Report on EGM + Update on Statute 18
Dear UCU colleague,
A brief report follows on the UCU EGM held yesterday, Thursday
10 May, and an update on Statute 18.
After a report on negotiations and a spirited debate, the pre-circulated
motion was passed unanimously, with a textual amendment to highlight
the problem that so-called 'non-academic' staff are excluded from
The motion is in APPENDIX 1 below.
Our fundamental objections are that the proposal itself is unacceptable,
and that the time-line proposed for "consultation" is
too short. See UCL UCU Resolves 1 in APPENDIX 1.
STATUTE 18 UPDATE
Despite your union's objections, UCL management informed us last
night that they intend to circulate their proposal to all staff
TODAY, care of 'TheWeek@UCL', in advance of the Academic Board Meeting
on 23 May.
Please note this date in diaries. We call on all members of Academic
Board to attend this meeting to vote down this proposal. What you
do can make a difference! Please see APPENDIX 2 for a report from
LSE Academic Board.
On the current timetable, this means that this Academic Board meeting
will be the only opportunity staff will be given by UCL to collectively
voice their opposition to the proposal through official channels
before UCL Council seeks to ratify the proposal in October.
The UCU resolution passed yesterday calls on all members of the
union to unite to defend academic freedom and campaign against these
WHAT IS AT STAKE
UCL proposes to replace the 'arduous' Statute 18 procedure for
dismissal of academic staff with the Termination Procedure* and
other standard procedures for capability and disciplinary. Last
year, UCL made over 400 teaching fellows and research staff "redundant"
by using the Termination Procedure.
Crucially, redundancy is perceived by UCL management to be a simple
process to carry out for many staff, but not (currently) for academic
staff. If this change goes through, academic staff will be much
more easily dismissed than at present. This will inevitably damage
UCL and its ethos of collegiality.
As a union we are acutely aware of the need to defend staff against
redundancies, whether actual or threatened. Indeed we continually
campaign against redundancies, defend staff in redundancy situations
and negotiate improved procedures with UCL.
We have to say from hard-won practical experience, that the current
standard procedures do not prevent managers making staff redundant
provided that they comply with legal requirements to consult. Employment
tribunals typically permit employers to make bad decisions, provided
that they don't break a specific civil or criminal law and their
solicitors can argue that they believed that they acted reasonably.
Tribunals rarely insist on reinstatement - so once a staff member
has been dismissed the only argument concerns compensation.
Consequently, what we might call "stringent and restrictive"
internal procedures, such as those currently enshrined in Statute
18, remain the best defence against the arbitrary use of management
If academic staff are subject to the UCL Termination Procedure*
rather than the Statute 18 redundancy procedure, then there is no
impediment to the redundancy of academic staff becoming routine.
This is exactly what is happening at Queen Mary's University of
London, where some departments are at present seeking to dismiss
as many as twenty academic staff in one department to boost their
EQUALITY - FOR BETTER, NOT WORSE
UCL should be aiming for equality, but by 'levelling up' protection
for staff, not 'levelling down' to some of the worst examples of
poor treatment. If UCL management was really concerned about improving
the position for all staff, then it would propose to apply the more
stringent elements of the Statute procedures to general UCL policy
The defence of academic freedom consists of the freedom of staff
to carry out research and debate its implications without fear of
dismissal for voicing unpopular opinions. As such it defines a University,
rather than a mere 'research factory'.
In a climate of fear, a verbal commitment to academic freedom is
effectively meaningless. Staff who have voiced unpopular opinions
in the past or who have been on the 'wrong' end of an internal academic
dispute may find themselves targeted for "redundancy"
by Heads of Department.
To quote the comparison document to be circulated today,
However, the actual selection and decisionmaking of individual
redundancies would be carried out within the academic unit and
not by the Council in future.
What this means is that were this change to be implemented, UCL
Council's only responsibility for overseeing academic redundancies
will be (a) to ensure that a procedure exists and (b) to agree that
a business case for organisational change or termination of contract
may be put in a particular department.
Once initiated, the process will be in the hands of the Head of
Department, Deans, Vice Provosts - and HR. All other safeguards
that currently exist which make academic redundancies difficult
for UCL to carry out will be removed.
This is why we can only view the current proposal as a major attack
on academic staff and the provisions for academic freedom. It provides
no additional protection for any staff member, but it removes protections
that exist for academic staff.
IT'S NOT ALL BAD NEWS
Finally, UCL is not the only university attempting to undermine
its Statute protections for academic staff, but attempts are facing
resistance from well-informed staff. We attach, for information
(APPENDIX 2), a report from the London School of Economics UCU of
a significant reversal at the recent LSE Academic Board.
UCL UCU Executive Committee
[*Note: The UCL comparison document circulated to the UCU today
suggests that the removal of Statue 18 procedures will permit the
UCL Organisational Change Procedure to be applied to academic staff.
This is an error. The application of this procedure is not new and
was used in both FLS and CALT in recent years. The proposed change
concerns the use of the short-sharp "Termination Procedure"
instead of the Statute 18 redundancy consultation process.]
APPENDIX 1: Resolution passed unanimously, UCU EGM Thursday 10
UCL UCU notes:
- That Statute 18 of UCL's Charter and Statutes enshrines academic
freedom, and the posts of academic staff who exercise it, as an
integral part of the core principles of University College London.
Statute 18 was created as a means of creating 'effective tenure'
after Tenure was formally abolished by the Education Act 1986.
The statute provides procedural safeguards against academic staff
redundancy at the highest level of UCL and as such is not easily
- That UCL has proposed a wholesale revision of UCL Statute 18
which removes these protections. UCL was poised to initiate a
"public consultation" with staff on Friday 27 April
before even meeting with the unions on Tuesday 1 May. The original
timetable for consultation had UCL Council making a formal decision
to go ahead on 1 October 2012, following consultation with staff
in the current 7-week Summer term.
- The current Statute 18 contains a number of procedures which
permit the dismissal of academic staff including by reasons of
redundancy, discipline and ill-health in very limited circumstances.
These procedures are more difficult for UCL to apply than corresponding
procedures for other UCL staff, requiring, e.g. UCL Council to
vote to set up a Redundancy Committee where redundancies are sought,
and for the Provost to hear appeals against dismissal. Moreover
the current Capability Policy triggers a Statute 18 procedure
should a member of staff become near dismissal.
UCL UCU further notes:
- That in recent years UCL has faced a number of redundancy programmes
where the setting up of a Redundancy Committee has provided a
basis for resisting those redundancies. On each of these occasions
UCL has opted to offer voluntary severance and early retirement
to staff, and to seek volunteers more widely, rather than risk
a public fight over compulsory redundancies.
- That a number of universities have diluted equivalent statutes
to Statute 18 and then engaged in wholesale redundancy programmes.
These universities include Imperial College London, King's College
London and Queen Mary's University of London.
- That UCL has justified its proposal partly on generic claims
of improving academic staff performance, and has trialled an unagreed
'performance enhancement scheme' in FBS despite UCL UCU's unequivocal
opposition to this and similar 'Rank and Yank' schemes.
- That there is a longstanding recognition agreement between
UCL and UCU on negotiating changes to terms and conditions, and
that UCL's attempt to "consult" staff over our heads
and impose a timetable for making changes effective breaches this
UCL UCU believes:
- That the current proposed changes to Statute 18 (deleting procedures
from Statute) represent a fundamental assault on the University
as a collegial body, and on this basis must be opposed by every
member of staff who cares about the university.
- That notwithstanding our defence of the Statute, some elements
of Statute 18 should be updated and improved, and that UCU is
prepared to negotiate over these areas:
- broadening the definition of 'academic staff' covered by
- ensuring procedures are compliant with current legislation,
- providing a clearer definition of academic freedom of inquiry
and research independence.
- That removing academic protections would mean that academic
staff would increasingly be placed in the position of research
staff continually having to justify their position through gaining
UCL UCU resolves:
- To formally initiate a trades dispute should management fail
to engage in meaningful negotiations over changes to Statute 18,
To mandate UCU officers to negotiate with UCL management to
preserve protections against dismissal in Statute 18, while being
prepared to agree other changes on the basis outlined above.
To launch a broad-based campaign in UCL to defend Statute 18
which can draw in the maximum number of staff in a debate about
the importance of (i) extending academics’ job security
to all staff, and (ii) defending academic freedom and the purpose
of a University; and engage with students, alumni and the wider
UCL community, to explain the issues at stake and to organise
opposition to Management's proposals.
- the current timetable (with UCL Council voting on changes
on October 1) is too short, and
- the current proposal (deleting procedures from Statute) is
APPENDIX 2: REPORT FROM LSE ACADEMIC BOARD
Management at LSE tried to set us on the road to US style academic
review procedures at yesterday’s Academic Board (all academic
and research staff are members of academic board here) but UCU mobilised
They included the proposals as one short part of a long document
on research quality. The proposal was that to increase the review
period to 7/8 years and get a permanent contract new staff would
have to produce three 3* paper including one published in a select
list of journals. This proposal had been discussed among the senior
managers of the School but nevr brought to JNCC and most of us only
saw the proposal a week ago.
As soon as we saw the paper the branch started alerting members
to the existence of these proposals (2 pages in a 160 page set of
Board papers and inside a 34 page on wider issues) and their implications.
American style tenure requirements but not US tenure style security
of employment or US salaries – why would people want to come
here? [simultaneously they trying to weaken our statutes –
called Academic Annex here]
Relying on REF metrics and ‘leading’ journals means
a threat to academic freedom as heterodox, critical and inter-disciplinary
social science research are under-valued in these domains.
There was neither negotiation with the union nor any equality impact
statement on a measure that posed serious risks to the careers of
women who want to have children.
Our mobilisation was extremely effective there was a long queue
to get into the meeting, after the deputy director introduced the
paper there was one contribution supporting him then a string of
hostile comments – some of the best from UCU committee members
– from right across the school and at the end one offering
The director had hoped to get the board’s in principal approval
of what they called ‘a direction of travel’ but they
did not risk putting any of the paper to a vote.
At the same meeting the REF code of practice was approved. Following
an earlier UCU intervention this included:
Training will be provided to all members of staff responsible
for the implementation of this Code of Practice. Members of REFSC
and those responsible for making an initial assessment of individual
staff circumstances will receive equality and diversity training
plus training specific to the REF which will be based on case studies.
Academic colleagues in Departments tasked with reviewing REF outputs
will receive equality and diversity training and will be briefed
on the contents of this Code and on their responsibilities. Members
of the Appeals Panel will receive equality and diversity training.
Training will be designed:
i) to ensure that those responsible for implementing the Code are
well informed about their own and the School’s legal obligations
regarding equalities; and
ii) to enable them to attain a sufficient understanding of equalities
issues in order to implement the Code fairly and effectively.
Previous drafts suggested that only appeals panel members would
receive equalities and diversity training.
(Mike Cushman, London School of Economics UCU)