Commons Mail 1: Let's Make a Start

Joining UCUC, NEC elections, and anti-precarity

Dear subscriber, 

Thank you for subscribing to our Mailing List and welcome to this first mailout! 

If you have not already done so, check out our website to find out about who we are and the values that underpin our work. UCU Commons was launched on 11th January, and we are already active on a number of fronts. We are involved in activities around anti-precarity, governance of universities, and how to make UCU a more effective trade union. As and when new projects develop, we will add information to the website. You can also follow us on Twitter and we will be publishing regular blogs here.

If you would like to be involved in our activities, join us! Anyone is welcome to join UCU Commons as long as they meet our three entry criteria: 

  1. You need to share our values

  2. You cannot be a current member of any other UCU faction

  3. You must meet our safety requirements (e.g. no history of bullying or sexual harassment)

If you would like to join, just send us a short email to with a little information about yourself and why you are interested in joining us. If you know one or two existing members of UCU Commons who are willing to support your application, please indicate this in your email. We do not charge any membership subscription.

Our first blog, published a few days ago, was Precarity, Risk, and Hypocrisy in the Modern University: Ben Pope argues that universities can and must manage their workforce planning risk rather than offloading it as temporary contracts and excessive workloads. Ben has also just launched his own website to share his personal thoughts on precarious employment in Higher Education. Ben is one of the 14 UCU Commons candidates running for election to UCU National Executive Committee, as a representative of precarious staff.

UCU Commons is running a slate of 14 candidates for the UCE NEC elections that will open on Friday 29 January 2021 and close on Tuesday 2 March 2021. The NEC is one of the most important decision-making bodies in the union, yet turnout in NEC elections is notoriously low (around 13% in the 2019-20 round). The NEC includes representatives from Higher Education and Further Education, some of whom are elected regionally and some on a UK-wide basis. There are also seats for representatives for women members, disabled members, black members, LGBT+ members, migrant members, and casually employed members. The NEC is composed of about 60 members. Members serve a term of two years, and elections take place every year for half the seats. NEC members from HE also sit on the Higher Education Committee (HEC), and those from FE on the Further Education Committee (FEC): these are the committees where important decisions that are relevant to a specific sector are taken, for example about industrial action. For further discussion on NEC and other UCU structures, see ‘UCU’s national democratic structures: a case for reform’ (#USSbriefs23) by Rachel Cohen and ‘What are UCU’s National Executive Committee (NEC) and Higher Education Committee (HEC)?’ (#USSbriefs74) by Kirsten Forkert and Nick Hardy.

Six UCU Commons Members are currently members of the NEC. All are from HE and therefore also sit on HEC. Elected in 2019 and 2020, they are characteristic of a new generation of UCU activists who want to see the NEC and HEC become more effective and more transparent decision-making bodies. Our presence has already destabilised the balance of power previously held by two entrenched factions within UCU (UCU Left and IBL) and we have managed to push forward our agenda to make UCU more accountable and transparent. Please help us get more candidates from UCU Commons elected to NEC so that we can have a bigger impact.

The list of UCU Commons candidates, as well as further information about the NEC and the way these elections work is available here. Please look out for your ballot papers in the post and make sure you return them in time. Increasing the turnout in these elections is crucial and you can help with this by emailing at least ten colleagues to let encourage them to vote, and to let them know about the UCU Commons slate.

In solidarity,