KU UCU branch votes unanimously to oppose suspension of recruitment to Politics courses and demand consultation

At an emergency branch meeting March 26th, Kingston UCU members voted unanimously to to oppose the decision to suspend recruitment to undergraduate courses in the Department of Politics, and any future redundancies, and to demand proper consultation as per our Trade Union Recognition Agreement which mandates that ‘operational decisions, especially those likely to affect the job prospects or security of particular groups or occupation’ should be subject to prior consultation.

We call on the university to commit to supporting the Department of Politics and its students and staff, and congratulate and thank Politics, International Relations & Human Rights students for the enormous initiative and creativity of their efforts to save the undergraduate course and the department.

We believe that Politics should not become a subject taught only at Russell Group universities and that it is vital that it continues to be taught to students from a wide range of backgrounds such as those at Kingston.

Read the motion in full here

Emergency Branch Meeting – politics department under threat

Kingston UCU emergency branch meeting to discuss the recent decision to suspend undergraduate recruitment to politics courses and plan our strategy in response to the decision.

We’ll be joined by colleagues from Union of Kingston Students and students from the Save KU Politics campaign for a solidarity rally at 1.30pm

This meeting will take place on Teams – members have been emailed a calendar invite. If you haven’t received one, please Contact Us.

Don’t forget to sign and share the petition to Save the KU Politics Department

KU 2022+ – KU UCU first response

Kingston staff have been sent details of KU22+, the university’s “strategic plan for 2022/23 and beyond”. This document contains details of the SMT’s current thinking about the future of Kingston University and it specifies a number of strategic priorities. A number of different working groups have already been formed as part of this strategic plan – as a recognised trade union representing staff, UCU must be included in these working groups.

We have gone through the document in some detail at this point and wanted to draw your attention to a number of significant areas of concern.

On page 11, we note that the plan will be to focus on “eliminating courses ranked in the bottom decile nationally and reducing those ranked in the bottom quartile”. This was surprising to read – UCU has never been consulted on these plans, which have the potential to have a very significant and negative impact on our members. UCU must be consulted as a matter of priority. We are also seeking urgent clarification on what “eliminate” means.

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Kingston Politics Department is under threat!

On 4th March Kingston UCU were told by senior management that undergraduate courses in Politics, International Relations and Human Rights would be closed to new students entries in the next academic year due to low recruitment.

There has been no consultation with staff in the Politics department about these course suspensions.

We believe this is a short-sighted, underhand and unjust act of self-harm by the university, which threatens staff jobs, students’ futures, and Kingston’s reputation. We fear this may be only the start of management using Covid-19 as an excuse for damaging cuts.

Kingston students have launched a petition to save their department. Please sign and share it: https://www.change.org/p/students-save-ku-politics-department

KU UCU have written to senior management requesting these suspensions are halted until there has been proper consultation with staff and union representatives. We have challenged the rationale for suspending undergraduate recruitment, and proposed alternative solutions to improving staff-student ratios.

We will arrange a meeting on this issue soon – keep an eye on your inboxes.


KU UCU working group on promotion, Domains and web profiles

Kingston UCU branch committee has a working group looking at the current promotions policy, with a particular focus on the use of our externally-facing staff web profiles as a key ‘qualification’ and body of evidence for achievement in relevant Domains.

This is not something we’ve agreed to, been properly consulted on or negotiated. We are interested in hearing from members about this.

More broadly, we are interested in hearing members’ experiences of the new promotion and progression procedures, particularly the current Associate Professor application process.

We really appreciate you sharing your experiences and thoughts with us (in confidence – they will be anonymised). Contact us at kingstonucu@gmail.com or email a member of the branch committee in your School or Faculty.

Blatant dereliction of civic responsibilities and duty of care to KU staff, students and the wider community.  

KU UCU are dismayed at the latest notification from the Vice Chancellor communicating the message that it is “business as usual” at KU, despite the dramatic deterioration in the national situation.

The university management seem to take no account of the fact that we are in a national lockdown, and most concerningly seem to have no appreciation of the real issues and practicalities that affect staff and students travelling to the university for on campus teaching.

To be clear, KU UCU view management’s failure to react appropriately to the lockdown (i.e. moving all teaching online where possible) as a blatant dereliction of their civic responsibilities and their duty of care to KU staff, students and the wider community.

We are also fully aware that the new government advice includes the recommendation that “universities and adult education settings should consider moving to increased levels of online learning where possible“.

Attached here is an update from the branch committee, the document detailing health and safety failures are KU and management’s disappointing response.

KU UCU Branch Newsletter October 2020

Kingston University Health & Safety failures

Vote of No Confidence Management response 26102020 v3

KU UCU Branch Committee

Emergency Update from KU UCU Branch Committee

Your Branch Committee continues to work actively on your behalf. Over the weekend we have been busy providing support and advice as usual to concerned colleagues. This is in stark contrast to management who have not seen fit to respond to direct questions asked by members of the Branch and other colleagues about the responsiveness of the university’s alert system (alert@kingston.ac.uk) and the effectiveness of the “track and trace” process consequent to any reports of positive COVID-19 infections amongst our community. We require an immediate, urgent and comprehensive response to our questions to assure us that the university has our best interests and wellbeing at heart.

Management has consistently disregarded the views of your elected union representatives, if they have bothered to respond at all. For instance, apart from rejecting the KU UCU Branch motion to move to online teaching wherever practicable they have also ignored other eminently sensible suggestions, largely based around financial arguments. It is obvious then that KU management prioritise financial considerations over student and staff wellbeing.

Branch Committee members suggested, around SIX months ago, that the first year student intake should be delayed until the New Year. This would have enabled staff to provide a safer and better student experience, after gaining much needed experience of the online and socially distanced teaching environment with returning second and third years first. Many expert commentators have subsequently made the same suggestion.

Since the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, at the end of March until the present date, the Vice Chancellor has not seen fit to meet directly with your elected union representatives. Even before the pandemic the Vice Chancellor was not fulfilling his obligations in meeting with your elected representatives once per semester as stipulated in our Trade Union Recognition Agreement (extract below). We have not spoken to the Vice Chancellor directly in over two years in this official forum. It is clear then that the Vice Chancellor holds your union in contempt and this atmosphere has unfortunately permeated all dealings your union has with university management and HR.  The relevant section of our Trade Union Recognition Agreement is below:

Vice Chancellor Meetings  

Semi-formal in nature, these will be held each semester and are designed to facilitate the development of high-level relationships between the VC and senior union officials, while addressing strategic issues affecting the whole of the business; and ensure a forum to discuss workplace issues of strategic concern. 

These will provide a regular forum for the exchange of ideas, opinions and information and encourage and promote a constructive relationship between the University and the unions through effective communication. 

While our invisible Vice Chancellor may abrogate his responsibilities please be assured that your Branch Committee continue to work tirelessly on your behalf. We urge members then to engage, resist and mobilise.

YOUR participation makes our union strong!

Join our Extraordinary Branch meeting later this week – details to follow shortly.