Who are the UCU?

Not sure who the University and College Union are? We've put together this helpful article to give you an idea of what a trade union does and information about the upcoming vote on strike action.

The University and College Union (UCU) is a British trade union, which represents academic and support staff in education (mostly those educating in a higher or further education setting).

UCU has over 130,000 members nationally across 152 institutions and many academic and support staff that work at Royal Holloway are members of UCU.

What is a trade union?

Trade unions are membership organisations that provide a range of assistance and services to members in exchange for a membership fee. UCU describe the role of trade unions as:

  • Providers of information, advice and guidance to members for work-related problems.
  • Providers of training, insurance, financial services and legal advice to members.
  • Campaigning on particular issues.

There are many trade unions in the UK and they usually represent members working in a specific industry or field. Membership of a trade union is optional and is a personal decision, but is protected under employee rights. This means all employees have the right to join a trade union (or not) and employers are not able to treat employees unfairly for being members or incentivise leaving a trade union.

Why are we talking about them?

You may not have heard of UCU before, but as the trade union that represents the majority of the academic staff here at Royal Holloway, their campaigns and activities can have an impact on your lecturers and in turn your education.

In 2020, university staff at Royal Holloway participated in the largest strike action UK higher education had ever seen following a ballot of UCU members. UCU has announced its intention to hold another ballot this month with industrial action (if supported by members) planned to take place before the end of the calendar year. 

When is the ballot?

The voting ballot will open for UCU members on Monday 18 October and close on Thursday 4 October. We expect UCU to announce the results on Monday 8 November.

The ballot will involve two separate votes for members; we don’t know the exact wording yet but UCU say they will ask members to vote in favour of industrial action in relation to:

This is a really complicated set of topics and next week we’ll release an article with more information on these specific matters. It’s important to understand that UCU is aware that these issues do not affect all members equally and, as a result, not all members will be voting on both of these topics.

  • Seven institutions will vote only on the USS Pension Scheme topic.
  • 83 institutions will vote only on the Pay and Working Conditions topic.
  • 62 Institutions will vote on both the USS Pension Scheme and Pay and Working Conditions topics separately.

At Royal Holloway, UCU members will vote on both topics.

How can I find out more?

For the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing an article on Friday (and in your all-student email) to give you some useful background information. This week, we’ve tackled a broad overview of who is involved and why this is an important topic for you to engage with. Next week we’ll be bringing you some information about the ballot topics.

In the meantime, you can find out more by visiting these websites: