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Response to “Student Update” on Strike Action

Published: 25th November, 2021

A recent email issued to students by Geoff Green, the University of Leicester Registrar and Secretary, argued against the strike by the University and College Union due to take place on 1-3 December 2021. It contained a number of dubious claims about our action. We would like to set the record straight.

1) “…this action by UCU is targeting students…”

The action is being taken by the UCU because staff members have been pushed to breaking point.

  • Our pay has fallen in real terms (adjusted for inflation) by 17.6% since 2009.
  • The gender pay gap at the University of Leicester was 20% in 2019, above the national average.
  • Our workloads are unbearable, with a 2016 survey at the University of Leicester reporting that 41.3% of staff found their workloads manageable about “half of the time” and 26.3% finding them “unmanageable most of the time”.
  • Across the sector, 41% of teaching staff are on hourly-paid contracts.

We are not targeting students. We are targeting these unbearable teaching conditions—which are also students’ learning conditions. We are fighting a race to the bottom in higher education, in the interests both of staff and students, present and future.

2) Do staff deserve a pay rise?

The email claimed to show “median earnings for higher education teaching professionals compared to other professional occupations”. It claimed median pay for higher education teaching professionals was £53,358 in 2020, suggesting high pay compared to other groups. The claim is untrue and the comparison spurious.

  • Median annual pay for “higher education teaching professionals” in 2020 was £47,034. (The relevant pay data is in Office for National Statistics ASHE table 14.7a. The relevant “SOC code” is “2311 Higher Education Teaching Professionals”.)
  • Median pay for this group is less than many other groups, including “electrical engineers”, “IT business systems analysists, architects & system designers”, “medical practitioners”, “transport associate professionals”, “train & tram drivers”, and “rail transport operatives”.
  • Even more importantly, the group covered by “higher education teaching professionals” consists of only 132,000 of the staff working in higher education. There was a total of 289,460 academic staff in the UK in 2019/2020, according to official data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency. Large numbers of academic staff work in other roles, such as librarians or researchers, many of whom are also UCU members. The average wage is considerably lower if such staff members are included.

Why are management at the University of Leicester trying to pull the wool over our eyes?

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