BUCU Gender Equality Update

July 12, 2017 § Leave a comment

UCU members may remember the BUCU report on gender and governance which compared the compositions of the Executive Boards, Senate and Councils (or equivalents) of Russell Group Universities for the academic year 2012-13.

Our University did not do very well in this comparison. It was ranked 24th out of 24 both for Senate and Council and 18th out of 24 for the Executive Board.

Two years on and after the Year of Equality, we thought it would be interested to see what, if any, progress has been made (all information on UEB, Council and Senate was taken from the University of Birmingham’s website on the 15th April 2015).

Executive Board

In 2012-13, out of the thirteen members of the University Executive Board, ten were male (77%) and three were female (23%). Since then, four people (2 men and 2 woman) have left their posts and have been replaced by three men and one woman.

We are therefore now in a situation where UEB comprises eleven men (85%) and two women (15%).

  1. Does UEB have a more equal gender balance after the Year of Equality?
  2. No.

BUCU awaits with baited breath to see what happens with the two vacancies that have arisen this academic year.


In 2012-13, 83% of Council members were male and 17% female; in 2014-15, this has improved somewhat so that 71% of Council members are male and 29% female (see Table 1).

This would place the University, ceteris paribus, joint 14th out of 24 in the 2012-13 Council rankings.

  1. Does Council have a more equal gender balance after the Year of Equality?
  2. Yes, good progress has been made but 29% female membership is still two percentage points below the 2012-13 Russell Group Council average.


Table 1: Council Membership by Gender

Council Membership
  Lay Members (%) Academic Members (%) Student Members (%) Total (%)
Male 11 (79%) 4 (80%) 0 (0%) 15 (71%)
Female 3 (21%) 1 (20%) 2 (100%) 6 (29%)



In 2012-13, 81% of Senate members were male and 19% female; in 2014-15, this has again improved somewhat so that, excluding vacancies, 72% are male and 28% female. This figure would be even more impressive if student members were excluded, as 100% of student members are currently male, compared with 60% two years ago.

This would again place the University, ceteris paribus, joint 14th out of 24 in the 2012-13 rankings.

However, this total figure does not tell the whole story. If we look at the breakdown of Senate membership in Table 2, we can see that the increase in the percentage of female members is being driven almost entirely by an increase in the number of elected female members (55% now in comparison to 30% in 2012-13). Male and female Ex Officio membership remains the same and the number of women who have either been nominated by Heads of College or co-opted by the VC has risen from one to two.

  1. Does Senate have a more equal gender balance after the Year of Equality?
  2. Yes, good progress has been made but 29% female membership is still two percentage points below the 2012-13 Russell Group Council average and the rise has almost nothing to do with whom the Heads of Colleges nominate or the VC co-opts.


Table 2: Senate Membership by Gender

Senate Membership
  Ex Officio (%) Nominated/Co-opted (%) Students (%)* Elected (%)^ Total (%)
Male 9 (90%) 17 (89%) 5 (100%) 5 (45%) 36 (72%)
Female 1 (10%) 2 (11%) 0 (0%) 11 (55%) 14 (28%)
* Excludes 1 vacancy; ^ Excludes 4 vacancies



Thanks to the Times Higher Education and their annual pay survey, we are now in a position to compare the gender pay gap for Russell Group Universities. As can be seen in Figures 1 and 2, in this regard, the University of Birmingham is doing pretty well.

At the professorial level, female professors are paid just under one percent less than their male counterparts are. This is much lower than the average professoriate gender pay gap for Russell Group universities. Birmingham are ranked 4th out of 24 in this regard.

Looking at academics as a whole, the picture is less rosy. The gender pay gap for the University of Birmingham is nearly 15%. This is quite a large gap but only very slightly above average for the Russell Group. Birmingham are ranked 12th out of 24 in this regard.

It is not possible to offer comparisons for the category ‘Other Senior Academic’ (which previously was called ‘Academic Managers’) because universities with seven or fewer female and/or male ‘other senior academics’ did not have to return data for that sub-category (although the fact that Birmingham has more than seven male ‘other senior academics’ and seven or fewer female ‘other senior academics’ should be noted).

Figure 1: Professorial Gender Pay Gap Expressed as a Percentage


Figure 2: Total Academic Gender Pay Gap Expressed as a Percentage



‘Other Senior Academic’ Pay

However, before we get too congratulatory on pay and uncork the champagne, let us have a closer look at the pay of ‘other senior academics’ across the Russell Group.

Figure 3 shows us the average pay of all members of staff within the ‘Other Senior Academic’ category for each Russell Group university (Cambridge and Newcastle are not included in the data below because no figures were provided for these institutions in the survey). The figure for Birmingham is £154,218. This is by far the highest figure and completely out of kilter with other Russell Group universities. The Birmingham figure is £56,625 higher than the average and £34,521 higher than the second institution on the list, University College London. Indeed, if the figures took into account London weighting, the difference between Birmingham and the rest would be even wider.

This picture perhaps becomes even clearer if we look at Figure 4 which shows the percentage difference from the average figure for all Russell Group universities (the green lines indicate the boundaries of standard deviation). Birmingham sticks out like a very sore, very big and very much overpaid thumb.

Under any circumstances, this situation would be notable and of deep concern. Given that, under current circumstances, the University of Birmingham is still not a Living Wage Employer, the Barber Institute has recently been named and shamed for not paying the minimum wage, University senior management receive consistently poor results in the Staff Have Your Say Survey, and redundancies and cutbacks are taking place across the University, these figures are both absolutely inexplicable and utterly disgraceful. They also suggest that the University’s Remuneration Committee should be sacked in its entirety and that the Council should seriously consider whether it is undertaking properly its duties with regard the oversight of finances, budgets and performance within the University of Birmingham.

Figure 3: Average Pay of ‘Other Senior Academic’ Staff in Russell Group Universities


Figure 4: Percentage Difference from Average ‘Other Senior Academic’ Pay in Russell Group Universities (with Standard Deviation Shown)


Management practices at University of Birmingham

June 26, 2017 § Leave a comment

This branch is distraught about the top down approach to people management as a continuing issue impacting on the health, wellbeing, performance, and morale of staff at the University of Birmingham.

Over the last two years the elected branch negotiators have been trying to negotiate an agreed performance management system based on a branch approved position statement but the University has failed to engage with BUCU in a professional and constructive way. Concomitantly, the University implemented and continued performance management practices that were neither discussed with nor agreed by BUCU.

Image result for birmingham university clock tower photoThis branch notes with great concern that a “PIP” has been put in place based on a score that entails REF grading of publications, grant applications/capture, PGR supervision, WAM data, and MEQ data. BUCU rejects this unilaterally imposed  “PIP”. This branch objects against the use of WAM data, REF criteria, student MEQ data, and grant capture in any form of performance management.

This branch is very alarmed about performance records being created secretly and behind the back of staff and that these records are reduced to a few un-negotiated performance criteria while a majority of duties and competencies remain unconsidered. This branch does not accept the top down approach including the use of dubious evidence compiled by senior management handed down to Heads of Schools who are then instructed to put unfairly selected and targeted staff through very stressful performance management procedures irrespective of their competencies, overall duties and achievements and irrespective of how they contribute to their School.

This branch objects against the implementation of performance management procedures outside the negotiated and agreed PDR system.

This branch has come to the conclusion that the University has intentionally maintained regular meetings with BUCU in order to mislead BUCU.  As such, this branch does not believe any longer that the University has been negotiating with BUCU in good faith to resolve the issues around performance management at the University of Birmingham but  has breached the implied duty of trust and confidence.

University of Birmingham branch of UCU,
Annual General Meeting, 21 June 2017

Resolution on Performance Management at the University of Birmingham

March 1, 2017 § Leave a comment

This branch remains highly concerned about the performance management practices at the University of Birmingham and the number of staff who report being treated unfairly, bullied, and harassed. This branch notices with great concern an atmosphere of fear and low morale amongst staff, created by the heavy handed approach of the senior leadership of the University. This branch regards performance management at the University of Birmingham as unprofessional and unacceptable. This branch calls on the University of Birmingham to acknowledge the BUCU position statement on performance management as a policy/code of practice document setting out practice of how to carry out performance management at the University, distribute the document to all performance managing line managers, and instruct all performance managing line managers to adhere to this document. Should this matter not be agreed between BUCU and the University by 1stMarch 2017, either through direct agreement by the University or agreement found in further negotiations between the elected BUCU negotiators and University appointed decision makers (Provost and/or Vice Chancellor), the branch instructs the BUCU committee to run an indicative ballot for industrial action during the first two weeks of March.

Adopted 15 February 2017

Statement of Solidarity to Teaching Staff

March 1, 2017 § Leave a comment

The following statement of solidarity was recently adopted by the University of Birmingham Disability & Mental Health Student Association (DAMSA), in support of teaching staff at the University of Birmingham:

We, the committee of DAMSA, as representatives of all disabled undergraduate, postgraduate and graduate teaching assistants at this university, would like to extend our full solidarity and support to all teaching staff at the university and UCU (University College Union) members currently being victimised under the university’s draconian disciplinary measures which, to our understanding, fly in the face of their right to feel safe, supported and not to be bullied and targeted in their workplace.

We have had reports from the UCU of staff being harassed, bullied and threatened with redundancy for the most minor of transgressions in their workplace. Situations which would, ordinarily, have been resolved by their line managers or colleagues are being taken up to the highest level and disciplinary procedures meant only for the most serious misconduct (stealing, cheating, harassment etc.) are being enacted for much lesser charges. This behaviour is not acceptable from any employer, not least a university – a place in which, one would hope, an environment of constructive critique and learning would be in place.

More worrying, however, is the way in which feedback from students is being dealt with by the university management. It is, of course, important that students and teaching staff are able to take part in a constructive dialogue around the course, marks and the methods of teaching. However, feedback is not being taken in good faith and there have been instances where student feedback is being used against staff at disciplinary hearings and used to justify redundancies and cuts to the department. Students are not aware that their feedback is being used in this way and DAMSA are appalled to hear that feedback that is meant to be used constructively is instead being used as a way to victimise their lecturers. We will not stand for it. No worker deserves to be victimised in their workplace; an injury to one worker is an injury to us all!

We urge students, then, not to participate in any of the university’s formal feedback processes as we know that this is being used in totally inappropriate ways for which it was not designed. If you must feedback to lecturers we urge you to do so directly and informally in order to subvert the system and to ensure job security for all staff. We must humanise our lecturers and understand that this is their livelihood and they are not merely here to facilitate our careers or advancement but to educate and challenge us whilst earning their own living as we are wont to do, too.

We urge all students and Guild officers to speak out against this injustice and to stand in solidarity with the very people who hold our institution together.

DAMSA Committee

Birmingham UCU calls off strike as University takes redundancies off the table

June 24, 2016 § Leave a comment

Birmingham UCU calls off strike as University takes redundancies off the table

University of Birmingham academic and related staff called off their threatened strike today as the University management eventually withdrew its proposal to make staff in Modern Languages redundant.

This brings to an end a round of compulsory redundancies that were threatened in Modern Languages, Neuroscience and Pharmacology, Engineering, and Hydrogeology – all now concluded without any compulsory redundancies. It also marks what the union hopes will be a new approach to any future restructuring at the University.

Roland Brandstaetter, UCU Birmingham branch president, said, “This represents a huge victory for our branch. The University of Birmingham has pursued a series of reorganisations, all coming with proposed compulsory redundancies, over the past 12 months, which exposed over 100 members of staff to the health risks associated with the biggest work-related stress factor that there is – that of losing their jobs. We are glad that the University has now taken these proposals off the table and we hope that we can prevent any such job and health-threatening proposals in the future.”

For more details contact Roland Brandstaetter, University of Birmingham UCU Branch President: rolandbrandstaetterrb[@]gmail.com

BUCU statement on University of Birmingham governance

April 13, 2016 § Leave a comment

It is now over a week since we called for a full investigation into the financial affairs of the Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, Lord Bilimoria. We remain very concerned about the reputation of the University of Birmingham. Despite several messages from the University management about the apparently “challenging environment for the sector” – no mention whatsoever has been made of the fact that Lord Bilimoria has been the subject of considerable discussion in the international media, as a result of his connections with offshore tax havens.

It is starting to look as if this so-called “challenging environment” is simply something that is conveniently referred to whenever staff seek to maintain their existing pay rates in the face of ongoing inflation – regardless of the University’s earnings or ability to pay – or whenever the University feels a justification for proposed redundancies is needed. In his most recent e-mail our Vice-Principal refers to “increased costs from this year due to pensions (£3.5m a year), National Insurance (£4.4m a year), the apprenticeship levy (£1.5m a year) and for work permits for overseas staff (£182k a year)”, all of which sum up to about £10M, i.e. only about 20% of last year’s surplus, and allowing for a £15-20M investment in a new hotel and conference centre.

A quick google search for Lord Bilimoria reveals that his offshore company – Mulberry Holdings – is a company related to the fallout of his bankrupted earlier company, Cobra Beer. It appears that Lord Bilimoria himself earned £3.2 million in dividends from that company, at the same time as it was about to go bankrupt!

The University’s recent actions, and silences, raise a number of questions that need to be answered:

  • Why has the University of Birmingham issued no statement on the financial affairs of its own Chancellor, despite being the only university chancellor in the country to be exposed by the Panama Papers leak?
  • Why was Lord Bilimoria considered to be a suitable leader of this University in the first place? Who made this decision, and according to what criteria?
  • If we face such a “challenging environment”, then why do we have a Vice Chancellor earning £416,000 per year, one of the highest in the country? Why was our most recent operating surplus £45 million? Why is the average salary of UEB members £145,000?

We would like to encourage you to vote in both of the current UCU ballots ongoing at present – on local industrial action on redundancies, and on national industrial action on pay.


BUCU statement on Lord Bilimoria, University of Birmingham Chancellor

April 6, 2016 § Leave a comment

It has become apparent that Lord Bilimoria, the University of Birmingham’s Chancellor, has recently been exposed for having connections with one of the offshore tax havens detailed in the recent “Panama Papers” leaks.

This has resulted in national and international press coverage and raises extremely serious questions about the Chancellor’s financial operations.

Guardian coverage here

Coverage in student paper, The Tab, here

BUCU are absolutely opposed to the use of offshore tax havens, or the support of their use, as a means of undermining the tax revenues of the national government. Indeed, in a time when we are constantly reminded of the need for austerity, it absolutely beggars belief that a leading member of this university appears to have actively contributed to the dwindling of government resources.

That such a development should occur at the University of Birmingham also raises serious questions that go the heart of the operation of this university. We have one of the highest paid vice-chancellors in the country; and now it seems we have the only university chancellor in the country that is exposed by the Panama Papers leak. It is absolutely unacceptable to run a university in a way that shows concern only for private individual gain, profit, and status, without concern for scientific progress or the contribution that higher education can make to wider society.

BUCU notes that the Prime Minister of Iceland, Singmundur Gunnlaugsson, has been forced to resign as a result of the same leaks, despite his claims that he was not personally implicated. Indeed, the very business of tax havens is such that arms-length associations are a means by which direct personal involvement is concealed.

BUCU calls for a full investigation into Lord Bilimoria’s financial affairs, and for an end to any association between this University and the shadowy world of tax havens and offshore finance which threatens to damage the reputation of all who work here.

BUCU committee


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