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Information for Students

For Students: What is UWE UCU and why are we engaged in industrial action? 

What is UWE UCU?

We are university staff and members of the University and College Union (UCU) trade union. We teach you, support you, guide you and do the research you rely on.  

UCU is a trade union that brings together university staff from across the country. UWE UCU is the UWE branch of the UCU trade union. Trade unions represent people at work and aim to improve pay and conditions. You will probably have heard in the news about trade union strikes across the country. This reflects an environment where decision-makers and managers have failed to invest in and maintain essential infrastructure that enables businesses to operate effectively and safely. Workers are exhausted because they are the ones forced to work extra hours and with additional stress when the environment in which they are working is falling apart. This is why you are seeing industrial action across the country.

Why is UWE UCU engaged in industrial action? 

We are engaged in industrial action over our working conditions, including UWE’s reliance on temporary contracts for teaching and UWE’s discriminatory treatment of some members of staff, as well as over the problem of falling pay.  

You have probably noticed that the University has difficulties with basic functions such as registering students, registering students in the correct modules, providing accurate timetables in a timely manner that meet student and staff needs, etc. These problems have been going on for years and growing worse over time. The reason for this fundamental dysfunction is that UWE’s decision-makers have chosen not to employ enough staff to do this essential work and have instead spent their funds hiring more managers to tell us that the work needs to be done even though we aren’t allocated enough time to do it. Under these conditions staff that know the university well have been leaving – and this loss of institutional knowledge due to mismanagement makes it even harder to get the work done.

Our industrial action is being undertaken to bring UWE’s decision-makers to their senses and to get them to staff the university appropriately so that our working conditions are acceptable, so that UWE doesn’t rely on temporary contracts, and so that UWE treats all members of staff fairly. While falling pay is also a problem, it is only a part of the reason we are engaged in industrial action.

Our industrial action has included: going on strike which means that we refuse to work, engaging in the marking and assessment boycott, and action short of a strike, which is also known as working to contract.

All of these actions are taken so that university bosses will have to listen to us, so that university functions are resourced appropriately in order to achieve the university’s purpose which is to educate you, the students, and to empower you to achieve all of your goals, and so that we can find a resolution to this dispute.

Why should students support our industrial action? 

Our working conditions are your learning conditions. University staff are struggling with excessive workloads, discriminatory pay gaps and insecure jobs. This is in addition to the cost of living crisis which affects everybody – and encourages the University’s employees to seek work outside the sector where the pay is better. This affects our ability to teach and support you.

Students and staff deserve better than this and it doesn’t have to be this way. Income in the university sector is higher than ever and keeps increasing but the proportion spent on staff has decreased. Bosses have chosen to spend on buildings and on hoarding reserves rather than on what would help the staff and students. UWE is a prime example of this behaviour.

A better university sector is possible, but we need to stand together. UCU campaigned alongside the NUS against tuition fees and we still believe in a fully funded higher education system freely available to all.

How can you show your support? 

  • Contact UWE’s Vice-Chancellor, Sir Steve West, at steven.west@uwe.ac.uk and let him know you support the staff and their industrial action.
  • Visit our picket lines and let us know you are with us.
  • Post support using #ucuRISING on social media.