Update on MAB response, and Call for nominations to join Branch Committee AGM 7 June

Dear Kingston UCU Members,

Thank you for your support throughout the year and in our current marking and assessment boycott (MAB). We write to you with an update on this current action, what we’re doing locally, and how you can respond to requests for MAB participation. We also hope to see you all at our Annual General Meeting at 3:00pm on 07 June 2023.

Please see all details below, and join us on Slack to stay informed and support Kingston UCU.

Kingston UCU MAB Response

Branch Committee have been contacted by members across KU expressing serious concerns regarding their treatment by line managers and other senior members of staff. Last week we wrote to our Senior Leadership Team (SLT) and Human Resources (HR), outlining our concerns regarding their behaviour, restating the Union’s position in support of its members, and requiring that the University meet with us to discuss how best to resolve these issues.

As UCU members, you are not obligated to declare your future intentions regarding participation in the MAB. Members are free to enter (or leave) the MAB at any point after 20 April 2023, and should only state honestly what actions they have taken in the past, if asked directly by HR or a line manager. If you would be marking to a deadline for return of marks, for example, then this would be the date the Union considers that you would enter the MAB. Up until this point, an agreement could have potentially been reached in our ongoing negotiations, and the MAB ended, thus providing members the natural opportunity to complete and return all marking and assessments.

Requests for staff to declare any future intentions specifically regarding MAB participation are viewed as intrusive and intimidatory, and where it appears that our members are being singled out, this has the potential to constitute discrimination against a trade union member – an issue that we take extremely seriously.

We therefore advise you to respond to requests for declarations of intent ahead of any deadlines, or similar requests / assurances regarding meeting marking deadlines, with the following:

I/We are aware that the Kingston UCU branch committee has on Friday 12 May 2023, written to the SLT & HR requesting a meeting to address the issues raised in your request and other issues relating to industrial action. I/We support Kingston UCU in expressing concerns over the behaviour of management towards staff, which in many cases is causing stress and anxiety, and is counterproductive towards the long-term sustainability of a fair and collegiate working environment. 

I/ We therefore have decided that any further response to you will come as a result of the meeting between Kingston UCU and SLT. Kingston UCU branch committee represents its members through lawful, democratic decision making processes and actions. I/We ask that you respect their collective authority and refrain from requesting further declarations of intent at this time.

MAB Support

Kingston UCU are holding daily support meetings on Zoom, Monday to Friday 10am, to help members with specific concerns, and to share ideas and information. You can join using the link on our Linktree page, where you will also find more information about the MAB. Or use the Zoom link here:

Please also join Kingston UCU on Slack, to ask questions and stay up to date with branch activities and resources:

Support and information is also available from UCU central. We welcome the recent announcement of UCU’s central defence fund of £250,000, which you can read more about here. In addition, UCU central has further guidance, tools, and templates for the MAB here.

Kingston UCU Annual General Meeting & Call for Nominations

With the higher education sector still under threat of redundancies, unsafe workloads, casualistion, and devalued pay & pensions, our resolve to address these issues has never been stronger. Please join us to discuss these and other issues affecting our members. We will hold our Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 07 June 2023, 3pm on Zoom.

The agenda for the AGM is as follows:

  1. Branch committee nominations
  2. Update on current MAB, and future industrial action
  3. Finance report and local hardship fund
  4. Branch communications
  5. AOB

Our Kingston UCU branch committee members are committed to supporting you in fighting for equality. We know that members are being adversely affected both by events outside the University such as the ongoing cost of living crisis, as well as changes within the University such as the Townhouse strategy. To support our members with these challenges, we want to continue to build a strong and effective branch, reflecting our membership and its range of skills and experiences.

You can play a part in this by joining the Kingston UCU branch committee! In advance of our AGM on 07 June 2023, we are now inviting nominations to the Kingston UCU branch committee. There are a range of committee positions available, all of which have facilities time attached. These are funds which you can use to buy out teaching, through discussion with your line manager. See below role descriptions.

Role sharing is welcome, where members would like to split roles. You are also welcome to propose new roles. Suggestions, nominations, and self-nominations are welcome for all roles:  Nomination Form 2023

All nomination forms should be returned by 5pm on Friday 02 June, to the Returning Officer, Maggie Gray at m.gray@kingston.ac.uk.

We would love to have as many people as possible involved in the branch committee! If you have any queries about the roles or the process, please drop us an email, or join us on Slack.

Best wishes,

KU UCU Branch Committee

Kingston UCU branch committee recommends voting REJECT in the e-consultation on the current pay & conditions offer

We are advising our members to vote ‘REJECT‘ in the e-consultation over the current offer on pay and conditions from UCEA (University & Colleges Employers Association)

Having won another historic, formal ballot for industrial action, and with notification of the Marking & Assessment Boycott (MAB) starting 20th April, voting to reject the proposals in the e-ballot sends a strong message to our employers, that we will not settle for less than what our members are worth.

Vote to Reject the E-ballot

In the recent re-ballot, our union members delivered a resolution to continue fighting, with a  56.41% national turnout and resounding vote in favour of extending our mandate for industrial action.

On the Four Fights pay and conditions, higher education staff voted: 85.6% to Strike, and 89.92% to take Action Short of Strike

On the e-ballot for the Four Fights proposals, we are therefore recommending members to vote REJECT. Voting to ‘note’ will be a vote to accept. We do not accept that the proposals are in our members’ best interest. The proposals’ ‘talks about talks’ will give way to accepting the 5% imposed pay increase (an actual pay cut of ~15%) and more empty promises on workload, equalities and casualisation. Having won a resounding formal reballot, the only way to advance our claim for decent working and learning conditions in Higher Education is to continue with the Four Fights, to reject the e-ballot, and to prepare our members for the upcoming Marking and Assessment Boycott.

A full account of our reasons for this recommendation is set out below in an open letter drafted at a meeting of some 60 UCU branch activists from across the UK at an emergency meeting of the UCU Solidarity Movement 4th April. Click here to see signatories and add your name.

Marking and Assessment Boycott starting 20th April

Our employers have been informed that the Marking and Assessment Boycott will start Thursday 20 April 2023, in both our pay and conditions and USS pensions disputes, as decided by the UCU Higher Education Committee (HEC).

Last summer Kingston University UCU were proud to be among a number of institutions to undertake individual Marking and Assessment Boycotts, resulting in good wins for us locally. However, local action cannot address national issues, such as pay and pensions.

Therefore starting in April, we will be joining institutions across the UK in an aggregated Marking and Assessment Boycott. This industrial action is a powerful signal to employers that our members’ working conditions, pay, and pensions are worth fighting for.

From Thursday 20 April, members will cease undertaking all summative marking and associated assessment activities/duties. The boycott also covers assessment-related work such as exam invigilation and the processing of marks. See UCU Marking and Assessment Boycott FAQs here

Kingston UCU Branch will be holding daily support meetings on Zoom throughout the Marking and Assessment Boycott action, with details to follow. In our previous boycott, these meetings proved invaluable to support academic colleagues and deepen solidarity across our members.

In solidarity and thanks, for your continued determination to defend our sector, and to campaign for staff and student access to safe, sustainable higher education.

Kingston UCU Branch Committee

Upcoming branch meeting to discuss industrial action strategy – 9th Jan 11am

We will be holding a Branch meeting on Monday 9th January at 11am to discuss industrial action moving forward, including issues regarding strike action and boycott.

Find a link for the meeting in your inboxes – please note the correct Zoom link is the second one emailed out.

Background information:

In November, the UCU Higher Education Committee voted for a Marking & Assessment boycott to begin in January, and indefinite strike action to begin in February, as part of our current mandate for industrial action in the UCU Rising dispute.

There are differing opinions in the union about how to escalate our dispute given employers are refusing to put any improved pay offer on the table. The General Secretary Jo Grady has proposed a strategy of 2 days + 3 days strike action in February, 2 days + 3 days strike action in March, a re-ballot (the current mandate expires 20th April), further strike days in April and a marking boycott to begin in the summer term. Watch her video here.

You can read the case for indefinite strike action put by Zara Dinnen and James Eastwood, Co-Chairs of Queen Mary UCU branch here: How to Stop a University. UCU Left also put out a statement in favour of indefinite strike action.

There are different proposals for what indefinite strike action could consist of. E.g. there is a proposal for ongoing strike action on 4 days a week with the 1 working day rotating. Read the case for this here/ watch the video.

This is the option favoured by the Kingston UCU branch committee. We will be voting on a motion about this option, as follows:

This Branch believes:

  1. In order to win action needs to be hard hitting and with no set end date.
  2. Action must be affordable to members and the union
  3. Continuous action may result in 100% loss of pay.
  4. Striking for 4 days per week should result in less than 57% loss of net pay for most members.

This Branch resolves:

  • To call on HEC to call strike action for 4 days per week, with 1 day per week worked in rotation for an indefinite period.
  • Notifications for first 5 weeks to be sent followed by notifications extending the action after 2 weeks of action and indefinitely as required thereafter until the disputes are settled or members vote to cease.

We will also be voting on the following motion related to action short of a strike:

This Branch believes:

  1. In order to win action needs to be impactful, whilst allowing us to best focus on our students.
  2. Action Short of Strike must be escalated in response to the lack of meaningful negotiation by employers
  3. Workloads currently impact our ability to do our jobs.
  4. One aspect of our workload that takes away time from our students and our responsibilities is attending meetings.
  5. Attending meetings is a voluntary activity, outside of our core roles in educating students (undergraduate, postgraduate, research); it is therefore within the scope of ASOS as has been indicated in advance.

This Branch resolves:

  • To call on HEC to call an escalation of our Action Short of Strike to include not attending meetings for an indefinite period.

Which course of action we take will be discussed at a Branch Delegate Meeting (BDM) on 10th January before the next Higher Education Committee meeting on 12th January. It is therefore really important for members to come to this meeting to share your views so our delegates to the BDM can represent them.

Further articles on this debate have been collated by Edinburgh UCU: https://www.ucuedinburgh.org.uk/indefinite-or-not

Agreement negotiated with senior management related to marking & assessment boycott

Here is the agreement in principle negotiated between Kingston UCU and Kingston University for working together on local actions to address the issues that have long been a concern raised at our JNCC meetings with management which also chime with the current Four Fights dispute for which we have successfully obtained a mandate for industrial action, including a marking & assessment boycott:

22-06-13 JNCC Joint Statement FINAL

Kingston UCU members voted at the emergency branch meeting Monday 13th June to accept this agreement in principle.

Friday 17th June UCU formally lifted the marking & assessment boycott at Kingston University

Updates & Good News

Solidarity from the front line!

The Marking and Assessment Boycott is already having a big effect at Kingston and across the HE sector. Senior management are running scared.

Kingston’s senior leadership are putting out communications which are at best dubious, clearly designed to intimidate. All external examiners have been sent a threatening email demanding they confirm by today if they are participating in the boycott. This is despite the fact that external examination is not covered by the boycott. We have prepared a template message members can send to external examiners, so please use it wherever you can and need.


Following yesterday’s clarification about notification, a reminder that managers should only be asking about past/current participation in the boycott, not future intentions. Members who are line managers should also follow advice from UCU here: UCU members who are heads of department or managers


Further afield, boycott actions have already forced university senior management into negotiations on pensions and 3 of the Four Fights. Kingston’s senior leadership have also made minor concessions even before the boycott started. Students at Leeds University, where the Vice-Chancellor has refused to meet with UCU officers, have occupied management offices forcing the VC to speak with them. Ulster University locked out its UCU teaching staff by announcing 100% deductions for the boycott. After negative publicity and reputational damage, the university has now offered to negotiate locally, and staff are back working but still staying in the boycottIt’s working, even with comparatively few participating. It’s never too late to join in.

The central concerns remain around pay deductions and intimidation. We sent out guidance about giving notification of participating in the boycott yesterday. Do get in touch if you need further support.

We are addressing potential deductions very seriously, and our aim is to mitigate hardship and losses to a significant extent through:

  1. Local hardship fund– share and donate!
  2. Central hardship fund this has received donations from £15 to £50k from branches with member levies – so all members can apply to this.
  3. Twinning. We are linking up with 5 branches which didn’t reach the threshold for action or which aren’t acting in the boycott. This is a central plank of a cross-branch solidarity strategy initiated by Heriot-Watt UCU – see document here: The Heriot Watt Strategy 2022. This will be a source of financial, social, and political solidarity for us now, providing the foundations of more mutual aid in the dispute going forward.

We’re also pleased to announce RHUL-UCU passed a motion of support for Kingston UCU and agreed an initial donation of £500. We are grateful to RHUL-UCU, and look forward to further fundraising and solidarity activities with our twinned institutions, now also including KCL.


It is important to keep communicating with students about the boycott, including the support we can give them, and how they can support us by putting pressure on our senior leadership to resolve this dispute by entering into meaningful negotiations. Share the Kingston UCU letter to students about the boycott and the e-poster produced by student members of UCU and Kingston UCU branch committee (left).

Again, please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any concerns or questions.

Good luck & solidarity,

Kingston UCU branch committee

Update on giving notification

Kingston UCU Members will have received an email from HR late on Monday 23rd May requesting they complete an online form regarding participation in the marking & assessment boycott.

Pay deductions

Given the lack of clarity in the email, we are seeking urgent clarification from HR as to whether senior management are intending to impose 50% pay deductions, or 100% pay deductions with a “voluntary ex-gratia payment” equivalent to 50% of salary, as well as on the threat to withdraw any ex-gratia payment at any time.

A number of other aspects of what is both stated and not stated in the email need urgent clarification. We will update members as soon as we receive a response.


There are some misleading statements about UCU advice regarding notification of participation in action short of a strike (ASOS).

UCU guidance states: ‘If you are asked about whether you are participating in ASOS including the marking and assessment boycott, you should respond only in terms of what action you have taken/are currently taking, but not answer about future intentions regarding ASOS. This will mean that employers will need to keep checking for confirmation as to whether or not you have participated in ASOS and what forms of ASOS you have participated in and when. If you are asked directly whether you participated in ASOS in the past or are participating in it now (whatever the timeframe, be it last week, yesterday, or today) you should respond truthfully, but you should not declare your intentions regarding future action.’

You should answer a direct request for information about your current individual participation in ASOS truthfully. This does not require completing generic, blanket HR forms intended to undermine industrial action (which do not provide any information about the secure storage or retention schedule for the personal data collected, e.g. regarding trade union membership). You are under no obligation to notify your employer/manager in advance of starting action.

Financial support and solidarity available to members:

The UCU national Fighting Fund is available to all members subjected to 100% ASOS deductions as well for strike days.

We have also launched a local Kingston UCU hardship fund to supplement the national fund for those in particular need. Five other UCU branches, who didn’t pass the threshold to take action in the most recent ballot, are tabling motions to twin with us and provide direct financial support.


We remind members that our current ASOS covers the following:

  • working to contract
  • not covering for absent colleagues
  • removing uploaded materials related to, and/or not sharing materials related to, lectures or classes that will be or have been cancelled as a result of strike action
  • not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
  • not undertaking any voluntary activities; and
  • a marking and assessment boycott.

Find all information about the Marking & Assessment boycott here, including further detailed FAQs, as well as resources on our linktree, including an explainer to share with students.

For more news and updates join our discussion list:  UCUKINGSTONDISCUSSION.

You can also join our regular support meetings, held daily on Zoom throughout the boycott period: Daily 10:00am on Zoom.

In solidarity,

Kingston UCU branch committee

Top up the Fund Appeal

Today is the first day of the marking boycott, an action supported by our members in Kingston UCU in a final vote last Friday 20 May.  Solidarity to everyone at Kingston and its sister unions throughout the country who are taking part!   

We blew past our original target of £1000 pounds a mere 24 hours after launching the appeal, and offer a mighty thanks to everyone who have pitched in so far!  We’ve had donations and messages of solidarity from the Kingston community and beyond.

We have 46 days more to go in the Top Up the Fund appeal, and are hoping to raise much more to support our members who are starting to take action today.

All the more so as we learn that Kingston management have joined the leader board of the PEF – the Punitive Employer Framework (let’s make this a thing!!) – by being one of the top 10 employers threatening to deduct 100% pay from workers taking this legal action!

Please help us to fight back and to mark the first day of the boycott by sharing the appeal on your networks

Are you a Kingston UCU member and not able to participate in the marking boycott?  Then why not commit to sharing a part of your wages to help support those who are?  You can set up a regular monthly donation with your next donation! 

Solidarity and strength to those starting the boycott action today!

Four Fights Update: Marking and Assessment Boycott and further Strike Action

We have recently received information from our central UCU colleagues about the next stages of our industrial action. On Friday 6th May, 2022 UCU sent to our employers the legally required 14 day notification for industrial action. The nature of this industrial action this time will be a Marking AND Assessment boycott as well as 10 further days of strike action. The Marking and Assessment Boycott will begin on Monday 23rd May, 2022.

Our Branch Committee has taken the opportunity between our successful second strike ballot and this formal announcement of our next round of industrial action to seek information, support and solidarity from other branches and UCU itself.

The feelings and opinions from grassroots members were fed back yesterday to the national union at a Branch Delegate Briefing attended by two members of our Branch Committee who voted on the nature and extent of our continuing campaign.

The overwhelming preference, of all those branches with a mandate to undertake industrial action, was to defer deploying the threat of strike action to the start of the 2022/2023 academic year so that events such as Clearing and Induction might be targeted. It is also possible that we will be able to have some autonomy over exactly when we can call strike action in the future.

In terms of the Marking and Assessment Boycott the Branch Committee members continue to work with colleagues from across the whole union to ensure that this action will have maximum impact whilst mitigating any possible impacts on individuals, such as pay deductions and feeling isolated or unsupported. Our intention is to set up regular meetings as support and guidance sessions to make sure that no-one feels alone in this action. We will provide further information very soon as all members will have questions about the mechanics and potential consequences of this kind of action.

Role of Departmental Reps

In order to help us maximise the impact of the Marking and Assessment Boycott we need members in each department to nominate one or two people to act as a Departmental Contact for the boycott to begin conversations with their colleagues about their contribution to the Boycott and then feed questions back to the branch committee so that the branch’s deliberations are member-led. Don’t worry about not having all the answers. This is a learning process for all of us and mutual and collective support is going to be the key to our success. In particular, we expect that more senior and experienced colleagues will play a major role in supporting newer colleagues and especially those employed on precarious contracts in each department.

This action can hit hard if we act collectively

With other branches we are discussing branch “twinning”, salary sharing, fundraising from other unions, other fundraising events and activities as well as lobbying UCU to raise the cap on pay outs by the union’s Hardship Fund to mitigate any personal losses to members.

Your involvement in these strategies is crucial.

It may not however actually, take much time and effort for us to bring the university’s assessment processes to a halt if our action is focussed and strategic. Last year a marking and assessment boycott, in conjunction with other forms of industrial action, forced the University of Liverpool’s management to withdraw their threat of 47 academic redundancies. A template for a winning strategy is already available to us then. Each worker’s active participation has the potential to have a real and major impact. The more of us that take part in the boycott and fundraising efforts, the deeper the effect and the more likely we are to push management to act in our favour.  Locally at KU that could include, but would not be limited to, immediate reductions in workloads, conversion of all HPLs to fractional permanent contracts, and more transparent and equitable progression and promotion criteria.

Next steps – Branch Meeting

We look forward to seeing you on Friday 13th May at 1pm for a Branch meeting (see inboxes for link) so your views can be expressed, heard and acted upon. We hope soon to have a toolkit for us all to use during this next stage of our united action. In particular, whilst hitting management hard we will seek to win the support of students and other staff.  Constant two-way communication within the branch as well as external publicity  will be important parts of our strategy.