Reply to open letter from Matt Waddup


This is the email we received on 01/08/16 from Matt Waddup. Matt is the UCU official with responsibility for our response to BREXIT as well as overall education policy.
UCU is taking members’ concerns very seriously on this issue.

Just for background, we make policy on behalf of 110,000 members organised into some 650 branches and we do so on the basis of the policies democratically agreed by our Congress and in its absence our elected National Executive Committee.  As you also say, the union has established policy in this area and our elected Campaigning and Education Policy Committees will be putting this work into effect in the Autumn. The union is already taking concrete steps to defend members, and particularly EU nationals as I have set out. As for what next: we will continue to lobby government on members’ behalf; will make the rights of international staff and students key to our campaigning in the Autumn and – alongside our colleagues in the student movement – make the defence of these rights a central part of our joint national demonstration in November.

The union’s key demands of government are set out in Sally’s article in the Times Higher magazine in July and which I reprint below:

  1. First, we need a commitment that those EU nationals who are here now can stay. Their economic contribution is enormous and any other message – such as the idea that they could be used as bargaining chips in the Brexit negotiations – will damage the UK’s reputation.
  2.  Second, we must quickly establish the potential loss of research, social fund and fee income arising from Brexit and make sure our universities have sufficient public funding to continue to compete with the world’s best.
  3. Third, we need the government to drop its now irrelevant higher education bill and instead call an immediate nonpartisan inquiry into how we can ensure that our colleges and universities remain open to staff and students from around the world.
  4. Fourth, we need politicians and the press to recognise their responsibilities. Blaming immigration is an old game of course, but in a climate where almost all politicians seem to be frightened of outlining its benefits, we risk damaging our society beyond repair.
The union has been lobbying hard on this and you may have heard many politicians making these four arguments during the second reading of the HE Bill at Westminster. The third point – how our universities and colleges remain open to staff and students from around the world – is a critical one for the future of FHE and indeed for the UK. We will continue this work throughout the summer.
If you have not done so already it would be great if you and colleagues would write to your MP about this issue, including the need to remain open to international staff and students, using a version of the UCU template letter which you can find here:

In summary, the union agrees with you about the importance of this issue and we are putting energy and resources into it.



We received an earlier response from Matt on 22/07/16 with a detailed list of some of the actions the UCU are already taking:

We set out four key public demands on 13 July with regard to the post-BREXIT situation which have since been widely quoted.  When we sent this article out to members it was viewed 17,000 times and we have received many messages from EU members welcoming the demands.  The first of the four public demands was “a commitment that those EU nationals who are here now can stay. Their economic contribution is enormous and any other message – such as the idea that they could be used as bargaining chips in the Brexit negotiations – will damage the UK’s reputation.”

This article originally appeared in the Times Higher magazine but can now be found here .

On 14 July, we wrote to the Guardian to demand that the new prime minister halt the HE and Research Bill in order to focus the government on the problems created for HE in particular by BREXIT. The letter concluded: “I hope the government will put the bill to one side. We need a non-partisan inquiry looking at how we can safeguard the future of our brilliant universities and colleges, and ensure that staff and students from around the world continue to be welcome here.

You can view the letter here

We have agreed a a joint national demonstration with our colleagues in NUS for November 2016. Both organisations have agreed that a key theme of the demonstration should be standing up for the rights of EU staff and students post BREXIT.

On 15th July the union wrote to the new secretary of state Justine Greening to again set out the dangers for staff and students arising from BREXIT and calling for an inquiry into how we protect HE.

Between the result of the referendum and today, 22nd July, the union has issued five press statements on BREXIT and its impact on staff and students.

Over the same period the union has sent three direct messages to members on the issue of BREXIT. A fourth is being sent today.  As I say above the response from most members to our position on behalf of EU nationals has been very positive though some clearly disagree.


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