Branch & HE News

10 June, 2016: Assessment Boycott (update)

The assessment boycott ended on 8 June 2016, after a vote at the NU UCU AGM.

6 June, 2016: Assessment Boycott

From Friday 3 June, Newcastle UCU will begin a boycott of all assessment. For more details and important links see:

17 February, 2016: Raising the Bar, TEF and performance…

Raising the Bar and TEF

An update meeting on Raising the Bar and research measurement and an opportunity to discuss TEF for  will be held on Tuesday 23 February 12.30 – 13.30 in Rm 4.20 Newcastle Business School, Barrack Road. Joan Harvey speaker . All welcome, members and non members.

TEF the Government proposed Teaching Excellence Framework

This has just been through a consultative phase. UCU have submitted comments as indeed has Newcastle University. Few if any comments from both sources were favourable and the reasons for this include the speeded up way private Institutions can apply to award degrees- do we need even more of these?  We think not.

Another issue is measurement of teaching performance – and some of the metrics proposed look a bit bizarre.

UCU is worried for a number of reasons about metrics: so many aspects of teaching students have a qualitative aspect to them, some subjects may be necessary but less ‘popular’ and thus student ratings might be lowered, and the pressures to have all teachers trained to teach in the same way provides less space for charisma and innovative teaching and will homogenise the whole thing.  Not to mention that ratings might go down if students do less well than they thought.

What UCU is concerned about at Newcastle is, following the issues surrounding measuring research-related performance in the Raise the Bar document, just what could be proposed for teaching-related performance?

The Performance and Development Review (PDR) is going to increase in importance as teaching performance will be considered there, in addition it will also be an increasingly important process in relation to research performance.

Raising the Bar and measuring research performance

Well, there has certainly been some activity on this. The original document, which imposed ‘hard’ targets on an individualized basis ignored the fact that people work in teams, and that research articles, grant funding applications, supervision of PhDs as well as teaching and teaching support are often shared out in order that people do more of what they are good at.  Individualising hard targets like this is not in anyone’s interest, but we all want the University to be the best it can be, and to rise in reputation.  So what to do?

The answers is that UCU is fighting to improve the situation; so have an independent group of Professors. The VC has responded with a letter to all just before Christmas, another letter to the Professors, and UCU is negotiating a ‘memorandum of understanding’ on Raising the Bar. The original documents [one for each Faculty] seem to be receding a bit in importance, as it seems now to be recognized that groups and teams may be the better level at which planning to improve might be done, and that individual contributions should be seen in that context rather than being picked off one at a time.

Please do come to our meeting on the 23rd February and tell us what you think about any of the above, or what you think UCU should be doing in engaging with the University, or bring your issues and problems to tell us. We want to know your opinions and we also want to help members. So come along whether you are a member or not!

24 February 2016:  hourly paid staff, “love unions week”…

Post graduate teachers and demonstrators and hourly paid staff

An open meeting  for all for post graduate teachers and demonstrators and hourly paid staff  at Newcastle University will be held in Ridley Building 2 @ 1.15pm room 1.63. Come and help us get improvements in your employment  terms and conditions and hear about the latest negotiations.

“If you are a PGR teacher / demonstrator, or are an hourly paid teacher /lecturer or are in any other academic role that is paid hourly you probably take a close interest in what you are paid and what you are paid for.

UCU has been negotiating a policy that means that the workload model of your Academic Unit or Faculty will be taken into account so that people are paid properly for things such as marking.  This idea of being paid for what you do should also be taken into account with how hourly paid staff are treated, and we are working to ensure that everyone gets paid fairly. There are some proposals and we would welcome your views.

Please do come and tell us what you think about any of the above, or what you think UCU should be doing in engaging with the University, or bring your issues and problems to tell us. We want to know your opinions; all welcome” [Joan Harvey – President Newcastle University UCU]

Love Unions Week (8-14 February, 2016)

Jude Kirton-Darling (MEP)  and Beth Farhat (Northern TUC Regional Secretary) will speak at the Campus Unions Rally, Thursday 11 February @ 1pm, outside Newcastle University students’ union: “This government is determined to shift the balance of power in the workplace in favour of employers and get the Trade Union Bill through Parliament with as little scrutiny as possible. We must not let them get away with it.”

To join the campaign #HEARTUNIONS

10 February 2015: UCU challenging workplace racism

Challenging discrimination is a crucial part of UCU’s work. The union tackles discrimination both on an individual basis – supporting individual members experiencing problems – and collectively, challenging racism within organisations and across the post-school education sector.

Newcastle UCU Event: Challenging workplace Racism

5pm Herschel, Building LT3, Speaker: Dan Kebede (Stand up to Racism)

Followed at 6.00pm by a discussion of the issues raised by responses to the European refugee crisis and organising for United Nation3s International Anti-Racism Day on 19th March

30 November  2015  Second meeting held between Newcastle UCU and University management on the Research Expectations Document

27 November 2015  Indicative ballot was launched. All Newcastle UCU member have received a personal link  using survey monkey. Please vote and give us your views

8 June 2015. QAA reviews could be abolished.   According to an article in the Times Higher, Universities would be freed from cyclical reviews by the sector’s standards watchdog, which generally take place at established providers every five to seven years.  Instead, it will be “assumed that a provider continues to meet the baseline requirements unless or until material evidence emerges to suggest otherwise”.