Just wondering what the rough % of academic faculty (e.g. full time and part time teaching fellow/associates, lecturers, senior lecturers, readers, and professors) are in UCU? I've been invited to join, but the hefty fee is putting me off. And other than the negotiation regarding pay scale and pension, there doesn't seem to be other significant benefits (although one can argue that the negotiation on pay and pension is big enough).

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    What is "UCU"? While you are at it, please consider including the relevant information in the tag wiki if you believe the concept is important enough to warrant a tag. Nov 5, 2019 at 18:44
  • @S.Kolassa-ReinstateMonica apologies. UCU is university and college union.
    – PandaPants
    Nov 5, 2019 at 19:47
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    @PandaPants The fee really isn't that hefty. The max you could possibly pay per month is about the equivalent of a round of drinks. Plus you get a little bit of tax relief for your fees: gov.uk/tax-relief-for-employees/… The insurance value that Ian Sudbery discusses is well worth it. Nov 5, 2019 at 20:41

1 Answer 1


I don't know what the numbers are for academic faculty specifically is, but the numbers for education in general is 47% (https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/trade-union-statistics-2018), and that is in line with membership within my department (STEM, Russel Group). UCU has a membership of 120,000.

As well as collective bargaining on pay, conditions and pensions, perhaps the most important work of the Union is local. On a collective level the union will represent its members in situation where your employer might be going through a "restructuring" involving a reduction in headcount or a change in contractual terms and conditions for example. This has happened to me twice in my career, once when my employer laid of 30% of staff in my area, a second time when I was transferred from being employed by UKRI to being employed directly by the university.

But perhaps the most important thing is casework. Your membership would entitle you to representation in any HR dealing with your employer. In the case of the worst this can include provision of a lawyer or solicitor paid for by the union. This might be important if you are subject to discrimination at work, or accused of discrimination, or placed on performance review or have been otherwise mistreaded. In the five years I've been faculty, I've seen colleagues require union help with probation, and one (a professor) require union help when they were placed on performance review. I also knew someone who had to involve the union when their head of department took a dislike to them and did everything they could to get rid of them.

One way to think of union membership is like health insurance, but for employment/legal matters.

  • thanks for sharing your experience and the rough % of membership in your university.
    – PandaPants
    Nov 5, 2019 at 17:58
  • tenure isn’t what it used to be in the UK...or ever was in the UK. Nov 6, 2019 at 1:41
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    The UK doesn't have tenure as people in the US understand it - it was outlawed by Thatcher in the 80s. Nov 6, 2019 at 9:19

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