Raising the Bar withdrawn

Negotiations between the University management and UCU took place yesterday, 6 June 2016. Newcastle UCU President Joan Harvey reported to members via email after the negotiations, as follows:

Significant progress was made, including the withdrawal of the research performance documents at both University and Faculty levels. UCU reaffirmed our commitment to this institution being a world-class civic University. A dispute resolution document is attached. This will be considered by UCU’s Annual General Meeting on Wednesday 8th June. It is the unanimous view of the UCU negotiating team (Bruce Baker [Branch Vice-President], Stacy Gillis [UCU branch committee], Joan Harvey [Branch President], Iain Owens [Regional official], Michael MacNeil [UCU national head of bargaining and negotiations], and Matt Perry [UCU Branch Secretary) to recommend [that the members accept] the agreement.  As a consequence, the marking and assessment boycott will be withdrawn.

I look forward to seeing you all on Wednesday 8th June at the Branch Annual General Meeting at 1:00 pm in G5 Daysh Building, when after the official business, we will explain more.

With best wishes and I would like to thank Michael Macneil, UCU head negotiator, for coming up to Newcastle today, and also all my UCU colleagues through these complex and often difficult times.


The agreement to be voted on at the AGM on Wednesday 8 June reads:

Academic Framework for Research Improvement

The Key Principles

The University and UCU are in agreement that:

  • we reaffirm our commitment to being a world-class civic University
  • as a University we want to make a difference through our research by focusing on, and addressing some of society’s most pressing challenges
  • we want to work in a University that has an excellent reputation and can attract and retain the best people (staff and students)
  • We develop a common understanding and collegial approach to improving research

To do this we recognise that:

  • performing well in key metric exercises such as the REF is important even if some of the rules are problematic
  • it is problematic to focus exclusively on quantitative targets
  • we want to succeed within certain policy environments and funding structures
  • we have a diversity of subjects, with specific research cultures
  • it is necessary to continue to improve the research performance of the University
  • any work in this area must be integrated with our planning for REF 2020 and the outcomes we need to achieve so that we retain our reputation as a world-class University
  • aligned with this we need to focus at the collective level on academic disciplines, research groups and REF Units of Assessment in our planning so that we can effectively evaluate and address our performance
  • we need to establish a non-coercive culture and approach

Delivering Research Excellence

To achieve this we should encourage staff to participate in establishing appropriate subject and Unit of Assessment academic frameworks to improve our research performance. We aim to have these in place by 31 December 2016 (in so far as there is more clarity by then on REF 2020).

The University and UCU will monitor and review the implementation of the academic framework for research improvement as necessary and this will be a standing item at JNC. We will also use this to identify and address any issues that impact on staff members.

This will be via a process:

  • of collaborative working with academic disciplines, research groups and future REF units of assessment at its core
  • that is consultative and inclusive.

To work together effectively to achieve this UCU and the University would both agree to the withdrawal:

  • from the current Industrial Action
  • of the Expectations for Research Performance documents (University and Faculty)
  • of the ‘Raising the Bar’ terminology.

Professor Tony Stevenson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor
Michael MacNeil, UCU National Head of Bargaining and Negotiation
Iain Owens, UCU Regional Official
Dr Joan Harvey, UCU Newcastle President
Dr Bruce Baker, UCU Newcastle Vice-President Operations
Dr Matt Perry, UCU Newcastle Honorary Secretary
Dr Stacy Gillis, Branch Officer

6 June 2016

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