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Vice chancellor u-turns on UCU strike

It follows a tense meeting of the University's governing body yesterday

Fred Dimbleby
Fred Dimbleby
Fred, a second-year Historian at Keble, was the paper's editor for Trinity Term 2018 alongside Matt Roller. He started out as Cherwell's comment editor last Hilary.

Oxford’s vice chancellor, Louise Richardson, has signalled a change of policy on the University’s position on a Universities UK (UUK) survey about pensions.

The survey was used to justify the controversial changes to the pension fund, citing that 42 per cent of institutions, including Oxford, wanted the scheme to have “less risk”.

The Oxford University and College Union (UCU) branch have praised the decision saying that “Oxford Uni will now be able to hold its head up high”.

In an email sent to staff this morning, Richardson wrote: “In light of the depth of feeling of so many colleagues we will convene a special meeting of Council today at noon and will be recommending that Council reverse its response to the UUK survey in line with Congregation’s resolution.”

It follows a tense meeting of Congregation, Oxford’s governing body, yesterday where dons vowed “we’re not done” after some members of university management successfully blocked a vote on pensions at Congregation today.

After the vote was blocked, dons in attendance held a symbolic vote in support of the resolution outside in the Old Bodleian library quad. The resolution passed by 418 votes to two.

She also explained why she was not present at yesterday’s meeting. She wrote: “I was very sorry not to be there myself but I had scheduled a trip to New York on university business before the meeting of Congregation was called.”

She added: “I also hope that we will be able to work together to help bridge the divide between UUK and UCU in the ongoing negotiations. The future of our pensions is a shared interest for so many members of this University that we must try to find common ground…”

“In the coming days we will look for ways to improve our engagement with staff so that all members of our community are able to speak and be heard on this very important issue.”

The President of the Oxford UCU branch, Garrick Taylor, told Cherwell: “Oxford UCU very much welcome this news, which will undoubtedly let us move into a position where the industrial dispute can end, if UUK listen to what is now without doubt the predominant view of UK universities.

“Oxford Uni will now be able to hold its head up high knowing that it is no longer pushing for the end of the defined benefit scheme that will ensure the financial welfare in retirement of tens of thousands of staff in USS eligible universities in the UK.”

Richardson’s u-turn comes after leaked University UK documents (UUK) seemed to reveal that Oxford colleges played a major role in pushing through the changes to academics’ pensions which have provoked nationwide strikes.

The data showed that each Oxbridge college was counted as an individual institution in a survey used to set the policy, which potentially gave them disproportionate influence in comparison to other British universities.

The University has been contacted for comment.

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