THE GLOBAL academic boycott of University of Liverpool began on Friday as lecturers fight against the sacking of 21 staff.
The University and College Union (UCU) hit the University of Liverpool with the ultimate sanction of an international academic boycott over the university’s refusal to halt the sacking of 21 health staff.
The global boycott is the most recent escalation by the union in the long running dispute. It means UCU is asking its members, other trade unions, labour movement organisations and the international academic community to support its members at Liverpool in any way possible, including by:
- Not applying for any advertised jobs at Liverpool.
- Not agreeing to speak at or organise academic or other conferences at Liverpool which are outside of contract.
- Not accepting new invitations to give lectures at Liverpool.
- Not accepting new positions as visiting professors or researchers at Liverpool.
- Not accepting invitations outside of contract to write for any academic journal which is edited at or produced by Liverpool.
- Not accepting new contracts as external examiners for taught courses at Liverpool.
- Refusing to collaborate on new outside of contract research projects with Liverpool.
Originally, at the height of the second wave of the Covid pandemic, the university tried to sack 47 staff in the faculty of health and life sciences. This has now fallen to 21 after a campaign of industrial action by staff.
Last week students slammed the university’s management over the ongoing chaos caused by the compulsory redundancies, after an ongoing marking boycott led to around 1,500 students not receiving their degrees.
The university is withholding 100% of pay from staff taking part in the lawful boycott, in a lockout intended to force staff to bring their campaign to an end.
On Saturday 10th July at 12.30pm staff and students held a demonstration against the cuts. The Trades Union Congress had asked trade unionists from other sectors to join the demonstration.
Around 1,300 UCU members at the university also went on strike for three consecutive weeks from Monday 24th May to Friday 11th June.
External examiners, 62 staff in the faculty of health and life sciences, international experts on the use of responsible research metrics and the Liverpool Guild of Students, which speaks for the student body, have all written to the university to warn that the university’s actions are likely to imperil academic standards and have called on management to end the dispute.
The university has refused to meet with UCU to resolve the dispute, or to allow ACAS to mediate between UCU and management.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘Staff and students are united in opposing the University of Liverpool’s disgraceful cuts.
‘UCU will not stand by whilst management threaten the academic integrity of the institution and withhold pay from staff fighting to defend their colleagues’ jobs and students’ education.
‘It is very simple for university managers to end this dispute, they need to meet with us and work with us to save jobs and protect academic standards.
‘We are calling on academics throughout the world to join us in boycotting the university until management come to the negotiating table.’
University of Liverpool UCU president Anthony O’Hanlon said: ‘The senior leadership team at the University of Liverpool has already faced widespread condemnation from the international academic community.
‘They have failed to heed those warnings and now face a major escalation of this dispute and damage to the university’s international reputation.
‘Senior leadership must realise they are not immune from criticism and they cannot treat their staff in such a despicable way, without expecting to face serious consequences.’
- Meanwhile, Varsity has reported that the University of Cambridge is set to enter into a £400m financial deal with the United Arab Emirates. UCU said the proposed deal was shameful and problematic.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘This is a clear case of a rich authoritarian state using its wealth in an attempt to launder its reputation. It would be shameful if the University of Cambridge were willing to be used in this way.
‘It is one of the wealthiest institutions in the UK and does not need this money. UCU members in other institutions have raised concerns about LGBT+ rights in UAE, and this deal looks especially problematic in light of the legal action which British academic Matthew Hedges is currently pursuing over alleged false imprisonment and torture.’
Varsity wrote: ‘The University of Cambridge is in negotiations about a £400 million collaborative initiative with the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
‘According to documents seen by Varsity, the proposed UAE-Cambridge Innovation Institute (UAE-CII) would be a 10-year collaboration between the University of Cambridge and “several educational, governmental, and corporate partners in the United Arab Emirates”.
‘The documents outline an approximate budget of £400m over the proposed ten years, with £90m coming from in-kind contributions of academics’ and staff time. The foreign partners will contribute the remaining £312 million.
‘As well as the initial budget, the group will also seek additional funding from external sources, with the documents estimating that £25m will be received in this way over the 10-year period, though certainty about the final budget is yet to be established at this preliminary phase of the initiative.
‘Much of these funds will be dedicated to staff appointments, including the appointment of endowed chairs, endowed lectureships, 24 postdoctoral positions, 42 PhD fellowships, and management and coordination positions, amongst others.
‘The initiative is pending approval from the General Board, but according to a document circulated to the Faculty of Education, it has the full support of Vice Chancellor Stephen Toope.
‘Its focuses include primary and secondary education, Islamic art and culture, engineering and innovation. The aims of the collaborative Institute include advancing the UAE education system, expanding research into Islamic culture, and developing “a base of advanced engineering research which includes accelerating the transition away from carbon-based energy sources”.
‘The documents acknowledge that there are significant risks associated with the project, including “reputation”, a “values gap” between the UK and UAE, “the potential burden such a large partnership could place on parts of the University and attendant mission drift”, as well as “academic freedom and institutional autonomy”.
‘They also state: “We (the University) are also fully aware that there will be questions relating to matters of human rights and environmental sustainability and stewardship in the UAE, especially in light of recent University decisions relating to engagement with certain state actors in the region, and with petroleum-based energy producers.”
‘These risks could “damage the University’s ability to fulfil its mission”, which is “to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence”.
‘The UAE has previously been criticised for issues of human rights, including those of foreign nationals such as Matthew Hedges, a Durham PhD student who was arrested in Abu Dhabi in 2018, accused of working for MI6. He was swiftly found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.
‘Hedges was pardoned several days later and allowed to return to the UK. However, he submitted a complaint via the UK Foreign Office, alleging that he was tortured while imprisoned.
‘He claims that he was kept in handcuffs, questioned for hours at a time, and fed a cocktail of unknown drugs.’