This is not about big money, but about academic jobs and livelihoods. British universities have very early in the referendum campaign publicly expressed their support for the UK remaining in the EU. The positive contribution of membership to the UK’s HE sector has been eloquently articulated by the Scientists for EU group, Universities UK and several individual colleagues. There is one noticeable absence: UCU, the University and College Union.
UK HE sector is highly international, more than in most countries in the world. EU nationals make a significant part of the academic staff, as well as of the student body. At the University of Oxford, 41% of students and 48% of academic staff are non-British nationals. According to Universities UK, more than 15% of teaching and research staff at Britain’s 132 universities are non-British EU nationals, including some of the most highly regarded researchers in the country.
I expect many UCU members to be non-British EU nationals. Should the Union be concerned about the negative impact Brexit may have on their jobs? Should the Union be concerned about the consequences of severe cuts to research funding not just on EU nationals but on all its members, British and non-British alike?
I searched on UCU website for a position on the EU referendum but I couldn’t find one. I’ve then twitted @ucu a few times asking if I was missing something (below the latest one).
What is @ucu position on #EUref? I couldn’t find much on UCU website.
— Nando Sigona (@nandosigona) June 14, 2016
I’ve emailed my university UCU rep twice but didn’t get a reply. I’ve asked colleagues if I had missed something. A British colleague even emailed his UCU regional rep to query. He was luckier than me and got a reply in less than 24 hours. Here is the reply:
“UCU has not taken a formal position either in favour of remaining in the EU or leaving it. In common with many organisations of a political nature we are a broad church encompassing many different opinions within our ranks. UCU is however affiliated to the TUC who have endorsed the campaign for the UK to remain in the EU”.
It makes one wonder about the ‘politics’ covered in this broad church (I can’t remember to have been consulted on such a crucial issue) – I thought the interest of its members was the paramount commitment of a Union.
And a proxy endorsement via TUC is nothing more than a fig leaf if UCU website hardly mentions it and UCU members are not informed of such position, despite numerous daily emails sent from UCU national and local branches. Moreover, as another colleague noticed,
“The reply to your colleague doesn’t say that UCU have endorsed the TUC position, but rather that UCU is affiliated to TUC which has endorsed the Remain campaign. The two aren’t the same”.
As a member of UCU, I feel unrepresented and left wondering on why ‘my’ Union hasn’t even bothered to explain its position publicly (British jobs for British people?) and is instead completely ignoring what is likely to be the biggest single decision which could have profound impact on British universities and above all on their workforce and UCU members.
This is particularly frustrating because, after being excluded from the vote despite having lived and paid tax in the UK for 15 years (no taxation without representation?), I had hoped to see my position and interests represented at least through my membership to the Union.
*Please email me if I have missed any crucial statements by the UCU on the EU referendum
I agree – as a long-standing member of UCU I thought that it was disgraceful that they could not come out and publicly support a referendum with such far reaching consequences for the sector. The focus on the current industrial action is pointless in comparison and I for one do not support it.