Dr Gareth Brown
Why—you may ask—do UCU members elect a Vice-President (VP) each year, but never a President? In fact, when you vote for a VP, you’re voting for the person who will become our union’s President. UCU has a 4-strong presidential team, including Vice-President, President-Elect, President, and Immediate Past President; each person elected VP subsequently moves through these roles. This election is slightly different as it’s a by-election caused by the tragic death of Nita Sanghera. But whoever is elected will become President in 2023–24, having spent two years as Vice-President and one as President-Elect. There will be no final year as Immediate Past President.
The presidential team between them undertake several crucial roles in the union. These include: taking part in negotiations with employers; chairing UCU’s committees and conferences; and briefing members on current issues.
Whoever becomes Vice-President after this election will thus sit alongside our elected negotiators attempting to broker a better deal with employers in our present USS and ‘Four Fights’ disputes. They will also chair UCU’s Higher Education Committee (HEC), which alone decides strategy in industrial disputes, and our union’s annual Higher Education Sector Conference (HESC), which has a sovereign role in agreeing policy. [Note: Vice-Presidents are chosen in turn from Higher Education employers and from Further Education institutions. VPs drawn from Further Education chair their sector’s equivalent bodies: FEC and FESC.] As President, the elected officer will chair UCU’s National Executive Committee (NEC) and its Congress, which is the supreme sovereign body of the union.
To perform these important roles effectively, members of the presidential team— including the person elected to become Vice-President in this ballot—need a number of qualities.
- They must be able to work alongside other elected officials of the union, in particular the General Secretary and other members of the presidential team.
- They must be able to negotiate effectively, a task which itself requires several rare skills.
- They must be able to assimilate and process lengthy documents and large amounts of information.
- They must be able to chair large meetings—NEC has 60-odd members, while Congress involves several hundred delegates. An effective chair facilitates discussion and prioritises the building of consensus over the superficially more efficient mode of decision-making that is majority voting.
- Finally, given the extensive amount of social interaction, they must be personable.
In me, UCU would have such an officer.