Call For Members Who Are External Examiners At Pre-1992 Institutions To Resign With Immediate Effect

The Royal Holloway branch of UCU echoes the national call for members of UCU who act as External Examiners at pre-1992 institutions to resign with immediate effect, where possible. Members must of course adhere to any contractual notice periods. We also suggest that UCU members do not accept new posts at the affected universities until the dispute is resolved.
A list of universities involved in this dispute is provided here.

Template resignation letter

Dear xxxxxxx,

I am writing to tell you that, with regret, I am resigning from my post as an external examiner for xxxxxxxx.

I am doing so in order to support the call made by the UCU for external examiners to resign and not take up new posts in support of the campaign to defend USS pensions.

EITHER: I am giving due notice of xxxxx in accordance with UCU’s advice and in line with the contract between us.

OR: There is no notice period specified in my contract. UCU’s advice in this situation is that I give reasonable notice and in the circumstances my last day will be xxxxxx, assuming you agree to pay me for all work done up to that point.

I have enjoyed working with you and colleagues and hope we can renew our working relationship when the dispute is over.

Yours sincerely,



Branch e-mail to the Principal re. SMT handling of the student occupation

Sent Saturday 17th March 2018 at 3:28pm

Dear Principal,

Many of our members and colleagues were glad to see the open way in which you spoke to concerned students yesterday, when they asked to discuss with you the threat to the pensions of the lecturers and the professional service staff who support their studies. Engaging with the students in a way that respects their points of view and their right to demonstrate shows an openness and respect for their right to protest which can only bode well for long term relations.

It was disappointing therefore to see that the security presence on the doors intensified yesterday, shortly after you met with them, so that those who left, some of whom for medical reasons, could not re-enter. We hear now re-entry is not permitted and that the window is blocked, so that food and other supplies cannot be provided. Rather than bringing this dispute to an end, this over reaction threatens to prolong their protest and will not facilitate a return to good relations once the dispute is resolved. Confronting them and denying their right to a peaceful protest also generates further anger and disappointment amongst staff.

The social media coverage of this occupation and more broadly of the industrial dispute at Royal Holloway has exposed the College to scrutiny, which is unlikely to have done the institution any favours. Will you reflect on the way that the actions of senior management are perceived outside our institution and immediately relax the security presence around this occupation?

We look forward to discussing the College’s latest position on the pension dispute early next week.


RHUL-UCU Strike Committee

#RHOccupy continues

We note how students occupying the senior management corridor in defence of staff pensions are at the same time writing their assignments with impending deadlines. Courage, integrity and competence – it’s impressive.

We are impressed too with the our students’ understanding of the issues behind the industrial dispute and the concerns of RHUL staff.

First, they’ve pointed out how university employers have used or accepted valuations of our pension fund that were based on false assumptions and poor methodologies. The aim of these valuations was to convince us, wrongly, that there there was a deficit crisis. The so-called ‘de-risking’ sought by UUK was simply unconvincing from the outset: in effect, it would in fact have put our Defined Benefits at great risk. With pension risks off their account books, universities could borrow more money for the buildings they have prioritized for years over investment in staff. We welcome nonetheless the statement of Royal Holloway’s Principal to the students that he will be calling for new independent valuations.

Second, the occupying students have asked for a commitment to the principle of Defined Benefits, even if this means increased contributions from employers and employed. Other Vice Chancellors have made it clear that pre-1992, research intensive universities must offer fair guaranteed pensions, especially when the other universities do so. We know that staff at RHUL will support industrial action until they receive a clear assurance of a commitment to support at least the principle of Defined Benefits for this year’s USS valuation. So far Royal Holloway’s Principal and his senior team have failed to keep up with events. We are hoping that, on this occasion, they can now show that they can respond to the concerns of their staff, and begin to bring to an end an avoidable dispute that has inflicted so much damage to universities. We’ll know soon.

Student occupation and Pizza of Thanks

The branch recognises the solidarity of our students in confronting the Principal of Royal Holloway about proposed detrimental cuts to our pensions. They rightly recognise that our working conditions are their learning conditions. The students have occupied an area of Founders in protest at what they felt was a lack of engagement with their arguments.

Our students have given us incredible support over the course of the last four weeks of strike action, of which the occupation is the most recent. We want to say thank you to them for all of their solidarity for the last month – so we are holding a Pizza Of Thanks event on Wednesday 21st March! We invite all our students to come along so we can show them our appreciation for their patience and understanding over the strike period.

Day Fourteen! What’s Next?

Thank you first for your support and determination to defend fair pensions over the last four weeks. The last few days proved truly testing, but university employers can now no longer fail to understand the strength of your feelings and the impact of the industrial dispute.

We have nearly some to the end of the last five days of the strike. You can see from our Twitter feed that our picket lines on campus were as strong as ever this morning.


We now have the strike declaration forms for this week’s action available for members to download:

You should return your declaration forms on Monday to Human Resources, and, as before, return the appropriate form for each day you chose to strike. Forms should be addressed to Gillian Hemus, head of HR, and can be sent via internal or external mail.


Tomorrow is an Applicant Visitor Day. The branch understands that many of our members have contractual or workload duties, and will be attending. We all want to support the College’s recruitment activities, and hope that the dispute will be resolved in the weeks ahead so that we won’t in future have to include recruitment activities as a major part of the industrial dispute.

Equally, Saturday working is contractually by mutual consent, and we will support any member who feels unable to attend such events.


In your lectures and classes next week, do remember again to thank our students for their fantastic support for fair pay and conditions.


Matters continue to move fast. We will be in contact again soon on the dispute nationally and locally.

The Strike Fund Needs Your Support!

We are pleased to announce that some very generous pledges to the local UCU Strike Fund mean that it has reached well over £4,000, but further donations are needed to support members, especially those on insecure contracts, who have lost earnings as a result of strike action.

If you wish to donate please email rhulucu2018 at to request bank account details.

Any amounts are welcome, especially from those who have not been taking action but wish to show support for the strike and solidarity with striking colleagues.

For details of suggested daily donation rates and how to apply to the strike fund, please see our central post.

Notes from the RHUL UCU Extraordinary Branch Meeting, 14th March 2018

Convened with less than 24 hours’ notice, about 80 staff traipsed into the bowels of the Bourne building for the Extraordinary Meeting to discuss the flawed “agreement” released on Monday evening by UUK and UCU, following talks at ACAS. Other members sent messages of solidarity from the head of the UCU March For Education 2 in central London. The speed with which the meeting was convened meant that it did not comply with formal Branch rules for an Extraordinary Branch Meeting, but members agreed the constitution could be set aside on this occasion.

Jeff Frank laid out the context for the negotiations at ACAS: branch representatives had met at headquarters in January to demand the status quo whilst USS was revalued. He then compared the projected deficit to earnings of the member institutions to illustrate why Monday’s proposals were so inadequate. The proposal to examine a Collectively Defined Contribution scheme is odd as these are not yet legal in the UK and, importantly, they do not guarantee any retirement income. However as the trustees will impose the move a purely defined contribution scheme in June in the absence of another proposal, an alternative plan must emerge quickly.

Donna Brown reported on the apparent disconnect between the UCU negotiating team, who had achieved this proposal, and the branch representatives at the meeting. The chief negotiator was keen to emphasise how much the proposals improved upon the initial UUK plan to impose a defined contribution scheme and that UUK were still resistant to negotiation. Whilst the strength of feeling of Branch representatives was so strong that it became clear the proposal would have to be rejected, this meant that the UCU would be unable to participate in the USS Joint Negotiating Committee meeting today. This meant that Branches within universities would need to redouble their efforts to convince Vice Chancellors and College Principals to join the large minority already asking UUK to open negotiations without preconditions. Locally we had achieved concessions from our Principal: the bizarre ASOS reporting mechanism had been pulled; deductions for most aspects of ASOS had been withdrawn; and the College would spread the withheld salary of striking staff across three months. These gains had been achieved by the combined voice of strikers, students and alumni and therefore we needed to find new ways to direct stakeholders’ voices to safeguard our pensions.

Continue reading “Notes from the RHUL UCU Extraordinary Branch Meeting, 14th March 2018”