UCU Edinburgh represents academic and academic-related staff at the University of Edinburgh.  UoE grades 6-10 and postgraduates are eligible to join UCU Edinburgh.  We work with other unions on campus as part of the Joint Unions Liaison Committee

What’s On



UCUE Statement on Respectful Dialogue and Trans Rights

A university is and must be a place where difficult and sometimes uncomfortable topics are discussed.  It is also a place where robust opposition to such events can and must be allowed to be aired.

The event, “Women’s Sex-Based Rights: what does (and should) the future hold?”, which is being hosted by the University’s Institute for Education, Teaching and Leadership is such an event which has both support and has caused concern amongst staff and students.

UCU locally, at Scotland and at UK level fully supports Transgender Rights.  Locally we have also passed a motion calling for ‘respectful dialogue on sex and gender’ .

We would like to remind everyone that the University also has a Dignity and Respect policy and a trans equality policy which UCU supports and ask that everyone treats each other with appropriate levels of dignity and respect.

General Secretary Hustings (video)

21 May 2019, with Jo McNeill and Jo Grady (Matt Waddup was unavailable to to family commitments). With apologies for sound and video quality – this had to be recorded via a laptop webcam after the technology in the room failed.

(Please note that this is temporarily hosted on a personal YouTube account so we could make it available quickly.  We’ll move it when time allows.)


Nominations are now open for UCU Edinburgh committee roles and ordinary membership. We encourage colleagues to put themselves forward for the following roles: President, Vice President, Secretary, Secretary, Treasurer, Communications, Equality and Diversity, Anti-Casualisation, Health and Safety, Casework Coordinator, Membership, Green rep, and International staff rep. The term of office is one year. Training and support for the various roles will be provided, and facility time – buy-out time or extra paid time for part-time staff – is available in varying degrees for some of the roles
(contact ucu@ed.ac.uk for specific info).
We also invite nominations for ordinary membership in the committee. The local committee can have up to twenty-four ordinary members. If you have any questions about ordinary committee membership, feel free to contact any committee member to discuss this in confidence and with no obligation, or get in touch with ucu@ed.ac.uk.
There are many sections of the University which are not represented in committee at the moment. So we particularly encourage members from the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, and the College of Science of Engineering to get involved.

Completed nomination forms must be either delivered to the UCU office, 12 Buccleuch Street, or scanned and sent electronically to ucu@ed.ac.uk by 5 PM on Wednesday, May 22, 2019. You can download nomination forms by clicking on this link.

Addressing Workload At The University of Edinburgh

What are WAMs and why do they matter?

When members are asked what the branch should prioritise, workload is always one of the top responses. This year, a lot of UCUE effort has been focused on addressing the workload allocation models (WAMs) used in many parts of the University to calculate academic staff workload through attaching tariffs, expressed in hours/fractions of hours, to key activities. These tariffs can vary substantially between schools and subject areas, and in some places they’re not used at all. WAM tariffs that substantially underestimate the amount of time it takes to undertake key (usually teaching-related) tasks mean that members are allocated work that looks reasonable on paper but in reality means working far beyond contractual hours – in effect they institutionalise members being require to carry out significant amounts of unpaid work for the University.


How has UCUE taken this up with the University?

WAMs were a sticking point in the anti-casualisation negotiations. We pressed as hard as we could for University-wide minimum tariffs but University management insisted that this would not be possible as it would unreasonably restrict Schools’ autonomy. Instead, they agreed to update the University-wide Principles and Operational Guidance for WAMs to strengthen requirements for Schools to consult staff included in the WAM.


The College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CAHSS)

CAHSS has been a flashpoint for WAM tariffs. An article in The Student last week explored the relationship between unrealistic WAM tariffs and the exploitation of guaranteed hours (GH) tutors. In CAHSS, tariffs for some tasks are widely (though not universally) used across Schools, and some of these are extremely problematic, especially those associated with marking. It may also be worth noting here that morale as measured in the Staff Experience Survey would seem to be lower in CAHSS than elsewhere, with satisfaction rates relating to most of the questions below other parts of the University. Regarding workload, only 43% of staff respondents in CAHSS agreed that “I am able to strike the right balance between by work and home life”: that’s 13 percentage points below the University-wide result (this figure includes professional services staff in the College who are not affected by academic WAMs). Whilst the survey did not ask specifically about WAM tariffs, there does seem to be a problem with workload across CAHSS which we can’t address with management when the tariffs appear to show that workloads are reasonable.


Wasn’t there a branch motion on CAHSS WAM tariffs last year?

Last June, prompted by CAHSS management imposing the CAHSS WAM on Moray House, UCUE passed a motion asking the Head of CAHSS to “set in train a full and open consultation on WAM content and tariffs, led by and involving academic staff on grades 6-10 on a variety of types of contract, and with UCU involvement”. Should the Head of College refuse to do this, UCUE resolved to “work with students, UCU Scotland and the press to develop a high-profile campaign about the effects of flawed workload modelling for students and staff”. The Head of College agreed that Moray House, the School that had prompted the motion, could delay implementing the CAHSS WAM tariffs while a consultation was carried out. The Head of Moray House subsequently set up a working group to lead the School consultation: the working group was open to anyone who wanted to join, and included staff on different types of contract and a UCUE representative. The working group ran drop-in sessions followed by a well-publicised survey that was completed by 146 academic colleagues (around 73% of academic staff in the School). The findings of the working group, and recommendations for WAM tariffs were reported to College Staffing Committee in January. That’s precisely the sort of consultation we want to see.


However, CAHSS College Staffing Committee didn’t accept the recommendations of the consultation, insisting that School management carry out further work without UCUE involvement. New tariffs have subsequently been set for Moray House that in many places are lower than those recommended by the consultation. The biggest discrepancy is in marking allocations. For instance, 89% of respondents said that an allocation of 0.75 hours for marking assignments of up to 4,500 words was a ‘significant underestimate and 7% said they thought it was a ‘slight underestimate’, leaving just 4% who considered it about right. Yet this tariff is going to be imposed for GH colleagues. Marking for core staff will be calculated using a per-student-per-course formula as recommended in the consultation, but with a figure that is considerably lower than that recommended by the working group. Consultation, then, seems empty when such overwhelming findings can be overridden with no apparent rationale.


Elsewhere in CAHSS we continue to be told by management that consultation is happening, and that information is fed by Heads of School into discussions at College Staffing Committee. This is a far cry from the “full and open consultation process” described in our motion. Meanwhile our members give us a rather different picture. In one subject area meetings have been held to discuss WAM tariffs but no minutes appear to be available. In another subject area there has been a written consultation with everyone invited to contribute, but staff were told that marking tariffs could not be discussed because they were “decided at College level”. In most subject areas members tell us they are unaware of any consultations.


So where are we now, and what happens next?

We believe that where WAMs are used, members want full, transparent and open consultation on the tariffs. We think that consultation findings should be implemented: we don’t think our members are lying when they say it’s impossible to mark 4,500-word assignments in three quarters of an hour, or that it takes more than an hour to prepare a seminar. And we think that University management acted in good faith when they agreed to strengthen the requirement for Schools to consult meaningfully on WAM content and tariffs, but CAHSS management’s view of “consultation” and ours seem to be very different.


CAHSS management have offered to meet with us again. But it’s not clear that we’ve moved at all from the position last June. Full and open consultation has only happened in one School in the College, and some of its most overwhelming results have been disregarded. No consultation, in our understanding of the word, has happened elsewhere in the College as far as we’re aware – but please do tell us if you know different. We’ll take up their offer to meet and we’ll do so in good faith, but given the lack of progress nearly a year on from our motion, it’s hard to see how we’ll avoid the necessity to take the kinds of action we resolved on last June.

Transgender Day of Visibility

Transgender Day of Visibility Event
Wednesday 3 April 2019, 4-5.30pm
Hugh Robson Building – H.R.B Lecture Theatre

Organised by Edinburgh University Staff Pride Network, University and College Union Edinburgh (UCU Edinburgh), and Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA)


This event will celebrate the lives of trans members of staff and students at the University of Edinburgh and beyond, sharing everyday experiences and stories. It will also share research from Trans.Edu (www.trans.ac.uk), a Strathclyde University project on the experiences of trans members of staff and students in Scottish higher education. Everyone is welcome!

Mridul Wadhwa, feminist and trans rights campaigner
Vic Valentine, Scottish Trans Alliance
Elliot Byrom, Edinburgh University student; EUSA
Kerry Rush, Edinburgh University student; Positive Change Arts Projects
Gina Roberts, Edinburgh University Staff Pride Network

Chair: Lena Wånggren, UCU Edinburgh

Please note: Transphobic language, gestures, or violence will not be tolerated at the event, and anyone deemed (by the chair or by speakers) to break this policy will be asked to leave the event.

Report from Special HE Sector Conferences

voteTwo conferences were held in Manchester, back to back, on 7 November 2018, Manchester.  This is a summary of discussion and motions passed.

Full list of what was passed at both conferences at https://www.ucu.org.uk/hesc_nov2018



The bulk of discussion was around the result of the Pay & Equality Ballot, whether to re-ballot and how. In short, conference decided to re-ballot in early 2019, on an aggregated basis and focus more on equality issues.

Conference also heard how branches such as Heriot Watt had sailed over the threshold (achieving a 65% turnout) by implementing a meticulous GTVO campaign and, with properly targeted resources, speaking tours by HEC members and other support from UCU centrally, many more branches could do the same.

All motions passed, either in full or with amendments, most with strong or overwhelming majorities.


Because of the overlapping nature of many of the motions, most were not debated separately.

The first motion passed was Composite 1 with various amendments.  This commits us to:

  • redefine the dispute as “casualisation, equality, pay and workload”;
  • start a campaign immediately in the run-up to a new ballot in late January, early February
  • plan a campaign for the exam period in spring 2019
  • ensure that the ballot period is long enough to achieve a high turnout and that the ballot starts and ends during term time
  • organise grassroots GTVO campaigns for a YES vote in the re-ballot
  • call on UCU and NEC to actively engage with branches, speaking at meetings and producing local material
  • encourage local and national protest foci such as 12 November, Pay Inequality Day.

Conference instructs the HEC to:

  • Provide fresh GTVO materials to all reballoting branches emphasising the gender equality and anticasualisation elements of the claim
  • Organise regional briefings to share effective GTVO techniques and help branches draft GTVO plans
  • Coordinate visits to reballoting branches of NEC members and activists from branches which have already reached the threshold
  • Establish, in conjunction with ROCC, a central task force to collate progress and assist branches where necessary.

We then took Motion 5, which brought up the question of aggregation vs disaggregation.  Opinion on this did not split along the normal lines.  The motion was taken in parts.  I was unclear of the implications of parts b and c and abstained on both.  Subsequent discussion with fellow delegates and others has convinced me of the merits of aggregation.

A widened remit for the National Disputes Committee was also agreed.  Initially set up for the USS dispute, this will now also include the HE pay and equality.

Finally, a late motion instructing HEC to abandon surveying branches on local pay bargaining because it was both contrary to existing policy and, “at best a distraction and at worst an open invitation to employers to engage in local pay bargaining, at a time when the sector is threatened by market competition, speculative expansion and bankruptcies.”



This conference was inquorate and, as such, motions passed are technically advisory only. Questions were raised as to whether this could have been avoided by asking pre-92 delegates who were there in the morning to say on for the afternoon.  Vice President, Nita Sanghera, is currently pursuing this question with HEC, along with what will be done with motions passed.

Paul Bridge opened by outlining that the JEP report, which has now been endorsed by the SWG, has vindicated our position and moved the employers.  UUK want the dispute ended. The JEP proposals offer them significantly lower contributions and our opening negotiation position will be one of No Detriment.

Most motions passed as tabled or with amendments.  The two which fell completely would have made concessions to increased contributions, which would be incompatible with our negotiating position.


The session was split into 5 sections: JEP, No Detriment, Phase 2, Valuation and Other related issues.

The JEP section involved one composite motion, which passed with amendments:

Conference calls on the HEC

  • to seek an immediate return to negotiations with UUK.
  • to call on the employers to pick up the full cost of increased contributions
  • to generate confidence again amongst our members, by ensuring the National Disputes Committee guides future campaigns to save our DB pensions based on policy determined at Special Higher Education Conference (SHEC)
  • to undertake a ballot seeking a mandate for further strike action or ASOS if:
    • A. the employers fail to accept the JEP report in full, or
    • B. UUK seeks to postpone a return to negotiations, or
    • C. an agreement between UCU and UUK retaining the current benefit package is not reached in a timely fashion, or
    • D. the employers attempt to pass on costs they have generated onto employees.

Further, conference specifies that the agreement must not include a contribution increase exceeding the JEP recommendation.

There were also two emergency motions from the National Disputes Committee which should have been on the agenda but were not.  For reasons still to be clarified, these had not been passed on by HEC.

This will not happen in the future as a late motion was passed instructing HEC do pass these on automatically in the future.  A summary of the address to Conference by the Chair of NDC, Deepa Driver, can be read here.

The No Detriment section also included motions calling for the return to a full DB pension and financial compensation for scheme members who have lost out, repayment of earning lost due to strike action which should never have been necessary and a call for both the resignation of Alistair Jarvis and a formal apology from Janet Beer.

The Phase 2 section included a motion demanding equal access to pensions for casualised staff, with reduced contribution rates for lower paid members.

On valuation, motions were passed which called on the USS Trustees to abandon the 2017 valuation, stop de-risking and provide full information on Test 1.

The final motion, which passed unanimously, committed SWG and HEC demand USS adopt an ethical investment policy, including withdrawal from high carbon investments.

Grant Buttars, 18/11/2018

Further reading

Staff Survey – Our Initial Response

University staff will by now have seen the summary results of the survey. Like you, we received the results via the Principal’s email and links on Monday morning, so we haven’t had much time to digest the findings. We will be asking university management for more information, particularly a breakdown of results by gender, and a breakdown by academic/professional staff.

Management have already told us that they’re going to be wary about circulating free text comments because of confidentiality concerns, but we’ll ask for some analysis of them (e.g. words/phrases commonly used). If you think there is anything else we should ask for, please let us know.

First Impressions

When we looked at the results on Monday it soon became clear that in most categories we’re at or near the bottom of the Russell Group (and indeed most other) universities. This is particularly so in the category of leadership and change management, with (for example) just 36% of participants agreeing that they have confidence in the leadership of the university, and a dismal 24% agreeing that the university manages change effectively.


This is, or should be, an embarrassment for senior leaders. The Principal’s covering email made no acknowledgement of this fact: we are glad he was ‘pleased to see some very positive results’ but we are puzzled at his interpretation. He mentions ‘pride’ where we managed to score at the Russell Group average, ‘respect’ where we were 13 percentage points below with just 66% of respondents agreeing that the University treats them with respect, and ‘relationships’ where we scored at the UUK average (only three Russell Group universities included this question).

Are those ‘very positive results’? We don’t think so. The only acknowledgement of the very poor results in most other questions was a bland admission that ‘as expected, there are also areas which we could improve on’.

Inconsistent Message

Why the weasel words when we know the Principal is capable of tough talking? Whilst we don’t endorse the National Student Survey as a valid measure of student ‘satisfaction’, we can’t help contrasting the Principal’s communications about the NSS results with these ones.

When the university’s NSS results turned out to be towards the bottom of the Russell Group, the Principal did not pull any punches in telling staff to get our act together. We were all responsible, he told us, and we needed to shape up and do better. Where, then, is the ‘clarion call’ to culture change amongst senior leaders in relation to this survey?

Change at the Top Needed

We’ll ask him. We’ll also be looking out for any indications that responsibility for what looks like systemic failure is going to be passed down the chain to heads of schools, subject areas and service units, rather than being shouldered by senior leadership where it belongs. Whilst we agree that everyone has their part to play, we’ve long believed that structural and cultural change is needed at the very top and the survey results appear to confirm that.

Moving Forward

It is clear from the results that the disconnect between staff and senior management is greater than ever. We believe that only by engaging with the entire staff/student community can the problems with staff engagement be addressed. As such UCU, in discussion with the other campus unions, will be asking senior management to include representatives from all staff; such as casualised staff, postgraduate students, early career academics, professional services staff, technical staff, disabled staff, the staff pride network etc., in a wider consultation and in any responses to the issues this survey has raised.