Staff news

Statement from the Principal: industrial action

A response from Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, to the UCU letter on the national claim 2023/24.

Last week, the University and College Union (UCU) wrote to UK universities participating in the national action with a number of requests regarding the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA) negotiations.

The UCU letter and my full response, which I made on behalf of the University on 24 August, can be read below:


My response addresses a number of points raised by the national office of UCU. The first is around the pay offer confirmed by UCEA in February 2023 and implemented by the University in February and August. I have advised UCEA that we strongly support the need for agreement on sector finances to ensure all parties can be open and transparent on affordability in pay negotiations, and urge UCU to take up the opportunity that UCEA have offered to meet and resolve the dispute on sector finances.

We fully support progressing the UCEA and joint unions negotiated terms of reference seeking to work towards action on pay gaps, fixed term and casual contracts and workload. We continue to engage in discussions with our UCU Edinburgh branch and are committed to working in partnership to address issues affecting staff.

My response clarifies the good progress that we have already made locally:

  • we are currently undertaking a Grade Scale Review in partnership with the joint trade unions and will share an update on this in the autumn
  • on the gender pay gap, we are working hard to improve recruitment, development opportunities and academic promotion for staff at all grades, especially in all diverse groups
  • a Fixed Term Contract project is underway and we are now at the stage of agreeing actions
  • we recognise the impact of workload on health, wellbeing and pay, and commit to look at this further in 2024.

It is important to recognise the improvements that we and our trade union partners are delivering, and that despite the sector-wide disputes, we continue to deliver on our commitment to make the University an even better place to work and study.

UCU stated in their letter that a further ballot on industrial action is inevitable. Whilst we cannot influence the national position on industrial action, we do intend to honour our jointly agreed statement on the Marking and Assessment Boycott, as communicated on 4 August, as we believe UCU Edinburgh made the agreement in good faith. We assume that UCU Edinburgh will honour their agreement to encourage members to prioritise outstanding marking so that this marking will be complete to allow the October exam boards to run smoothly, so that our students can move on with their lives.

Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, The University of Edinburgh