Endorsement: Alice Evans, King’s College London

Endorsement from Dr Alice Evans, King’s College London

For a long time, we were frustrated, yet despondent. We complained bitterly about neoliberal precarity, casualisation, and top-down metrics, but doubted change was possible, so sighed and went with the inevitable flow.

The 2018 industrial action changed all that. By striking together, in unity and solidarity, sharing photos of picket lines up and down the country, we realised our collective strength. And we won, we secured concessions. This emboldened our movement.

So the strikes were fundamentally a collective act of resistance.

Dr Jo Grady played a key rolebeing incredibly perceptive, analytical, articulate, and downright inspirational. She established USSbriefsto harness our collective expertise, counter disinformation, enabling us to realise we were right to resist, and thus legitimising our struggle for pensions. Thanks to comrades like her, more people came out. She strengthened our strike.

We all want a stronger, more effective union, which no longer meekly kowtows, but actually demands and expects better. Dr Jo Grady helped us realise that we were absolutely right to resist, and have the collective power to do so. She has my full support and gratitude.

Endorsement: Tom Bennett, City, University of London

Endorsement from Dr Tom Bennett, City, University of London

I’m not usually much enthused by union politics. But Jo Grady’s candidacy for UCU General Secretary has gotten me excited. She has the experience of teaching and researching to know exactly what issues face us and what we are struggling with. She has particular expertise in employment relations and the issues surrounding the pensions dispute that put her in a fantastic position to represent us in respect of those matters. And she proposes policies that fit coherently within the broader political framework. She gets the problems we face and has the imagination to envisage and articulate solutions. I’ve listened to her carefully and decidedin the light of all thisthat she speaks for me. She’s the General Secretary we need. Vote Jo Grady!

Endorsement: Matilda Fitzmaurice, Durham University

Endorsement from Ms Matilda Fitzmaurice, Durham University

In 2018, like many precarious and hourly-paid staff, I spent many hours freezing on the picket line with my securely employed colleagues to help them defend their USS pensions. So, like many other Graduate Teaching Assistants and ECRs, I was bitterly disappointed when the most recent strike ballot on HE pay and equality returned a below 50% turnout.

I am endorsing Dr Jo Grady as UCU General Secretary because the normalisation of precarious HE and FE employment has to stop. Spending years eking out a living on casual contracts post-PhD should not be normalised as an unavoidable ‘rite of passage’. The teaching, committee duties and other services we postgraduate researchers provide to universities, while significant, are often woefully underpaid. Precarious contracts and employment practices, which affect professional services staff as much as academic staff (if not more so), are making HE an intolerable sector to work in for so many colleagues, and making an academic or HE career achievable only for the most fortunate few. This is a gross injustice not only to those forced to leave the sector, but also in terms of the wasted research talent and the well-being of our students, who deserve to be taught by securely employed staff who can afford to plan ahead.

I am backing Jo because her manifesto recognises that insecure work marginalises colleagues who are already under-represented in HE; inequalities which are themselves exacerbated by the Hostile Environment. All postgraduate researchers and ECRs deserve to be able to consider a career in the sector to which we have dedicated so much of our time, money, skills, and care. We deserve a union that is prepared to fight for us.

All-Member Email 3

Below is the text of the third of four emails which I am entitled to send to all members of UCU as one of the candidates in the General Secretary election. It was sent on Sunday 12 May. To read the first and second emails, click here and here.

Dear colleague

In my last email I talked about campaigning for sector-wide agreements, starting with job security. Sector-wide agreements are vital. Without them, our employers keep undercutting each other, playing one part of each sector off against another in a race to the bottom.

I want UCU’s campaigns to be inclusive. Pay and pensions are not the only things we need to have fulfilling lives, and our demands to employers should reflect that. I also want those demands to be backed by real leverage, in the form of a plan for industrial action our members can get behind.

Inclusive campaigns, inclusive subscription rates

In Further and Higher Education, I will push for wide-ranging agreements that cover:

To mount inclusive campaigns, we need an inclusive union. That means reforming UCU’s regressive subscription rates. Currently, members earning £60,000 pay a lower proportion of their salary than those earning £20,000. The pace at which rates are being made fairer is glacial. But making membership affordable for those on lower pay is not enough, especially in the Further Education sector, where membership has plateaued. I have proposed elsewhere to consider rebuilding the union in that sector through special initiatives to make membership affordable for all FE staff, just as we’ve done for PhD students and sections of the FE workforce.

We need to redeploy our resources to encourage low-paid and casualised staff to join UCU and take action, and we need to do it sooner rather than later.

Effective industrial action

To make our workplaces fairer, we need to be able to take effective action. In the past, we have under-utilised the leverage at our disposal. For example, if we include our professional services colleagues in our demands, we can increase the pressure on our employers by withdrawing crucial administrative labour.

Members need to be confident that action will benefit, rather than hurt them. The available options, including strikes, have to be resourced and supported properly. That is why I propose to make the UCU strike fund transparent, easy to access, and less conservative in the support it provides.

UCU has accumulated large reserves without passing enough of them on to members who take action. I have heard from members who felt short-changed after suffering docked pay, applying to the Fighting Fund, and receiving less than they needed or expected. It does not have to be this way. We can do better, especially in Further Education, where members have faced massive pay cuts thanks to austerity, and sometimes have trouble taking action for more than a few days at a time.

Some trade unionists complain about the 50% turnout threshold imposed by Trade Union legislation. But while the law is in place, we can see it as an opportunity to organise and build support for new forms of collective action. When members take sustained action, we win. Winning is our best recruiting tool, and a larger membership galvanises all our campaigns. UCU should provide the resources to make this happen.

Accessible support for members

Some problems require personalised as well as collective solutions. I want UCU to develop versatile ways of addressing problems our members face every day. UCU has been spending more of your subscriptions on professional development courses which members struggle to find time to attend. I want to shift our focus to issues which our employers can’t or won’t deal with themselves, including:

We can use new technology and overhaul UCU’s online services to make these things easier than they are at present. Other unions are already doing it. So can we.

My campaign has revealed the appetite for change in UCU and started an unprecedented conversation about our future. Over 12,000 people have visited my website, and I’ve received endorsements from members across the union, from Prison Education to Higher Education.

My fourth and final email will say more about my long-term vision for UCU. Until then, please continue to contact me via emailTwitter, or Facebook, and subscribe to my mailing list. But above all, use your vote.

Dr Jo Grady

Endorsement: Grace Krause and Josh Robinson, Cardiff University

Endorsement from Ms Grace Krause and Dr Josh Robinson, Cardiff University

Grace Krause is a postgraduate student at Cardiff University, a research assistant on a fixed-term contract at University of Bath, and an anti-casualisation officer for Cardiff UCU. Josh Robinson is a senior lecturer in the School of English, Communications and Philosophy at Cardiff University, and the lead negotiator on the UCU committee at Cardiff. Here is their endorsement video for the #Grady4GS campaign! Thank you for your support, Grace and Josh!

You can see it on Twitter or on YouTube (below). The transcript is at the bottom.


JOSH ROBINSON: Grace and I’ve been working together over the last year or so, and negotiating improvements to the ways in which the university engages with postgraduate students carrying out teaching, and we’ve just had major success which is that management here has agreed to set up a working group to look at the status of postgraduate students who teach, and we’re very hopeful that this working group will move toward contracted employee status for those students who also teach, which will be a huge, huge improvement of conditions under which our postgraduate students carrying out teaching here. So quite excited about that.

GRACE KRAUSE: These negotiations built on about 4 years of organising that has happened here among postgraduate students. And through being involved in those activities, and through the wider anti-precarity work that is done here at Cardiff UCU, I’ve become very aware that a lot of the time, especially the most precariously employed workers here, have in the past not felt that Cardiff UCU represented them properly, and for some people that feeling still persists.

GRACE KRAUSE: And this among everything else is one of the reasons that I endorse Jo Grady for General Secretary of UCU, because her manifesto inspires proper hope among some of the most precariously employed workers at universities that things might change for the better. In particular, the high importance she gives to casualisation speaks to us, as does her proposal to have more progressive subscription rates which will benefit lower-paid employees and to establish a coordinating position for anti-casualisation work across the UK.

JOSH ROBINSON: This is really the first time in 12 years of UCU membership that I’ve been excited to vote for a General Secretary. I’m really excited by Jo’s manifesto, in particular because it sets out not just a wishlist of what education should look like, or you know some policy changes that we’d quite like a government to make, but she’s got a real vision that’s expressed in the manifesto that comes forward from the research and the activism that she’s been involved in. A real vision of how our union needs to change in order to build the power that we need to create the changes that we want.

Endorsement: Ghazal Vahidi, Steff Farley, Steven Parfitt, Thomas Swann

Endorsement from Ms Ghazal Vahidi, Steff Farley, Dr Steven Parfitt and Dr Thomas Swann, Loughborough University

From left to right: Ghazal Vahidi (doctoral researcher in Human Resource Management and Organisational Behaviour), Steff Farley (doctoral researcher in Mathematics), Steven Parfitt (Teaching Fellow in History), Thomas Swann (Early Career Fellow in Politics). All of us at Loughborough University.


Casualisation defines British universities and further education colleges today. As early career academics we all face the pressures and stresses caused by the low pay and insecurity that comes with casual work, and we all want to do something about it. Local branches are doing what they can to combat casualisation in their own workplaces, but we need a General Secretary who can more closely coordinate their work and make sure that all the good work they do is magnified and widely shared, not limited to isolated action at individual institutions. Jo has a proven commitment to playing that role. We believe she is the best candidate to make casualisation a central issue across UCU.


Equality is a crucial issue across HE and FE. Whether we consider equality in terms of the gender pay gap, a proper focus on the needs of BAME staff, or bringing LGBT+ issues to the fore, so much work remains to be done. As with campaigns against casualisation, the hard work of local branches needs more coordination and better support from the centre. Jo’s manifesto makes it clear that she puts equality in all forms at the heart of her vision for the union. We believe that as General Secretary, she can put that vision into action.

Not business as usual

Our union is changing. Since the 2018 USS strike, not to mention the other recent strikes and campaigns to defend staff across HE and FE, UCU is larger and stronger. These strike and campaigns energised a new layer of younger and not-so-younger activists who are eager to push back against decades of flatlining pay, casual labour and attacks on our pensions and jobs. Jo was in the forefront of these activists during the pensions dispute. She helped create USSbriefs, an invaluable source of information on the strike and on wider problems across HE and FE today.

Yet the dispute also raised concerns about the way our union is run. Jo is committed to implementing the recommendations of the Democracy Commission, which came out of those concerns, and to making sure that the hard work of activists and local branches is always reflected at a national level. We think that with Jo as General Secretary it will not be business as usualbecause it is business as usual that has meant worsening pay, conditions and pensions.

Endorsement: Helen Eborall and Rebecca Linnett, University of Leicester

Endorsement from Dr Helen Eborall and Ms Rebecca Linnett, University of Leicester

Helen is Lecturer in Social Science applied to Health, University of Leicester, and Equalities Officer for Leicester UCU. Becky (and her sidekick Reuben, aka @dogwithajob) is a PhD student in the Department of Health Sciences at the University of Leicester and a member of the Disability Staff Forum.

We are endorsing Jo Grady for General Secretary for so many reasons, but given our involvement in equalities work we particularly support her stance on this topic. It’s easy to talk about having a commitment to equality issues, but Jo has consistently demonstrated that she does, from regularly calling out discrimination on Twitter to her tireless campaigning within numerous branch positions.

Jo’s manifesto is a breath of fresh air for the future of Higher and Further Education. She is matter-of-fact and realistic about the current and future challenges to the sector, and as General Secretary of UCU will bring new ideas and approaches to the work ahead and to the ethos of the union. In particular, we welcome the more coordinated approach she proposes to fighting discriminationwhich will be a godsend to branch equality officersand her ideas around collective negotiation and bargaining with employers on issues relating to intersectional inequalities.

Jo Grady as General Secretary of UCU gives us hope for the future of HE and FE, and confidence that UCU canand willbe pivotal in transforming the sector for the good of us all.

Endorsement: Isla Forsyth, University of Nottingham

Endorsement from Dr Isla Forsyth, University of Nottingham

I’ve voted for Jo Grady in the UCU General Secretary election because I believe it is vital that union members are represented by someone who has experience of what we are facing in this sector, who understands the demands made of us and the pressures we face every day.

Her manifesto clearly demonstrates someone who is dedicated to building an ethical and sustainable university that will fight the casualisation of labour, work for equality, diversity and inclusivity, and challenge increasing precarity.  The impressive speed with which her campaign has been launched and the level of detail for how positive change will be sought demonstrates commitment, organisation and motivation, as well as ability to mobilise, engage and act that I believe is much needed.

At times there feels like there is so little potential to push back against the pressure of the university sector which employs the language of social responsibility, equality and partnership to further squeeze its staff to deliver more at all costs, and where perceived failings are individualised and penalised.  I believe that by voting for Jo there is a real chance to challenge these pressures, hold universities to account and push for truly ethical, sustainable and responsible universities.

Endorsement: Steven Shakespeare, Liverpool Hope University

Endorsement from Dr Steven Shakespeare, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, Liverpool Hope University

Here is Steven’s endorsement video for the #Grady4GS campaign! Thank you for your support!

You can see it on Twitter or on YouTube (below). The transcript is at the bottom.


I’m Steven Shakespeare. I’m a Lecturer in Philosophy at Liverpool Hope University. And I’m endorsing Jo Grady to be the General Secretary for UCU.

What impressed me about Jo is that she has that frontline experience in the classroom, knowing what the pressures are facing our profession. But she’s also an activist with a fantastic record of success in union work, and has really come to the fore in the recent radical disputes about pensions in the sector. I don’t think Jo is beholden to any faction, but nor is she part of the union bureaucracy. She’s a radical voice with fresh ideas to democratise and empower the union, and deal with issues like gender inequality, casualisation.

I’m voting for Jo Grady because I think she’s the voice that our union needs to make it truly a member-led body. Thank you.

Endorsement: Clare Bambra, Newcastle University

Endorsement from Professor Clare Bambra, Newcastle University

Here is Clare’s endorsement video for the #Grady4GS campaign! Thank you for your support!

You can see it on Twitter or on YouTube (below). The transcript is at the bottom.


Hi, I’m Clare Bambra, Professor of Public Health at Newcastle University, and I’m supporting Jo Grady for three reasons. Firstly, she’s one of us. She’s an academic so she understands the issues we’re facing on a daily basis. Our issues are her issues, and they matter to her personally. Secondly, Jo was a really important activist during the USS pensions dispute, so I trust her to be acting in my best interests and in the best interests of members in future resolutions around this issue. And finally, Jo is a pensions expert, that’s her academic background and her credibility in this area is really high. So I think it’s really important that we have a leader of the union who understands the seminal issue of our times. So please support Jo Grady, vote Jo Grady number 1.