March Branch News – reviews everywhere, lecture capture and NSS

March Branch News

Reviews spring up everywhere, we record our thoughts on lecture capture, and the boycott of NSS seems to be taking hold.

As will be all too clear to many staff, the university has been gripped by review-fever, with a major review of Student Services joining that of Research and Innovation Services and numerous other departments already under the microscope. Add to that a recently announced reflection on the faculty structures and it is clear that there is a lot of change in process. While we acknowledge the university has a right to review its processes and structures whenever it likes, we are concerned that too much at once may lead to over-stretching, insufficient oversight and rushed decisions. We are watching as closely as we can to ensure policies are followed properly and staff treated fairly. We are grateful to the university for the transparency they are providing on the Strategy Delivery Group webpages; do familiarise yourself with the content there if you haven’t already.

The Strategy Delivery Group’s remit is, of course, predicated on the university’s financial position. We are still seeking clarity on the university’s accounts, with the new accounting standards raising more questions than they answer. In particular, in this age of alternative facts, it is disappointing that that the university is refusing to correct inaccuracies and misleading statements in its financial infographic after we have repeatedly asked them to do so. We haven’t heard recent claims anywhere near as worrying as those used as a launchpad for the SDG last summer, and note the sizable total surplus for the 2015-16 year. We await updates, and will pass on any information we can.

Lecture capture is now firmly on the agenda, with an ‘opt-out’ system due for for the 2017-18 academic year. We have been discussing this issue with the university in depth, and have raised numerous concerns that staff have brought up in meetings and by email. We are doing our best to ensure that the implementation of the policy protects as many staff rights as possible, with retaining performance rights currently a priority. We have an Action Group meeting dedicated to lecture capture on 29 March (see below) where we will be brainstorming a way forward. We also plan to meet with the Students Union to see if we can form a joint position of aligned interests.

The NUS’s national boycott of the National Student Survey appears to be working in Sheffield, with low response rates across the university. Interestingly, we believe that students who have already filled in the survey are entitled to ask for their data to be removed. The boycott is supported by UCU nationally, and we have formed a joint statement with the Student Union locally. Our advice to staff is that it’s acceptable to make final year students aware of the boycott and where to find more information, but to stop short of advocating they take part.

Our Action Group meeting in early March focused on stress and workload. The need for a university policy on workload allocation was discussed, with significant variability evident across the institution, along with the potential for better coordination with the university’s Staff and Disability Network. Health and safety matters are a continual source of negotiation with the university, and health and safety law offers powerful protection for staff. We believe that the university should be doing full risk assessments of all departments, particularly with regards stress, and hope to make further headway in the coming months.

Lastly, some good news: Sheffield UCU membership continues to climb, up 5% over the past year, and we have co-opted new members to the committee. With uncertain times at the university, it seems an important moment to be part of a collective. Please do encourage colleagues to join and consider responding to our plea for help to increase our effectiveness locally.

Sheffield UCU Committee

Do you want a trip to Brighton?

The annual UCU Congress – the main decision making body of the union – happens 27-29 May in Brighton. This branch can send four delegates. If you are interested in attending to see how UCU works on a national level, then please get in touch (

Save Sheffield Central Library!

Our March branch meeting was addressed by Rebecca Gransbury who is leading the campaign to save Sheffield Central Library, which is under threat from plans to sell it to developers who plan to turn it into a hotel. Please do sign the petition and keep out for events via the Facebook page. You can find out more about the proposals on the Sheffield City Council website.

Action Group on Lecture Capture

Our next Action Group meeting is focused on the issue of lecture capture. We will be discussing what we should be doing about the issue, ways to link up with the local student union and more. If this is an issue that you feel strongly about, please come!

  • Wed 29 March, 13:00-14:00, Action Group (Lecture Capture), Octagon Meeting Room 1

Working in the UK – Legal Advice

If you are concerned about your right to work in the UK, whether as an EEA or non-EEA National, you can find information on your rights and legal advice through UCU by visiting the page below.

Dates for the diary

  • Wed 29 March, 13:00-14:00, Action Group (Lecture Capture), Octagon Meeting Room 1
  • Thu 6 April, 13:00-14:00, Departmental Contacts Meeting, Chancellors Room, Firth Court
  • Thu 13 April, 13:00-14:00, General Meeting, Council Room, Firth Court
  • Thu 8 June, 13:00-14:00, Annual General Meeting, Council Room, Firth Court

Interesting Reading