Arts and Humanities update

Kent UCU negotiators have continued to engage with senior management about the possibility of a “mass selection process for redeployment” in Arts & Humanities (A&H). 

Negotiators have made it clear to senior management that the mass selection process would be unfair, unworkable and needlessly escalatory. Such a process would not yield the “cost savings” senior management talk about either.

Letters initiating mass selection processes for redeployment have not been sent at the time of writing, but no agreement has been reached on this matter between senior management and UCU.

Negotiators are confident that this situation could be resolved through continued talks and transparent information sharing. We very much hope that senior management shares this commitment to continuing dialogue. 

Any further updates will be circulated as soon as possible.

Mass Selection for Redeployment in Arts and Humanities

We have an important update and some advice for Arts & Humanities members about a communication you will shortly be receiving. Some of you will receive an email from HR informing you that you are being ‘pooled’ for reselection as a member of staff in A&H and inviting you to fill out a form: in essence, you are being asked to reapply for your post. We believe that up to 100 staff will be contacted with this communication.


We are writing to reassure you of the present agreement that there will be no compulsory redundancies in Arts & Humanities as a result of the Arts & Humanities review.

The exact wording UCU received from Karen Cox is as follows:

‘Karen and the Executive Group wish to provide a further specific commitment to all Arts and Humanities staff that there will be no compulsory redundancies as a result of the current review.’

Yesterday your negotiators met with HR and senior management and asked them to reaffirm that commitment and they have done so.

Accordingly, please don’t be panicked by the letter you may shortly receive from HR and don’t feel pressured to rush into any action. The aim of this ‘selection process’ is to intimidate individuals into taking Voluntary Redundancy. As a union, we stand strong together.


Our immediate advice is as follows:

  • Do not act upon the letters about to be sent to staff in A&H: await further UCU guidance. The local branch is receiving appropriate guidance from senior regional UCU staff & leading national organisers. We aim to have this ready by early next week.
  • Never agree to “voluntary redundancy” against your will. Remember we have a deal of no compulsory redundancies as a result of the A&H review, so no staff member should feel pressured to take VR. Our earlier guidance, updated and available here still applies.
  • As compulsory redundancies are off the table, their only credible threat is selection for redeployment outside of the Division.
  • IMPORTANT: Even if you are selected for redeployment outside of the Division, you do not need to accept any other post that is not legally ‘Suitable Alternative Employment’ (SAE), which needs to retain your pay/grade. Kent HR’s definition of SAE is: Suitable alternative employment (SAE) – a vacancy where the skills and knowledge sought to fill the vacancy match the skills and knowledge of the redeployee with, or without, further training. The following criteria are usually used to determine whether a post is ‘suitable alternative employment’:
    • The employee has the knowledge, skills, qualifications and experience to perform the new role.
    • The terms and conditions of the work are no less favourable, e.g. similar status, location, job duties, pay/grade, hours and responsibility.
  • Even as a potential redeployee, you will remain employed under your current salary and spinal point until you accept SAE. HR confirmed yesterday that all redeployees remain paid employees whilst they find alternative work within the institution.
  • Your local UCU committee did not consent to EG’s new mass ‘selection’ process. EG are trying to misrepresent the union: don’t let them divide and conquer.

Local UCU ballot now open

You will shortly be receiving a postal ballot to vote for action to protect the jobs of our PS colleagues, who are under threat across the University. This is an essential local action to defend jobs. Please now

    • Post your ballot as soon as possible, and let us know when you have done so (check emails for links).
    • Email if you are able to spare a couple of hours or an afternoon to telephone Kent UCU members in our Get The Vote Out campaign (to make sure that people have posted their ballot papers).
    • If you’ve moved recently without updating your record, please also email your new postal address to as soon as possible.

Marking and Assessment Boycott – hardship fund

On 4 May, the local branch approved a hardship fund to support colleagues who incur a salary deduction for participating in the MAB. This is 50% of the usual strike day fund, i.e. £25 per day for staff on over £30k and £37.50 per day for those earning below £30k. Check emails for details of the motion and instructions on how to make a claim.

Please write to colleagues in your School/Department asking them to donate to the hardship fund so that we can minimise the financial impact upon colleagues participating in the MAB and help those who are struggling. A personal appeal from you is much more effective than a blanket email from the local branch. Our bank details for donations can be found in the email.

Marking and Assessment Boycott – declaring participation

How to Declare Participation in the Marking and Assessment Boycott

  • You are not obliged to inform your employer in advanceof your intention to participate in the boycott. 
  • Do not use the form provided by HR

To communicate with HR about your participation in the MAB please do so only in writing to

  • Make sure to record any annual leave or sick days on staff connect, from April 20th – present.


Guidance for staff in an ‘opt out’ Division (A&H, LSSJ, HSS)

  • As you are not obliged to inform your employer in advanceof your intention to participate in the boycott, we are advising you to ‘opt out’ via email until a few days before your marking/ assessment is due. 
  • If you have been specifically asked in writing to “opt out” (e.g. A&H, LSSJ and HSS), state that you are ‘opting out’ now, then declare your participation later. 

Send a version of the text below to by FRIDAY 5th May.

I am not participating in the Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB).

You should not copy and paste the above verbatim, but nor should you add anything substantive.

  • Even if you are on study leave, sick leave, or in another situation that shouldn’t result in deductions, you should still ‘opt out’ as above, because we cannot trust the employer not to deduct you in error.


How to declare your participation once you are close to the marking due date (same process for ‘opt in’ or ‘opt out’)

  • Declare participation as late as possible e.g. if your marking takes 3 full days, declare 3 days before the marking is due. Remember you must answer truthfully once you are participating.

When you have reached the latest available point at which you reasonably think that you could start your marking/ assessment in order to return marks to students on time, send the following to

“I am writing to inform you that I have decided to participate in the Marking and Assessment Boycott. Today DATE  begins my period of participation in the Marking and Assessment Boycott. The date on which students are expected to receive marks is DATE and my participation in the Marking and Assessment Boycott will last X NUMBER OF WORKING DAYS.” 

  • If your participation includes a weekend or bank holiday, make sure to state that your participation excludes those dates.
  • For other marking or assessment duties, we recommend that you declare as late as possible, and for a strictly limited period. g.: exam invigilation; on the day, assigning marking; 1 day, practical/ in person assessments; on the day, exam boards; on the day, fieldwork/ presentations; day/s the assessment takes place.


Why we are taking this approach

  • The overall approach seeks to minimise the financial impact upon you, and the number of days on which you will likely incur a salary deduction.
  • Since it is the Easter break, and coursework marks will not be due back yet, the guidance to ‘opt out’ in A&H LSSJ and HSS is to ensure staff are not deducted for that whole period.
  • This ‘opt out’ approach will hinder EG mitigating the action in advance, because it will be harder for them to determine who is and isn’t taking part
  • We are not using HR’s form because you may need a copy of your communications with HR to challenge any wrongful deductions from your salary.
  • We are being careful to declare any sick days, annual leave etc on staff connect because it makes it harder to (erroneously) deduct pay for these days.
  • The University claim they will deduct for the ‘period of marking’ i.e. from the assessment due date until the marking deadline. However, the branch is advising you to declare as above.

Marking and Assessment Boycott

Key National Updates

  • University of Kent management claim they will withhold ‘50%’ of pay from staff who take part in the NATIONAL marking and assessment boycott over pay, workload & inequalities, beginning 20th April 2023.
  • Do not let this be a barrier to your participation in the boycott.
  • It is not clear how severe these deductions could be. HR are not currently able to specify how they will implement the deductions, and therefore how harsh they will be. They say ‘colleagues are looking at how this will be implemented’. The union has requested these crucial details and challenged their justification for the disproportionate 50% deduction.
  • Kent branch funds are healthy and we will continue our exemplary record supporting members with hardship funds, especially those on the lowest incomes.
  • We expect at least some financial support from national UCU.
  • Keep your elected organisers updated on your financial needs and attitude to the boycott via this survey.


Local Context & Updates

  • The deduction threat is partly a reaction to our imminent strike ballot to defend PS jobs and other issues.
    It is clear that management are worried about the potential impact of any national or local action. That is because they know how effective marking and assessment boycotts can be, and so do we. Your collective action gives you the power to improve working conditions in higher education.
  • It is important members continue to demonstrate strength in both local and national campaigns


The basics of marking & assessment boycotts 

  • Familiarise yourself with the advice in the national UCU Marking and assessment boycott FAQs (see emails for link).
  • You are under no legal obligation to declare in advancewhether you intend to take part in the marking and assessment boycott. You do not need to comply with any such requests.
  • Once the boycott begins, should your line manager or HR ask you if you are participating, you should respond only in terms of what action you have taken/are currently taking (depending on the timeline they specify in their question). You should NOT tell them about your future intentions to participate or continue participating in the boycott. This will mean that they will need to keep checking for confirmation as to whether or not you have participated in ASOS and what forms of ASOS you have participated in and when.


Other information

  • Financially secure members can donate to our local hardship fund – see emails for relevant account details.

Arts and Humanities voluntary severance scheme

At 3pm on 5 April 2023, members in the Arts & Humanities received a communication from HR, addressed to them personally, inviting them to consider applying for the now-reopened Voluntary Severance scheme. We have understandably received a number of anxious members from colleagues that they feel individually targeted or pressured to apply for Voluntary Severance.

We would like to reiterate:

  1. You are not being targeted personally or individually. This named message went out to all academic members of the Arts and Humanities and is not personal to you.
  2. The message from HR is not an official notification that your role is at risk of redundancy. If, over the coming months, you receive a personalised communication that looks like an official notification that your post is at risk of redundancy, please contact Kester Richardson-Dawes (krichardson-dawes@UCU.ORG.UK) as at this point caseworker support becomes essential.
  3. You should not feel pressured by this communication into applying for Voluntary Severance if you do not actually wish to leave your role. The email from HR was an announcement that the Voluntary Severance scheme has re-opened; it is not a material change in our position and does not change existing agreements that we have which rule out compulsory redundancies (CRs).
  4. If you are invited to a meeting with your line manager or anyone else to discuss either Voluntary Severance or Redeployment, contact us to arrange for a UCU rep to be in attendance. Do not verbally express an interest in Voluntary Severance or Redeployment, if you do not wish to pursue these routes. A standard safe response to this is “I will go away and think about these options and get back to you, I am not expressing an interest now”.
  5. Your strength and commitment to action in defence of your work means that UCU have secured a commitment from senior management that there will be no CRs. This is because we together, as UCU, have shown through our local ballot results that we are prepared to take action in defence of teaching, research and scholarship at Kent.

We have concerns about the approach taken to communicating with colleagues in this case, and questions about the proposed “cost savings” identified in individual subject-areas in yesterday’s email. We will be taking up these concerns with University management and insisting that unnecessary anxiety and pressure must not be placed on our members.

Biggest ever UCU meeting in Kent branch history passes ‘strike ballot motion’ to defend PS jobs

  • 137 people attended the emergency general meeting on Tuesday 4 April to vote 96% in favour of this motion (see email for link).
  • The motion defends professional services (PS) job security in light of the restructure. It also addresses other concerns, like the catastrophic effect on PS and academic workloads.
  • The motion begins the process of launching an industrial action ballot.
  • Your strong turnout today has already hugely strengthened your elected negotiators’ leverage. There is significant scope for a good negotiated deal for members – if you stay organised.

Kent UCU launches National Defence of Jobs by submitting motion to UCU Sector Conference

Motion to HE Sector Conference: To campaign for a student distribution system in HE.

Conference notes that student recruitment patterns:

  • mean some universities hoard undergraduate students, while others struggle to recruit.

  • have resulted in department closures and redundancies.

  • translate to poor learning conditions for students, unsustainable workloads for staff at universities that over-recruit and expansion of casualisation

Conference believes:

  • the removal of university caps on student numbers by the Tories in 2014 in their pursuit of marketising the sector has been detrimental to higher education and had a negative impact on university staff and students.

  • the UK and devolved governments must reintroduce a managed system of student distribution across the sector based on fairness and equality.

Conference resolves to:

  • commission research on models of student distribution which can create recruitment balance in HE.

  • develop a campaign for the reintroduction of student distribution this coming year, including branch resources, intense lobbying efforts, and media.

Top-down Restructure Threat 

Top-down restructure proposal threatens Arts and Humanities at Kent


  • The work on restructuring the Division began back in September, and there have been more than a dozen meetings since then to move plans forward. A structure was arrived at by majority consensus, with Heads of school and colleagues having input through the autumn term’s ‘feasibility review.’


  • There has now been a last minute change of structure presented, which has been introduced top-down without any discussion. Presented only on Monday, this proposal was never discussed as part of the ‘feasibility review’ and has had none of the same detailed analysis.  


  • This new proposal would see all of the Humanities merge in one super-school – a “School of English, History, Classical and Archaeological Studies, Philosophy, Asian Studies, Religious Studies, Comparative Literature, Modern Languages, and English Language and Linguistics”, a merger of nine subjects that would certainly risk more jobs and careers across the Division. 


  • The Divisional Leadership team now intend to vote on this new structure themselves, despite a total lack of support and despite potential conflicts of interest. 


  • This change of process – bringing forward an entirely new structure only one week before consultation closes – is exactly why the majority of colleagues in A&H voted that they have no confidence in the Divisional leadership team. 


  • This academic restructuring is first taking place in A&H but will be rolled out across the university. As a union, we need to make our voices heard: we need transparent and open processes across the university, not backroom deals that benefit a few select individuals. 


What you need to do:


  • If you are in A&H: 


  1. Submit feedback to the employer’s formal consultation here. Some suggested wording is here.


  1. Also email the same feedback to George Randsley de Moura, DVC for Academic Strategy, Planning and Performance, who is chairing the management group overseeing the restructure:


  • If you are a member outside of A&H, ensure you come to national strike pickets & tell us when you’ve posted your national ballot, or if you can’t find your ballot [links in email from Kester 8.3.23]