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My union – the UCU is supposed to be having its congress this week but it has been abandoned, after a couple of days of mostly chaos, although some good work has been done on casualisation and other issues, including the difficult issue of the use of lecture capture which was possibly misused in the recent strike making it a source of conflict between staff and student in universities.
The issue is whether the General Secretary can be criticised and asked to resign in a motion at congress. This raises issues about her employment and rights, and she is supported by other staff who see this as a threat and is covered by the standing orders which do prevent this from happening.

This is reasonable, but places the union is a difficult situation when, as now, there is a lot of unhappiness in the membership of the General Secretary’s conduct during an industrial dispute. This is always likely given the messy nature of industrial disputes and the almost certainty of different views on the termination of action – on the basis that you never get all you want (and if you did then there would be a valid criticism that you were not asking for enough). Both sides it seems to me should be able to recognise that. But the rule above seems to me to be unworkable – and needs to be replaced by a more positive procedure about what can be done.
I don’t think anyone should be sacked or forced to resign as a result of a motion in a conference – even if they could address the conference. However, the conference must be allowed to voice views which might indicate a level of dissatisfaction that should lead to that.

The background has remarkable historical resonance for me. There are two factions in UCU – the broad left and UCU left. There were two main blocks when I was involved in student politics (Sussex 1972-5), generally similar blocks. We did have the Maoists, bless them, but they were never significant. The left block was split between two groups – the precursor to the SWP and the International Marxist group, often to be found in the bar disputing the nature of the soviet state in obscure terms. Thought – maybe the SWP need a stronger rival in the far left to keep it in line?

I had fun (being an un-organised yippie – M15 have me down as an anarchist because their Fed of Conservative Students informant wasn’t that clear about political differences!) representing the Union Council (made up of sports and other basically conservative groups) on the Union executive with either the broad or the far left. It is possible to work with the different groups for the best of the union, but it needs people who have a wider perspective. The broad left are generally better at managing things, the far left at getting people involved.
The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be anyone taking that role in the UCU at the moment, and nobody seems to have thought about what was going to happen. Both sides should have seen this coming and had contingency plans.
For me I can’t help thinking this is a problem of virtue, this is what politics is about, if you want to play the game you need to know how you are going to play and play well. I am sorry for all the first-time delegates at the conference who got thrown into all this and must be feeling frustrated and angry. But there must be enough people around who should have the experience and sense to have helped to manage this better.

I am leaving my post at Queen Mary University of London and retiring, moving on to a new phase in my life.

Working in educational development at Queen Mary has become more difficult since a move to a building off the main campus and a restructuring, both of which have reduced our contacts with academic members of staff and decision makers in the university and created other problems. I recognise that this reflects trends across the sector, but that does not make it any easier.  The failure to make a timely decision about the future of the main project I have been working on with two colleagues on short-term contracts has been difficult for me.

I have been in phased retirement for the last year and was hoping to continue that for a while – but that has not worked out so I am now fully retiring from August – but looking forward to doing other things.

While working in Educational Development at Queen Mary has been turbulent since I joined in 2007 I am proud to have been part of many positive changes and am particularly proud of the work on the Teaching Recognition Project and the positive impact that the team has made and the good will established across the university.

Educational Development Summer School Module

ADP7112 – International Perspectives on Higher Education

16-20 July 2018

Convenor: Dr Claire Bryony Loffman

ADP7112 is a face-to-face week-long module exploring international perspectives on higher education and their implications for the teaching, assessing, curriculum design and broader academic practice of students on the course. In this module you'll be encouraged to enhance inclusivity, develop heightened awareness of cultural contexts and to identify hidden assumptions about expectations of the teaching and learning experience in Higher Education internationally. ADP7116 is offered as a standalone CPD opportunity.

Module Structure

This module runs as an intensive 9am-5pm five-day face-to-face course in the week of Monday 16 to Friday 20 July 2018 on QMUL’s Mile End Campus in London, England (E1 4NS). During the week of the Summer School you will experience a mix of face-to-face teaching sessions with tutors; the format of these sessions will include: seminars with small group work, a practical workshop, a student-led forum and an opportunity for Q&A with alumnae from last year’s Summer School. You should expect to be on campus for a 36-hour week during the summer school. The module consists of eight core topics including:

1.       Internationalisation and Higher Education

2.       Theories of Cultural Differences

3.       Designing Inclusive Assessment and Feedback

4.       Curriculum Design and Graduate Attributes with a Global Perspective

5.       International Perspectives on Technology for Teaching

6.       Voice Workshop for Teaching in Multilingual Contexts

During the Summer School, participants will be asked to participate in group work and share individual experiences throughout the week. All participants are required to work together to prepare their Group Presentations for 20 July.

For full details and to book your place please visit:

When I started work in HE we had the occasional token strike.  They were token because often the employer did not deduct pay, or if they did repayment was part of the concluding agreement, and we did the work anyway - things were rearranged, we worked at home etc.

Our employers not longer play by those rules - pay is deducted both for striking and action short of a strike, and they will put out statements about the action damaging students and the institution, blaming the action.

And we have carried on playing by the old rules, doing most of the work anyway, adding to our well known unpaid overtime.

This is not viable!  It will be difficult, and painful and may put pressure on relationships within the University - but if I am giving up substantial amount of pay I am not taking responsibility for the work not being done - the university must make sure that work is done if it is needed or recognising that it will not be done - not next week, not never!

Organisational change is magic.

Magic is either deep or surface.

Deep magic is long term, gradual significant change in a system.

Surface magic is visible, quick magic - smoke and mirrors stuff.

A good magician  uses surface magic in various ways to support deep magic, convincing people of change, getting people on board etc., but never confuses the two, always keeping an eye on the long term, the slow and difficult stuff which can't be pushed, tied to deadlines and other restrictions, and controlled - but results in real change.