Endorsement: Alice Bennett, Liverpool Hope University

Endorsement from Dr Alice Bennett, Liverpool Hope University

I’m heartened that Jo Grady is running for General Secretary of UCU. She is offering a real alternative to the candidates who represent the union’s existing factions.

Members like me in post-92 HE institutions watched the USS strikes in February 2018 and offered our support and solidarity to our collaborators, mentors, colleagues, former students, and friends. We were a sector united and it was a lesson in how powerful the Union can be when it makes use of the wealth of passion and expertise in its membership. Members in universities whose pensions are with TPS know that we are next for this fight, and that we will need the support of our friend and colleagues across the sector, in pre-92s and in FE, to defend both TPS benefits and ensure TPS employers’ contribution hikes do not lead to waves of redundancies sweeping through post-92s.

I agree with Jo’s emphasis on tackling inequality, casualisation, the hostile environment, and marketisation in our sector, the effects of which disproportionately affect those members who are already the most precarious. I trust Jo to give us the well-researched policy, passionate activism, pragmatic strategy, and engaged leadership that we need for the future of the union.

Endorsement: Alana Vincent, University of Chester

Endorsement from Professor Alana Vincent, University of Chester

Why am I endorsing Jo Grady for UCU General Secretary? Basically every word of her manifesto—but if you don’t have time to read it, let me give you the short(er) version.

It’s no secret to anyone who’s been even vaguely involved in their local branch, or on a picket line, or trying to work to rule, that organising within HE and FE is hard. Those of us who teach are trained to think of what we do as a vocation rather than a job; our passions for our work, our care for our students and colleagues, are turned against us when questions of working conditions and compensation are raised. And our voices are often so loud that administrative and support staff feel like they aren’t really represented by the Union at all. So we’ve got decades of experience not trusting our Union to turn up for us, and not turning up for each other when it counts. And then we collectively moan about why our Union’s bargaining is all a bit shit.

I withdrew from membership of UCU in 2013, following an incident of racial profiling by the Union itself in late 2012, to which neither Sally Hunt nor Helen Carr, who was then National Head of Equality, bothered to respond. I re-joined in 2014 in solidarity with my colleagues who were striking for better pay, but did so with no small degree of discomfort as my personal experience of national leadership was that they were careless of members’ best interests, out of touch with our actual working conditions, and disdainful of the vast expertise which members might bring to support various collective initiatives.

To change that, we need national leadership that looks to members as intelligent actors with something to contribute beyond just our votes and our dues. We need a General Secretary who is actually familiar with the working conditions that we face, with the very real mental and emotional barriers that limit turn-out for particular forms of industrial action, and has the creativity and the will to look for real solutions. Jo Grady is that candidate.

Endorsement: Sam Marsh, University of Sheffield

Endorsement from Dr Sam Marsh, University of Sheffield UCU President and USS negotiator

The ballot to elect UCU’s next General Secretary opens on Monday! I’m honoured to have the opportunity to put my number 1 vote next to fellow University of Sheffield UCU committee member Jo Grady, who launched her pitch-perfect manifesto last week.

I’ve worked most closely with Jo over the last year on matters relating to her Sheffield UCU pensions officer brief, in particular sitting alongside her as part of in-depth discussions at meetings of the highly productive University of Sheffield Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) Working Group. You won’t need me to tell you how substantial Jo’s contribution to the USS dispute has been, but you may not be aware of the many hours she’s spent in discussion with University of Sheffield management developing a shared position both sides are proud of.

Jo Grady’s manifesto demonstrates how her vision and ideas for reforming UCU extends much, much further than USS. Under Jo’s leadership, we can expect a robust and responsive national operation, more attentive to what members and branches are asking for. This election brings the chance for fresh and a new approach to how UCU’s national operation ineracts with members and branches, something that I think is sorely needed. I couldn’t imagine a better vision for such an approach than that offered by Jo Grady.

Endorsement: David Harvie, University of Leicester

Endorsement from Dr David Harvie, University of Leicester

Universities in the UKlike every other part of the education sectorare in crisis. They have lost their way and their purpose. Vice-chancellors are beholden to metrics, financial and otherwise. They have shown themselves incapable of responding to the challenges that we should and must address as a society: mass extinction, inequality, nationalism and xenophobia. In the face of VCs’ abrogation of responsibility, our union should and must step up to these challenges: UCU must develop a positive vision of how tertiary education can serve society in the 21st century. In my opinion, Jo Grady is the candidate best ablein fact, the only candidate ableto facilitate UCU becoming a union that can address these challenges and develop this necessary vision.

Endorsement: Leon Rocha and Jack Newport

Endorsement from Dr Leon Rocha, University of Lincoln and Jack Newport, graduate of University of Liverpool

I’m a Senior Lecturer in Chinese History at University of Lincoln, having previously worked at the University of Liverpool from 2014 to early 2019. I taught Jack Newport on the BA History programme at Liverpool from 2014 to 2017. The photo below was taken at Jack’s graduation in Summer 2017. Jack and I co-wrote this endorsement for Jo Grady.

I met Jo Grady in 2018 through the USS industrial action, and with many new friends and colleagues, we co-founded USSbriefs. We worked closely together for a year on the many dimensions of the USS pensions dispute, and now I’m supporting Jo’s campaign to be UCU General Secretary. Many comrades have already spoken of Jo’s expertise in industrial relations, as well as her experience in Leicester and Sheffield UCU branch. So I want to talk about something else that is every bit as important in this General Secretary electionI want to talk about all our students.

When Jo Grady launched the Crowdfunder for her campaign, my former student Jack Newport got in touch and immediately donated. He left the following public comment:

Jack’s background is very similar to Jo’s. Like Jo, Jack is the first member of his family to go to university. Like Jo, Jack also shares a working-class background. And like Jo, Jack also shows us the best side of Higher Education—as Jack memorably puts it, “Higher Education is about changing the way we look at the world, so that we can change the world for the better”. I agree with him. Jack is a fantastic student and graduated with a First Class degree in History with a prize-winning dissertation on Maoist China.

During the USS strike last year, even though Jack had already graduated, he kept in touch and even visited his former lecturers and professors at the picket lines. We got talking about the current state of Higher Education in the snow. Jack said he would very much like to become a historian of China, but given the unprecedented scale of stress and anxiety, casualisation and exploitation in the sector, he didn’t think academia would work out for him. When Jack said that, I didn’t know what to say to him—even though Jack has the great potential to be a brilliant lecturer, my conscience stopped me from urging that he should do a PhD.

We have got to fix the Higher Education sectornot just for the benefit of ourselves as university staff, but for all of our present and future students. And Jo Grady gets it. She’s led classrooms as well as union campaigns. As a frontline member of staff, she understands the pressures that we face every day as educators, as well as the pressures that our students have to confront. Weeks ago, I filmed Jo Grady’s campaign video and was able to see Jo in action—she was teaching a class, coincidentally, on trade unions and pensions. Her expertise, energy and engagement shone through. I find it a genuinely remarkable opportunity that, in the 2019 UCU General Secretary election, we have a candidate who has a wealth of experience in education, and therefore tremendous empathy with our plight. And empathy makes great leaders. Jack and I trust Jo Grady to lead both students and staff in the many struggles ahead.

Endorsement: Andrew Fugard, Birkbeck, University of London

Endorsement from Dr Andrew Fugard, Birkbeck, University of London

This is the first time I have felt genuinely enthusiastic about a UCU election. I believe Jo Grady can help build UCU and improve its effectiveness at fighting widespread precarity and inequality, growing workloads, and resisting metric-driven managerialism.

Jo Grady is the only candidate with experience working as a lecturer in HEin my view this is essential for ensuring campaigns are effective for Birkbeck members. She is Senior Lecturer in Employment Relations so her academic expertise is directly relevant. She also vows to work with professional services colleagues and acknowledges how they are often in the most precarious positions.

Jo has a decade’s worth of grassroots UCU experience, starting as a Departmental Rep when she was a lecturer at Leicester; she was also Co-Branch Secretary. When she moved to Sheffield she became branch Pensions Officer. Recently she was elected to the National Executive Committee (NEC) with a huge majority. She also co-founded USSbriefs, which quickly became essential reading to understand the pension dispute. Together this experience is excellent prep for the role.

I am confident Jo will make a wonderful General Secretary and encourage to you vote Grady for GS!

Endorsement: Alison Phipps, University of Sussex

Endorsement from Professor Alison Phipps, University of Sussex

I am delighted to endorse Jo Grady’s grassroots candidacy for UCU General Secretary. I got to know Jo during the 2018 pensions strikes, during which she was a clarion, vital voice of comradeship and expertise. I support all her manifesto commitments, especially around fighting casualisation and marketisation, and ending the hostile environment. She fully understands the realities of working in the contemporary higher education sector, and I trust her to be a voice for the most pressured, precarious and lowest-paid amongst us. With a re-animated UCU following the 2018 strike action, Jo promises the change we need to both strategise for and make a radical and values-based intervention into the sector. I believe in the power of unions, and I believe in Jo Grady.

Endorsement: Dennis Leech, University of Warwick

Endorsement from Professor Emeritus Dennis Leech, University of Warwick

I am Dennis Leech, an emeritus professor of economics at Warwick. I have been a branch activist, caseworker, branch president and currently pensions officer. I am a UCU-elected member of the USS Advisory Committee and the UCU Superannuation Working Group. As such I am working to defend guaranteed pensions (defined benefits), that I believe are perfectly sustainable whatever we are told to the contrary by those with vested interests otherwise, in both the USS and TPS.

Jo Grady’s manifesto is the refreshing change that UCU urgently needs. The union has become stale and often unresponsive to issues urgently faced by grassroots members. As branch president I often felt isolated and in need of stronger union support when faced with a high-handed management that was imposing redundancies, at times apparently arbitrary disciplinary action and a grotesque research performance management regime in its ruthless pursuit of REF rankings. Jo’s proposals will seriously address this and strengthen the union for members.

The USS dispute is not over. Although the UCU won a victory through the strike, getting the proposal to end defined benefits withdrawn, the scheme is not yet secure. Far from it. There needs to be change to the way USS is run, its governance and valuation methodology, to ensure it remains open for future members. There is also a pressing need for USS to invest in green industries and divest from fossil fuels for the long term. Jo’s proposals as set out in her manifesto are what is needed.

Endorsement: Dan Rebellato, Royal Holloway, University of London

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 sectorreforms 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 resourceslegal, economic, ethicalwere 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.

Endorsement: Matt Lodder, University of Essex

Endorsement from Dr Matt Lodder, University of Essex

Here is Matt’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.


My name is Dr Matt Lodder from the University of Essex and I’m supporting Jo Grady for General Secretary of UCU.

I’ve just been really inspired by Jo’s activism, enthusiasm, energy, knowledge, and kindness over the past year or so in UCU circles.

I think during the strike when we were all struggling and really feeling, you know, slightly under siege—Jo’s tireless presence on picket lines and online in particular just, I think, gave us all some hope. I think at a time when the Union, our Union, desperately needs someone who kind of really understands the issues that our sector is facing, Jo seems to me to be the perfect candidate.

She’s someone who not only lives the reality as an academic of a sector under siege, but also someone who studies, works on, publishes on industrial relations in general, trade unions in particular. She seems best-placed both culturally, academically, intellectually, and in terms of her personality and charisma to lead this Union where it needs to go.

It’s been a tough few years I think for UCU, and for the sector, and it’s only going to get tougher and I think there’s no other candidate standing that has the range of skills and the emotional and intellectual fortitude I think to take all of us into the battles that are coming over the hill.

Vote for Jo!