UCL Human Resources


Information following the UCU ballot result, October 2022

26 October 2022

We will work with our trade union partners to make progress on the issues raised and do our best to mitigate the impact of any industrial action on our students’ experience.

UCL Portico

The national University and College Union (UCU) has announced the results of two ballots on pay & working conditions, and pensions. The national turnout in these aggregated ballots exceeded the required 50 per cent threshold and those voting were overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action taking place in the form of strike action and action short of strike.

UCU will now have a period of consultation with members at UCL and nationally to decide on next steps. As soon as we have more information about what potential industrial action may look like at UCL, we will update you. We will provide FAQs to help staff and students identify how they may be impacted and what support is available from UCL.

How UCL is tackling key issues 


We have worked with our trade union partners over recent months on reward options aimed to support you through the UK’s national cost of living crisis as far as we can within the context of national pay bargaining.

Pay levels are negotiated nationally on behalf of around 140 universities by UCEA (the employers' association). While we do not have direct control over these national pay negotiations, we are committed to finding ways to invest in your pay and the resources you need to do your job effectively. In the national pay-bargaining process, we pushed for an increase above levels we have seen in recent years, in recognition of the increases in the cost of living.

We have recently announced an uplifted London Allowance and committed with the trade unions to review this again later in the year. The London Allowance is now £4,000 per annum. This means that, excluding any incremental progression, the additional increase results in a median raise of 4% at UCL, with much higher percentage increase between grades 1-5.

We have extended the number of staff receiving the London Allowance to include those working in spaces immediately bordering London, such as Dorking, Harwell and Wickford; starting at £2,000 per annum immediately and increasing to £4,000 from August 2023.

We have also increased the minimum and maximum salary range for Research Assistants by one increment,

The 2022 pay increase was 3% for staff on all spinal points from 20 or above. Staff below this point receive larger percentage rises, with a maximum of 8% for staff at spinal point 5, the lowest point used by UCL. The pay award results in a mean average award of 3.2%.

Over half of staff (those not in probation and below the top point in their grade) below Grade 10 received an increment this year, equivalent to an additional pay award of circa 3% of base salary for those staff. Together the national offer and incremental rise constitute an average pay increase of 5.2% in 2022 for non-clinical staff below Grade 10.

We are also starting conversations about how we might go further in the future, so that we can pay and reward our staff more competitively.

The challenges of rising inflation and high energy costs are also impacting us as a university. Like any responsible organisation, we are therefore also looking at the measures we can take to protect our long-term financial sustainability so we can maintain our research and teaching excellence. We discussed this with our community through the recent Financing Our Future Town Hall and will be sharing the recording and FAQs from this shortly.

Job security

We are also taking action over precarious employment. In 2020, we launched our Teaching Concordat in partnership with UCU, which created new rules of employment for teaching colleagues. Through this, we have significantly reduced the use of fixed-term contracts for teaching staff and have moved the majority of PGTAs onto FTE contracts.

We already engage our research staff on open-ended contracts, rather than fixed term contracts. Further work is progressing to improve development opportunities and career pathways for research staff.

We have also invested over £10million per year to harmonise pay and benefits for our outsourced colleagues in cleaning, catering, security and portering. We now pay some of the best rates for these roles in the sector. These staff are employed under the same key terms and conditions as in-house staff and UCL contributes the same percentage to their pensions.

In 2021, we were officially recognised as a London Living Wage employer and have incorporated a minimum London Living Wage requirement into standard terms and conditions for all our external suppliers.


Workloads were tracked throughout the all-staff My UCL Experience Survey and through the pandemic with the People Pulse (Wellbeing). We recognise that workload management is an issue for many staff. The Enabling our academic mission discussion paper (Strategic Plan consultation) proposed the establishment of an institutional framework for workload allocation, which is now being worked up.

In the last year, we have invested in over 1,000 additional teaching staff (including PGTAs) to respond to the increase in student numbers. While it is challenging to recruit staff to cover specific demand, we continue to work with colleagues on this issue as we transition back to the in-person teaching as required by the Government and our regulator.

By engaging with our staff communities, we will streamline our processes and align our systems to user needs, reducing workload and improving experience – for example, reducing the time to fill vacancies from 128 days on average to a more manageable 60 days. This is one of the success criteria measures for Talentlink’s implementation and will help to reduce the burden placed on staff covering open vacancies.

Discussion paper five, Education priorities and programmes, in the strategic plan consultation proposes ways to reduce teaching and assessments complexity to help improve workloads and we will work with our trade union partners to look at further ways to relieve work pressures.

Equality and pay gaps

Improving equality at UCL is a priority and a dedicated team is working to drive change here.

In February's Joint Consultation and Negotiation Committee, we agreed to set up a working group specifically to look at strategies to address pay gaps in collaboration with our trade union partners. We are also working on measuring the disability pay gap at UCL and plan to have this in place by next year’s pay report, which will be available around March 2023. While we have the second lowest gender pay gap in the Russell Group based on last year’s published results, there is much more work to do in this area.

Last year, we launched a new positive action secondment scheme ‘Accelerate to Leadership’ in our professional services areas to broaden the pool of BAME candidates for future Grade 9 and 10 roles and we have begun to see people promoted via this route. This scheme has been extended to Grade 8 professional services roles, to expand diversity within the talent pipeline for senior positions.

USS Pensions

Our position has always been that the original proposed increases from USS were unaffordable, unsustainable and unfair for all our members. We are on record as one of the few institutions to have pushed for a new valuation of the scheme.

Through UUK (Universities UK - which represent the 340+ employers in USS), we continue to push for a full review of the scheme’s governance to increase the accountability to the organisations involved, as well as for a potential lower-cost scheme section for staff who are currently outpriced from joining the scheme, and an exploration of conditional indexation or other options to support the long-term sustainability of the scheme. UCL remains committed to the scheme and achieving the best possible outcome for all our staff.

Successive monthly monitoring has indicated that the financial health of USS is in a more positive position than when the last valuation was undertaken on 31 March 2020. We welcome this improved position, and we believe that a sustained period of recovery up to the next valuation on 31 March 2023 may provide the USS Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) with an opportunity to explore options that could improve the existing benefit structure for scheme members going forward. UCL will reiterate this message via the employer body UUK.

While it is very good news to see an indicative improvement in the scheme’s funding position, the monthly monitoring does not include the additional components required for a full scheme valuation. There is the potential for the position to vary significantly from month to month, so it is not necessarily indicative of a valuation outcome and more a snapshot of the scheme’s funding position in what is a challenging and increasingly volatile financial environment globally.