Ballot of UCU members at Northumbria University

An industrial action ballot of UCU members at Northumbria University opens today, 24th February.


A meeting of almost 200 Northumbria UCU members on 26th January made it clear that many members were deeply concerned about the university’s intention to unilaterally impose changes to academic roles, terms and conditions.


These concerns relate to the proposed new roles of both ‘Teaching Fellow’ (with 50% less teaching preparation time, and no opportunity for research) and ‘Assistant Professor’ (with an increased emphasis on producing high quality research outputs).


Before and since this meeting the branch officers and regional official Iain Owens have been seeking assurances from senior managers and HR that the terms and conditions of these roles would be subject to collective bargaining and negotiation. Only this guarantees ‘one contract’ for ‘one university’. Only this preserves the opportunities and flexibility of current terms and conditions as derived from the full range of duties of the agreed Teaching & Scholarship role descriptors (as per the University’s signature to the 1992 national contract and 2006 Pay Modernisation Framework agreement).  And only this prevents what UCU members do not want or deserve: a divisive, two-tier system, with some overburdened by effectively teaching only roles, while others depend on research success for their position.


As management have refused to negotiate with UCU we have not seen the details of how these new roles will be implemented but some facts have become clear:

  1. Current Lecturers and Senior Lecturers will be offered annual reviews to ‘enable’ them to transition to a new role
  2. Assistant Professor roles will be subject to research targets and performance management
  3. The role will change for those are unable to transition – in as yet unspecified ways


These points have been put clearly and repeatedly to senior management but have not as yet received a satisfactory response. Enough is enough. Members joined Northumbria University to undertake a balance of teaching, research and administration on secure terms and conditions. Members didn’t join to be Teaching Fellows or Assistant Professors with an uncertain future. So, in accordance with the branch meeting we are asking members to vote YES for action.


The industrial action short of a strike will take the form of working to contract, not covering for absent colleagues, with possible escalation to a marking boycott.


If you are a UCU member at Northumbria University and do not receive your ballot paper by Thursday 3rd March please contact Emma Alexander