem rather high; however, it is part of a broader strategy to recoup some of the 14.5% real terms pay decrease the sector has experienced since 2009, due to sub-inflationary pay settlements since then. At a time when the HE sector is running a £1.85bn surplus, it seems only fair to recompense employees for their restraint on pay claims going seven years.


We should also recognise that whilst living costs in Norwich are comparatively low, UCU is bargaining at a national level, and people elsewhere in the country have been hit by a housing crisis that increases the cost of living well beyond the headline figures for inflation (CPI or RPI). Furthermore, any additional money we earn will go back into the local economy: if UEA, as a major employer in the region, takes leadership on this issue, the economic benefits will be felt throughout the community.


In his letter to staff, the Vice-Chancellor flags up individual points on the salary spine where staff will obtain pay increases over 1.1%. What UCU is attempting to secure is a good deal for all colleagues. Similarly, the VC notes incremental pay scales and discretionary awards, but incremental pay rises are not received by a substantial proportion of staff, whilst discretionary awards are, of course, discretionary, and as such hardly the basis for a national pay settlement. The VC also addresses the question of global competition and the student experience. We agree that this pay campaign is about Britain’s competitiveness in a global market: how can British Universities continue to attract the best academics from across the globe, and therefore provide the best education for our students, and the best reputation for our institutions, if continually eroding the pay and conditions of the profession nationally?

We strongly encourage all colleagues to participate in the action, and to stand in solidarity with those colleagues across the country for whom a 1.1% pay increase would simply exacerbate the cost of living crisis they have been subjected to since 2009. We will be organising picket lines, and will be delighted to have you join us.

We should also like to remind you that you are not obliged to tell your line manager that you are participating in strike action until after the action has started, and only if asked.

We too regret the fact that this strike action is going ahead, but if this is what is needed to obtain an adequate pay offer for our members, then we will have no choice but to take part in it, and hope that it brings about an equitable settlement as soon as possible.

You can find out more at the national website , contact the branch office at or follow us on Twitter @UEA_UCU.



War of Words – Progressive Media Conference Norwich Feb 20 2016

Had an excellent day at this conference.  Jotting down some notes:

@chrisjarvisdiy in opening speech “…skewered perceptions of reality become received wisdom”  – in a Trade Union context makes me think of the so-called union barons.

@natalieben talked about the importance of journalism starting at the local level.  Importance of local journalism is crucial in holding those in power to account.


Diversity of ownership for healthy press & society – uncovering corruption

Levison – NUJ had to appeal to take part.  They were the only means for anonymised, confidential voices from journalists to be heard

Drastic cuts in newspaper industry – union opposition not about wanting to preserve old ways of doing things, it’s about the value of good journalism – providing the analysis on stories, not just pumping out press releases.  Media owners used austerity as excuse to cut jobs.

Women in media

@Soph_vanderHam, @KCBobCut @_canndo

Bit depressing in the lack of progress, but the vibrant voices of the panel bear testament to the value women’s contributions can make in all areas.  Reflecting on trade unions, there are a lot of female voices.  Politics more widely – interesting point from Young green activist that men will often offer to do the outside facing roles such as being a candidate.   And observation that politics requires a lot of confidence – private schools instil that in their pupils.  Greens actively approach women to encourage them to stand – also aware of middle class domination & lack of BME women in the party.

Also noted the lack of working class women’s voices in media.


There were other sessions, it was a very rich day, in ideas and inspiration, thanks @NorwichRadical