Leeds lecturer ‘condemns’ university’s response to assessment boycott

An open letter likens the University’s decision to withhold the pay of staff to the behaviour of a ‘nineteenth century mill owner’

Credit: Josiah Mortimer

University staff on strike last year. Photo credit: Josiah Mortimer

A Senior Lecturer from the University of Leeds has penned an open letter to Koen Lamberts, Vice-Chancellor of the University of York, criticising the decision to withhold the pay of staff who participate in the upcoming University and College Union assessment and marking boycott.

The letter, written by Dr Simon Hall, a Senior Lecturer in American History, expresses solidarity with the UCU and says the University’s reaction “might be expected of a nineteenth century mill owner, but it has absolutely no place in a university system which … values collegiality”.

The letter also stresses the repercussions of the proposals to alter the Universities Superannuation Scheme, saying they “constitute the most serious threat to academics’ pay and conditions in at least a generation” and “will leave thousands of academics many tens of thousands of pounds worse off in their retirement”.

Dr Hall ends the letter by saying he is “keen” to know how the University’s decision to withhold pay “tall[ies]” with its claim to “apply the best ethical standards” and its self-defined ethos of “friendliness”.

A spokesperson from the University of York told Nouse: “We are very disappointed that the UCU has chosen to take industrial action just as the national negotiations are getting underway. This action will not change the University’s position with regard to those negotiations – we encourage both sides to address this issue at the negotiating table and to identify a way forward which addresses the enormous deficit in the USS while ensuring that staff can access attractive pensions when they retire. No ideas or solutions should be off the table at this stage.

“In terms of the impact on campus, we will make every effort to ensure that students are not adversely affected by the situation. We do not recognise partial performance of contractual duties and will withhold pay from members of staff who participate in industrial action. However, as a gesture of goodwill, we will continue to make employers’ contributions for those staff participating in industrial action. Any pay withheld from staff will be used to support student causes.”

The letter can be read in full here.


  1. As much as I support unionisation and the right to engage in industrial action, this action has been specifically targeted at harming students, potentially by causing January exams to be rescheduled, which would have a big impact on outcomes for students. Since we aren’t the cause of their disagreement, that seems rather unfair and they should instead target the University’s other activities and revenue sources without disrupting the education of paying students who have no option to go elsewhere

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    • 3 Nov ’14 at 1:14 pm

      Suzy Theakiss

      And the university’s stance (100% pay deduction for not marking, even though they expect all other activities to carry on; massive reduction in pensions, which is basically deferred salary) is also unfair. Everyone will be harmed by this, unfortunately – the university doesn’t care about other activities/revenue (though I guess if we all boycotted campus catering then they’d start to care!!!)

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