Academic Board overwhelmingly critical of Statute 18 Reform: will
they be ignored?
Dear UCU colleague,
We apologise for filling your inbox during the summer, but there
have been important developments for your terms and conditions of
employment at UCL.
Please see below 1) a summary of where the Statute
18 dispute is following the 10 July Academic Board meeting,
and an explanation of the three key statute rights UCU is seeking
to protect for staff, 2) a section debunking 3 myths
that the Provost tried to press on the meeting, and 3) a detailed
report of the meeting.
It is clear to the UCL UCU committee and many amongst the UCL community
that management are in a precarious position with regard to their
attempts to push through these damaging proposals. The opposition
voiced by UCL UCU, the Students’ Union and the other campus
unions has been roundly supported by the overwhelming criticism
of the proposals at Academic Board and 255 Academic Board member
(plus 5 Emeritus professors) who have signed the petition to extend
the consultation to date. We would urge management to think and
act carefully in order to avoid this escalating this dispute.
1) What has happened and why might the dispute
A special Academic Board meeting was held on 10 July to discuss
proposals to reform Statute 18 - removing all key protections associated
with Academic Freedom for academic staff. UCL UCU has consistently
argued that this is an attack on staff terms and conditions of employment.
In summary (see detailed report),
AB which was well attended, was overwhelmingly critical and negative
of the management's proposals - with only one non-critical
contribution. No motions were allowed to be ‘put’, but,
when challenged as to the central role of AB in discussing any final/new
proposals on Statute 18, the Provost responded “I have
no intention of riding rough-shod over Academic Board”.
In context, if this was said in good faith, this means that Academic
Board must discuss any final/new proposal before they are put to
In light of this we urge management not to ignore the overwhelming
critical response to the proposals and recognise that taking any
final proposals to UCL Council on the 1st October would be seen
as a direct challenge to the academic community and our terms and
conditions of employment.
The current position is the following:
As outlined in a motion to AB, which was not allowed to be ‘put’,
there are three "red lines" that any management proposal
going forward to UCL Council must not cross without escalating this
dispute: This would be any proposed change to Statute 18 that does
not contain the following three elements:
- Retention of Redundancy Committee provisions, and any other
hearing where the outcome may be dismissal, within Statute;
- Procedures for handling other complaints arising at other times
on grounds of Academic Freedom to be retained within Statute;
- Retention in Statute of the right to legally qualified representatives
It is perfectly compatible with keeping these protections that
the Statute is updated and academic freedom rights be extended to
staff not currently classified as 'academic'. If management's forthcoming
proposals insist on deleting these elements of UCU members' terms
and conditions of employment, then this will be an escalation of
- The Provost has not responded to the (ever-growing) petition
to extend consultation period until 14 December.
- Whilst the Provost said in front of Academic Board that he
would not "ride rough-shod" over AB, no clear arrangements
have been made for AB to see and discuss final/new proposals.
- Both at this and the previous (well-attended) Academic Board
meeting, the response to Statute 18 reform proposals was overwhelmingly
and extremely critical.
- It is still possible that the Provost will submit amended proposals
(or even the current proposal) to Council at its next meeting,
as originally planned, since he can now claim to have consulted
with AB. However, that would a) mean “riding rough-shod”
over the expressed overwhelming opinion of Academic Board on 10
July, and b) “riding rough-shod” over the wishes expressed
by 255 members (26%) of Academic Board in the ongoing petition
to extend the consultation. This would represent Council being
placed at loggerheads with Academic Board - and a constitutional
travesty for UCL.
Clearly the campaign is not solely focused on what happens (or
not) at Academic Board, UCL UCU are about to submit a
detailed counter proposal which will be put to management in
writing very soon. This sets out what a model statute should look
like, and highlights our three 'red lines' mentioned above.
When we have received a clear indication of the direction in which
UCL management now propose to take their proposals, we will inform
members. In the meantime, watch this space.
2) Further information and myth busting
Myth 1: A redundancy committee set up by and answering to UCL
Council is a procedure we can do without.
A misguided attempt to cull 10% of all UCL academic staff by past
Provost Chris Llewellyn Smith in 2001 was blocked on 3 separate
occasions by Council, who on each occasion refused to set up a redundancy
committee as Statute 18 requires for compulsory academic redundancies.
The redundancies were averted and Llewellyn Smith eventually resigned
as Provost. A prime example of how the statute protects academics
against management raids.
Myth 2: Legal representation in UCL proceedings for academics
is a "formalism" that it is not in staff interests to
keep and staff have a right to legal representation anyway, if a
dispute goes to an external employment tribunal.
While most disputes are resolved “in-house” with the
help of your union, it is important that our statutes give you the
right to legal representation in cases where internal resolution
is not possible. Management claim that it is a cumbersome tool that
is not necessary because lawyers are available at the stage of an
employment tribunal. Yet management themselves admit that legal
representation is rarely necessary, making it hard to argue credibly
that it is a serious barrier to the ordinary efficient management
of the university. Equally, the legal representation available in
an external employment tribunal (i.e., one taking place outside
UCL) is no substitute as the overwhelming majority of successful
cases rarely bring reinstatement. In truth, management want
your right to legal representation at UCL out of the way precisely
because it does offer a qualitatively higher level of protection
to academic staff. The Provost has claimed that legal representation
leads to confrontational situations and that academics “would
not like to be cross-examined by lawyers”. This is, however,
a choice that academics should be allowed to make for themselves.
As difficult as it may be, like in all other areas of life, it sometimes
becomes a necessary recourse without which academics would be in
a weaker position.
Myth 3: The majority of other Russell Group Universities are
carrying out this reform of model statutes" and nothing bad
has happened as a result.
Some Russell Group Universities have changed their statutes but
none of them are going as far as UCL in ripping out established
rights. Most of them, like Manchester, Birmingham, Southampton,
and so on, have retained protections in their redundancy procedures
in the form of ordinances. UCL is proposing no such protections.
Other universities, like Aberdeen, are also doing this in genuine
consultation and negotiation with the campus trade unions, in marked
contrast to UCL. At the LSE a attempt to railroad through reform
was stopped by academics and there the consultation has been extended
indefinitely. We say UCL is right to look at what happens at other
universities, but it has to look properly and not just wave the
word "reform" around. The lessons from comparable universities
are that UCL is approaching this issue in a crude and confrontational
way. We already know where this could go. At KCL, the loss of statutory
protections resulted in a messy public industrial dispute, while
Oxford and Cambridge, academic bodies have derailed management plans
completely, for similar reasons to those articulated by academics
here. We say UCL should learn the lessons of the sector and negotiate
with unions and the academic community to make sure it gets this
If you are a member of Academic Board and would like to add your
name to the petition to extend the period of consultation please
drop us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information visit: www.ucl.ac.uk/unions/ucu/campaigns/statute
Follow us on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DefendStatute18
and Twitter: @savestatute18
3) Appendix (link)
REPORT FROM SPECIAL
ACADEMIC BOARD ON STATUTE 18 REFORM (10/07/2012)