Endorsement from Professor Dan Rebellato, Royal Holloway, University of London
I’m a Professor at Royal Holloway, University of London, but I’ve been teaching in higher education since 1990, when I did hourly-paid teaching during my PhD. Over the last 30 years, I’ve seen the rise and fall of our working conditions, under a misguided series of ideological reforms designed to marketise the university sector—reforms that have done no good to anyone and plenty of harm. Conditions for colleagues have become more and more precarious; government-led administrative oversight and overreach have come to threaten the wellbeing of staff at all levels; the transformation from students of disciplinary knowledge to customers of employability training has been a dispiriting impoverishment of our educational mission and, perhaps more urgently, has intensified the mental health crisis among the young people we’re trying to educate, develop, support.
I hate going on strike. I worry about letting down our students. I’m much happier in a seminar room or a lecture hall than on a picket line. It’s genuinely my very last resort. But the strike last year was a turning point for me and for many others. It became starkly clear that we, the members of UCU, are the best embodiment of that vision of the university as a place of teaching and learning, collegiality and exchange, research and discovery, a place where we all play a part helping our students, our colleagues and ourselves to challenge and enrich our understanding of the world. The grossly unjust and ill-informed attack on our pensions was just a part of a wider attack on these core educational values. It was magnificent to see us fighting back.
It would’ve been much more difficult for me to marshal the arguments I needed to persuade myself, colleagues, friends and others of the merit of our cause without the brilliant work of USSbriefs. The clarity of those resources—legal, economic, ethical—were transforming and illuminating. Jo Grady’s contributions to that campaign and those resources was inspiring; I think her vision for our Union is too. She’s best placed to lead us all in pushing back against marketisation, bogus metrics, workplace precarity and the instrumentalisation of our students’ education. That’s why I’ll be voting for Jo Grady as General Secretary of the UCU.