UCL moves online and the Provost assures staff, but some Teaching Fellows face redundancy threats

29 May 2020

Note: the issues below will be discussed at our next General Meeting for members on Thursday 4 June, 11am on Zoom. To attend, please RSVP with this form and we will send you an invite link on Thursday morning.

We welcome the announcement by UCL today that the university will move its teaching provision on-line to protect the health and safety of staff and students. We look forward to further detailed negotiations with UCL about safely managing the risk to staff of any return to on campus working.

However we are very concerned that plans for teaching provision for the next academic year have progressed outside of the relevant UCL governance structures (with Academic Board virtually mothballed), with no consultation with UCU and negligible consultation with the staff who actually deliver programmes. We are also concerned that processes resulting in the ‘suspension’ of programmes and modules have not involved, or taken into account, the academic and workload concerns of staff.

Most significantly, we are concerned to hear reports that some teaching fellow redundancies are being progressed on the basis of this backroom course cherry-picking. We have heard from a number of departments that cuts in teaching posts are being considered, and in some cases redundancy meetings convened. This is distressing in a lockdown, likely legally procedurally unfair, but also surprising given the increased workload of redesigning courses to move them online and the importance of TFs to the ‘student experience’.

We should not forget that UCL is a successful university with an annual operational income of ~£1.5 billion and reserves of the same order of magnitude. The Provost and SMT have repeatedly gone on record to say that they are attempting to lead the way in the Covid-19 crisis by doing right by its staff and students. Other universities that have launched redundancy programmes over the summer are understandably losing student enrolments. So why does management feel it necessary to shed staff now? 

As an immediate practical step, UCU representatives have asked UCL formally to commit to making no compulsory redundancies until October and to stop any processes in train. By our analysis this is both fiscally viable and the politically prudent step to take.

We will report further at our General Meeting on Thursday.

UCL UCU Executive Committee