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Reading University defends £2.6m marketing spend

An article from The Reading Chronicle reveals that Reading University spent £2.6m on its PR and marketing department last year — including £170,000 on advertising. Read the article here:


“Working Ourselves To Death…

… Discourses of Attachment and Overwork in the Economy of Academic Labour”

A blog post for CSTOnline by Catherine Johnson (University of Nottingham) that may just be of interest to readers of the Reading UCU blog. Enjoy it here: 

RUCU letter to Council

As part of our campaign to save Statutes and protect employment rights and academic freedom at Reading, the RUCU Committee has written to every member of Council in advance of their meeting on 21 November 2014. Below is the text of the email we sent (with some slight differences in wording on the one to members who are university employees).

Dear XX

We, the Reading branch of the University and College Union (UCU), wanted to make you, as member of Council at the University of Reading, aware that staff at the University have serious concerns about the proposed changes to Statutes, Ordinances and procedures.

Both academic and academically-related staff members’ concerns are that these proposed changes are not simply a case of small tweaks and ‘refreshing’ of existing procedures, but a wholesale transformation of employment procedures that will result in less protection for staff and limited powers of appeal, and therefore adversely affect all (both academic and academically-related) staff.

Colleagues are particularly worried about the prospect of governance of staff becoming a matter of policies which can be changed at any time without proper consultation and negotiation with staff and UCU. Either the status of such policies would have to be a lot more binding, permanent and secure and the procedures, including appeals, a lot more sound, or Statutes would need to be retained. Colleagues are unhappy at the prospect of finding themselves having to sign a new employment contract which will strengthen the University’s claims on the outputs of their work, creativity, energy and intellectual endeavor, when in exchange for that they end up with a lot less protection from arbitrary governance on the part of the University.

This month, we conducted a quick-response anonymous online survey. In just one week, 175 members of Reading staff participated, and the results are telling:

· 91% of respondents think that the changes will worsen their job security;
· 86% think they will undermine their academic freedom;
· 97% think they will make it easier to fire academic and academic-related staff;
· 98% think they will make it easier to impose redundancies on academic and academic-related staff;
· 89% do not think they have been adequately explained by the University management;
· 86% do not think they have been proposed for good reasons;
· 67% think they will make them more likely to look for a job elsewhere;
· and
· 91% of respondents are against the proposed removal of Statutes.

The opportunity to add further comments was also taken by staff, and responses include:

· “I am particularly concerned regarding the ill health parts of the Statutes – from personal experience I feel it is vital that a medical professional is involved in discussions regarding fitness to work etc.”
· “Laying down the conditions that enable academics to produce ground breaking research and offer innovative teaching is a delicate business. The importance of academic freedom and job security should not be overlooked. Without these in place, I think will become – despite myself – restrained in my thinking. The changes may well produce a timid and limited workforce. Heavy handed management does not produce world leading research, and does not help young people exceed their perceived potential…”
· “Academic freedom is only meaningful when backed up by proper Statutes. These proposals effectively abolish academic freedom, and are strongly against the long term interests of the university, as well as its academic staff. They are a disgrace and demonstrate that our leaders are out of touch with reality.”
· “I am saddened that the university management seems hell bent on eroding all good will with its staff. There seems a lack of awareness that if good staff are the backbone of a university and a disgruntled staff with low morale and high staff turnover will be the most detrimental thing for this university. I personally think some minor revision of Statutes and simplifying of some procedures is warranted but not what is delivered by the changes that are being imposed.”
· “To me this is all part of the neo-liberal drive to make higher education an obedient producer of ‘skilled’ consumers, not critical thinkers, and with work conditions for staff to boot: that they can be got rid of if their work is too critical or just if this is not about profit-production for the pay of the management.”
· “Senior management’s motivations for attempting to amend Statutes are laughably obvious – it is in order to ease the path to large-scale redundancies in the next couple of years in order to ‘save money’ (and boost their own performance-related pay, no doubt…).”
· “I fully agree that the proposals are not up to scratch and will enable an already bullying HR to treat undesirable staff as though dispensable. Better protections should be added for ALL staff, not just academics. The University should be trying to lead the way in enlightened peoples management, not treating its staff as corporate dogs-bodies.”
· “With morale so low, this proposal will make a bad situation even worse and inevitably impact of students. Reading already has a reputation as a poor employer and this action will further damage its image.”
· “These changes are unconscionable. The protections they mean to take away were put in place for good reason and must be preserved. A 19-day “consultation period” at the start of the academic year is totally and deliberately inadequate. Attempting to pass off these changes as an enhancement to academic freedom is shameful.”
· “The management has given inadequate notice for staff engagement, and together with all the other proposed and in train changes we are experiencing, this is totally unacceptable.”
· “Such changes undermine morale for all staff.”

We feel it is vital that we bring these serious concerns about these fundamental matters to your attention for the meeting of Council on 21 November 2014.

The proposed changes would remove oversight of the procedures by Council in many cases, which is based on assumptions by University management that Council would approve of this and does not wish to be involved in the day-to-day activity of the University. We ask you as a member of Council to consider what your views are on this, and to articulate them on 21 November.

The University’s Statutes have been revised many times over the years, and are by no means antiquated and obsolete. Indeed, the rights and protections enshrined in our Statutes put us in good company; Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Oxford, Queen Mary, UCL and other universities include virtually identical provisions in their Statutes. This is something that University should take pride in, not seek to discard.

We call on Council members to reject the currently proposed changes and to refer them back for reconsideration. We also urge the Council to mandate a proper staff consultation period when any revised proposals are brought forward.

Reading UCU

Results of our recent online survey on the proposed changes to Statutes

This month, we conducted a quick-response anonymous online survey. In just one week, 175 members of Reading staff participated, and the results are telling:

  • 91% of respondents think that the changes will worsen their job security;
  • 86% think they will undermine their academic freedom;
  • 97% think they will make it easier to fire academic and academic-related staff;
  • 98% think they will make it easier to impose redundancies on academic and academic-related staff;
  • 89% do not think they have been adequately explained by the University management;
  • 86% do not think they have been proposed for good reasons;
  • 67% think they will make them more likely to look for a job elsewhere;


  • 91% of respondents are against the proposed removal of Statutes.

Reading UCU will use this information in its continued fight against the proposed changes. If you haven’t already, join the campaign!

USS action information for HoDs/HoSs

Dear RUCU members,

I understand that during the last couple of days there have been meetings between managers (i.e. Heads of School) and HR to determine how to ‘manage’ this industrial action, how to reallocate marking, examining and so on.  HR seem to be labouring under the assumption that only the physical act of marking or setting examinations is affected by this industrial action.  That is not true, the action includes ALL aspects of the process, including all administration work associated with formal assessment. That includes allocation (or reallocation) of marking and examining.  This is detailed in the attached UCU briefing note, and I have checked with UCU Head Office today that is still the case.

I quite understand that this may put some managers who are UCU members in a difficult position.  If you would like to discuss this further, please can you let Anne know ( and we will arrange a discussion meeting one lunchtime.

Best wishes,

Paul Hatcher

RUCU President

UUK obstinacy has forced UCU marking boycott | Opinion | Times Higher Education

UUK obstinacy has forced UCU marking boycott | Opinion | Times Higher Education.


Not sure what they mean? Not worried about their implications? Not convinced that they affect you?

The proposed changes to statutes, ordinances and procedures will affect ALL staff on a University contract (academic AND academically-related). It is vitally important that staff register their concerns and challenge these proposals before it is too late!

If we don’t engage in this process and challenge it, we will all be adversely affected. The proposals are not simply a case of small tweaks and ‘refreshing’ of existing procedures, but a wholesale transformation of employment procedures (including disciplinary, ill health, grievance, performance management and restructuring procedures), which will result in less protection for staff and limited powers of appeal.

Here are just a few specific examples of what the proposed changes will entail.

Disciplinary procedures 

  • Unclear who decides when a disciplinary action needs to be taken, or with what evidence.
  • Existing panel reviews will be removed, so there will be very limited external oversight.
  • You won’t have the right to bring a companion (e.g. a Union Rep) to an investigative interview (the University may allow you to bring a companion if it helps you to overcome any disability, or any difficulty in understanding English).
  • You won’t have the right to cross-examine witnesses.
  • No protection for academic freedom, no mention that it needs special consideration, and no independent person on any appeals hearing.
  • Some of the actions that would lead to instant dismissal for ‘gross misconduct’ are academic freedom issues.

Performance management 

  • Performance issues will be based on failure to meet undefined criteria. In contrast, current Statutes refer to breaches of acceptable performance, ie. ‘offences’.
  • No mention of the right to legal representation (originally in Statute 29:2(a)).

Restructuring /redundancy 

  • When fewer than 10 staff are affected, one person (eg. a Dean) can oversee the process. Currently, a panel must be set up and UCU consulted when 6 people are affected.

Ill health 

  • No medically qualified person involved on the appeals committee. In the past, appeal hearings at least were chaired by a medically-qualified person. This protection is removed completely.

…and these are just a few examples! Mmmm, ok, one more, for the road:

  • The proposed new procedures ‘may be amended at any time.’ This includes varying procedures for individual cases. There is no security in what happens and how it happens.

Do you think employment law will protect you? 

Sadly, employment law does not dictate that any set of procedures has to be followed. And academic freedom is not mentioned anywhere in UK employment law or ACAS guidelines.

Are you (more) worried now? You should be – and you should also take some action.


Raise your questions and concerns! You can do this in a number of ways.

  • Talk to your line manager – raise your concerns and ask what the changes would mean for you and your team.
  • Ask an HR representative to meet with your department or section to explain the proposals and any changes to current policies – share your concerns and ask questions. The following questions might help to start the discussions:

– Where have the Statutes gone? What will replace them?

– What are the key differences between the old and new procedures? What protections will we lose?

– Can you tell me more about…? [Take your pick from the specific examples listed overleaf!]

  • Raise the issue at all relevant meetings you attend – let’s keep this issue at the top of the agenda so management can’t say staff are not concerned about it.
  • Take part in the official consultation (deadline 3 November). Further information and links to the relevant documents can be found here Submit your questions and concerns to, copied to RUCU administrator Anne Ketley
  • Register your concerns with the President of the Council, Mr Christopher Fisher. Council is the University’s executive governing body and is ultimately responsible for managing the University’s estate, finance and staff. Management’s proposals for changes to Statutes have to go to Council on 21 November, so it’s important that Council are aware of the concerns and questions of staff. Send an email to, copied to RUCU administrator Anne Ketley You could use the following wording:

Dear Mr Fisher, 

I wanted to make you, as President of Council at the University of Reading, aware that I have concerns about the proposed changes to statutes, ordinances and procedures. 

My concerns are that these proposed changes are not simply a case of small tweaks and ‘refreshing’ of existing procedures, but a wholesale transformation of employment procedures that will result in less protection for staff and limited powers of appeal, and therefore adversely affect both academic and academically-related staff. 

I would be grateful if you could take note of these concerns for the meeting of Council on 21 November 2014. 

Yours sincerely 

  • For staff on grade 1-5, in addition to the above, contact your Staff Forum representative. These changes will affect both academic AND academically-related staff, so raise any concerns and questions you have. Details of Staff Forum representatives are here:

Get involved in the campaign 

  • If you are not a member, join the union and get involved in the campaign: 
  • Keep up-to-date with the latest news and campaign actions here on the RUCU blog. If you want to join the campaigns team, please contact our branch administrator:
  • Show your support! Complete the forthcoming online survey: details will be circulated soon.

False assumptions of the USS | Letters | Times Higher Education

False assumptions of the USS | Letters | Times Higher Education.

Save our Statute!

The University is removing your rights as an academic

You will be aware that the University of Reading management wish to remove the current statute and replace the section that provides additional safeguards and employment protection for academic staff with much weaker policies. The additional protection within statute is recognised the world over and seen as necessary to avoid institutional infringement of academic freedom. However, the management at Reading see this extra protection as a bureaucratic burden that stands in the way of their ability to more easily dismiss academic staff. That is a stark truth that is borne out by even the most liberal reading of the management proposals.

What is the model statute?

The model statute or employment statute are internal rules that govern the procedures for dismissals and grievances of academic staff (and academic-related staff in some institutions). They have legal standing and can only be changed by an application to the Privy Council. Most chartered institutions still retain an employment statute based on the model developed by the Education Commissioners in the early 1990s. This model came about as a consequence of the Education Reform Act 1988 that introduced the idea of redundancies for academic staff – prior to that many academic staff enjoyed an element of tenure.

The reason that academic (and sometimes academic-related) staff are covered by the model statute is to recognise the importance of academic and related staff being able to exercise academic freedom without fear of dismissal. Thus the procedures are an attempt to ensure that any dismissals and grievances considered are undertaken in a transparent way with peer involvement and checks against infringements of academic freedom.

What protection does it offer?

The current model statute features:

  • detailed provisions within the statute itself – so it cannot be changed without approval by the Privy Council
  • academic freedom listed as a guiding principle
  • a redundancy committee – including academic staff – to be established by Council if management wish to make any academic (and related) staff redundant. The Committee must report back to Council
  • the need for a Tribunal – including a member of academic staff – to be established in cases of alleged serious breaches of discipline or capability
  • the right to representation, including legal representation at a Tribunal hearing
  • the right to a hearing by a Board – including a jointly agreed medically qualified Chair – for cases of dismissal on medical ground
  • the right to appeal against dismissal or disciplinary sanctions to a person who holds, or has held, judicial office or is a lawyer of at least 10 years’ standing. That person can decide to sit with 2 other persons – 1 being a member of Council not employed by the institution and 1 being a member of academic staff nominated by Senate
  • the right to representation, including legal representation, at appeal
  • the right to have a grievance heard by a panel including a member of academic staff.

Why are employers trying to change it?

Many employers are now seeking to make changes to the current model statute because they see the existing protection as old fashioned, cumbersome and restrictive on their ability to be ‘flexible’. Many see it as interfering with their right to manage and believe that current employment law is sufficient to protect our members and their right to academic freedom. UCU accepts that some changes would be desirable. However, we do not want to see these made at the expense of our members’ current terms and conditions.

In short, most employers want the provisions by which they dismiss academic (and related) staff to be streamlined, less restrictive and brought into line with other groups of staff. They also want to be able to change them without having to go to  the Privy Council and many want procedures to be removed from Council and Senate oversight. Of course, many just want to make it easier to dismiss our members.

The things that are important to protect and why

The need to go to Privy Council to make changes (i.e. to maintain protections in the statute itself), the involvement of academic peers in panels, the oversight by Council of redundancies, the need for a redundancy committee, the right to representation by any person and the right to an external independent appeal, are all measures to protect the academic freedom of academic (and related) staff and are therefore important to fight to retain. It is especially important in the current financial climate that these protections exist to ensure that academic freedom is not compromised when management decisions are taken.

It is usual for more detailed provisions to be found in ordinances, regulations or locally agreed procedures but having the main principles in statute offers additional protection for academic and related staff.

The way ahead

It is possible for management to work in partnership with UCU to amend the current statute but it is important that university management understands UCU’s position and how changes to the statute can threaten academic freedom. However, heavy handed attempts to detrimentally alter the statute can expect to be met with resistance from UCU.

What You Can Do

  • Talk to your UCU branch about what is being proposed by your institution. Contact
  • Talk to your colleagues about any threats to your current terms and conditions and to academic freedom.
  • Assist in any campaign being run by the branch in whatever way you are able. Contact
  • Make sure your employer knows how you feel about the issue.
  • Raise the proposed changes at any appropriate meetings and explain to others why they represent a threat to academic and academically related staff at the institution.
  • Keep yourself informed and WATCH THIS SPACE.

University of Warwick latest to criticise pension plans as university splits deepen

originally posted on:

The University of Warwick is today the latest institution to break rank and criticise the universities’ umbrella group Universities UK over its handling of changes to university staff pensions.

In a response to UUK’s proposals released to University of Warwick staff, the Russell Group institution criticises the lack of options put forward by UUK and says it would have liked to have seen a number of different scenarios.

It questions how attractive the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) will look when put alongside schemes at other universities, which are also undergoing reform. It also complains that staff at the UK’s most elite institutions who aspire to do well will be penalised the most under the changes.

Warwick is one of 69 universities that could face industrial action in a row over changes to USS after members of UCU overwhelmingly backed industrial actionearlier this week.

Warwick says it wants a compromise that leaves a scheme capable of attracting and retaining ‘the talent needed to sustain the university’s development in the future. Modelling done by UCU showed how radical changes to USS would leave members worse off than their contemporaries at other institutions.

UCU’s higher education committee is meeting this afternoon to discuss recent talks between the union and employers over the changes and will decide whether or not to call strike action. If the committee does back industrial action, an announcement on what form that action would take and when it would start will be made on Monday morning.

The University of Warwick is not the first to break rank and criticise UUK. Last week the University of Oxford described a briefing from the Employers Pension Forum (a group set up by UUK) as misleading.

Yesterday a group of statisticians said assumptions used by the employers in a separate briefing contained ‘misinformation and a mistake‘ and were not adequately justified. The employers had previously removed a whole section from a different briefing after it was revealed they had misused statistics.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘The list of people who are unhappy with the employers’ proposed changes to staff pensions grows by the day. Universities are now starting to break rank and express their concerns over the process, the limited options available and their damaging impact.

‘We are not surprised institutions have these fears as we share them. We would encourage other universities to go public with their concerns and lobby UUK to engage in meaningful negotiations with us about how we can improve the pension scheme and ensure it remains attractive to members and potential members.’

Universities UK wants to end the final salary element of the scheme for all USS members and move them to a career average (career revalued benefits or CRB) scheme. Under this model members would receive CRB benefits only up to a salary threshold of £50,000. After they hit the threshold, employers will pay only 12 per cent of income into a defined contribution scheme, which shifts the risk to scheme members, and would rely on successful investments.