Welcome to the blog section of the UCEA website.

UCEA's latest blog (4 June 2024), Seeking seekers in a positive sector, is by Emma Johnson, Head of Marketing at Warwick Employment Group ( Emma explains how they are working with HE institutions while working alongside UCEA to break down some of the old and new barriers to demonstrate the value of a career in HE. They are helping HE institutions create compelling campaigns to showcase what a career in our sector means, joining a community like no other. UCEA’s objective of improving the collective narrative for the sector as employers of choice chimes with’s ongoing aims in this area we hope to continue to draw attention to one another’s respective campaigns.

16 January 2024, What’s it really like to work at the University of Liverpool?, is by Keith Watkinson, Director of Human Resources, University of Liverpool. Keith explains how his university is now producing a compelling Employee Value Proposition. First he questioned why candidates might join Liverpool when most in our sector tend to say similar things when we hire. The university sought a more distinctive story when it came to considering working there. This involved considerable research, engaging with over 1000 colleagues. Their partnership work with SMRS is now enabling them to share their new story with the world. 

6 November 2023, Breaking the cycle, is by Professor George Boyne, Chair of the UCEA Board and Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen and Raj Jethwa, Chief Executive of UCEA. George and Raj explain that while progressing pay negotiations is a necessity, it depends on finding common ground with trade unions. The blog is forward-looking, to introducing a degree of stability into HE industrial relations and focus on the important work needed to support students and staff by considering all options.  

23 October 2023, Autumn doesn’t last forever, is by our Chief Executive, Raj Jethwa. Raj expresses his growing concerns surrounding the delays to progress joint work to come to a shared perspective on sector finances. While it appeared as if we had come to an amicable way forward following the positive initial meeting in September there have been frustrating delays since. Raj emphasises the urgency to use the dwindling time to complete this detailed review prior to the start of the 2024-25 New JNCHES negotiations. The blog emphasises how employers and trade unions have a responsibility to set aside recent disagreements, to engage with this essential undertaking and to help to re-set our sector’s industrial relations.

4 September 2023, Autumn – a need for new beginnings is by our Chief Executive, Raj Jethwa. Raj sets out that while MAB action has resulted in damage to UCU, employers and our sector as a whole it is the small number of our students, those in our sector who matter most, who have borne the biggest repercussions. Raj explains how it is vital that trade unions respond the detailed employers’ proposals to resolve the outstanding aspects of the 2023-24 New JNCHES negotiating round. It has been a month since UCEA made the proposals and the delayed response is unfair to our sector, especially to those students who have suffered. 

20 June 2023, Agreement needs to start with a shared perspective on finances is by our Chief Executive, Raj Jethwa. Raj explains why misunderstandings relating to the sector’s finances exacerbate the potential tragedy of some students’ futures being put at risk by degree classifications delays because of UCU’s ongoing actions. He explains how his experience in previous sectors involved industrial relations focusing on finance modelling agreements needed to underpin changes to pay and contracts. Raj points out that the absence of an agreed perspective of affordability is a shortcoming of the HE bargaining process and calls for an independently facilitated shared perspective on HE sector finances. UCEA calls on trade unions to arrive at a shared perspective on sector finances.

22 May 2023, Facing facts when it comes to industrial relations is by Jerry Cope, UCEA’s Deputy Chair of Board and member of the New JNCHES negotiation committee. Jerry’s blog explains how in his 30+ years of negotiations, discussions, calculations and considerations with many trade unions and on pay review bodies there has always been one vital ingredient for any chance of progress or settlement – facts. Facts that need to be gathered, understood and agreed by all parties who may disagree on policy but are at least working from a common base.

18 April 2023, It’s time for another survey – but please don’t be dissatisfied! is by our Head of Communications and Membership, Andy Fryer. The blog launches our triennial membership satisfaction survey which runs until 12 May 2023.

10 January 2023, Focussing on the employee experience in a sector that traditionally hasn’t, is by Kate Faxen, Head of Employee Experience at UCL. It emphasises the importance for our sector to embrace an approach to enhancing the employee experience and reminding readers of the rich resources available.
5 December 2022, Total Reward Strategies and Employee Value Propositions: Please remind me…why do we need them and how do we deliver them? is by Dr Duncan Brown, Visiting Professor at the University of Greenwich and Principal Associate, IES. This is the latest contribution to emphasise the importance for our sector to embrace an approach to enhancing the employee experience.

21 November 2022, Conversation to consultation for the direction of pay bargaining, is by our Chief Executive, Raj Jethwa. This follows the introductory It’s time to listen: the future of collective pay bargaining blog, going on to explain how the launch of UCEA's consultation follows 15 months of comprehensive conversation with our member HE institutions. The aim is for the formal consultation to deliver definitive feedback on how best to move forward with collective bargaining 

3 November 2022, What I talk about when I talk about Employee experience, is written by Mark Latuske, Deputy Director of People & Culture (Employee Experience), Ulster University. This succinct blog follows Mark’s case study, An organisation-wide approach to employee experience - one of the many excellent case studies included in UCEA's 'Employee experience in HE' guide, with access available to members via UCEA’s EX section of the website.

21 July 2002, The benefits of the best jobs, is written by Martin Augustus, UWE Bristol’s Head of Employee Relations. Martin's excellent contribution encourages readers to re-examine the vast range of benefits that are often overlooked when working in our sector.

19 July 2022, The many benefits of working in HE need to be better understood, is written by Roshan Israni, UCEA’s Deputy Chief Executive. Roshan emphasises how important it is for the sector to highlight how much HE benefits are valued when the public narrative of the sector often offers the opposite. The blog provides a timely reminder of how our recent report evidences the good and highly competitive HE practices by benchmarking against other sectors.

24 May 2022, Some reflections from a VC as he walks out the dooris by Professor Nigel Seaton. Nigel is former Vice Chancellor - and now Emeritus Professor - at Abertay University, as well as Governor at Robert Gordon University. Nigel was, until recently, also a UCEA Board member. Nigel's blog does what it says on the tin, reflecting on a decade of experiences and challenges before considering what lies ahead for our sector. He explains the need for all of us to adapt quickly to old and new challenges, and how there are ways to support colleagues despite the ongoing financial constraints.

9 May 2022, We must work constructively to alleviate the sector’s pay pressures, is by our Chief Executive, Raj Jethwa. It reflects on the recent IA and expresses concerns surrounding ongoing attempts to continue this. The blog then explains the importance of the New JNCHES 2022-23 final pay offer and how the extremely difficult inflationary costs are a joint concern for staff and HEIs alike. Raj explains that the final offer will provide significantly higher uplifts for those on the lower pay spine points and how we look to the trade unions to consult their members at this time. Raj remains optimistic in overcoming recent disputes and work constructively, for the sake of all in our sector.

28 March 2022, Reflections: two years on from responding to the unexpected is written by Matt Lloyd, UCEA's Head of Business Support. Last week was the two year anniversary of the start of the first lockdown and Matt’s blog provides a timely reminder to some of the pandemic’s work challenges. UCEA had to keep the business running safely, efficiently and sustainably while delivering key information and resources to our members and beyond.

17 March 2022, Enhancing the HE employee experience, together is written by Roshan Israni, UCEA’s Deputy Chief Executive. Roshan emphasises how important it is for our sector to embrace an approach to enhancing the employee experience. The blog follows the UCEA’s recent launch event, setting out the work relating to this exciting new employee experience strategic priority. 

7 February 2022, Farewell and thanks to those dedicated to improving our sector's health and safety is written by Professor Stuart Palmer, former UCEA Board member and Chair to the Health and Safety Committee and the HESH Forum. It is understandable that Professor Palmer's blog focuses on the last two years of his eight as Chair to the Health and Safety Committee and the HESH Forum. The blog lists the vast range of UCEA achievements when it comes to dealing with this essential area during a pandemic but is quick to recognise that so many sector health, safety and wellbeing initiatives have arisen from collaboration with Trade Unions. 

10 January 2022, The new year’s challenges can be met, working together, is by our Chief Executive, Raj Jethwa.
Raj explains his hopes that in this new year of challenges the sectors’ employers will be able to devote more precious time to examining longer term workforce and reward issues. UCEA is determined to provide greater support to institutions to further enhance the employee experience as well as developing holistic approaches to reward. Raj is looking forward to deepening our understanding of what institutions really value about the bargaining arrangements and identifying potential improvements. Raj also explains his ongoing commitment to enhancing relationships with the trade unions based on trust and mutual respect. 

17 December 2021, When it comes to pensions, even UCEA’s infographics aren’t easy on the eye is written by Emelda Nicholroy, UCEA’s Head of Pensions Policy. Emelda takes the reader on a whistle-stop tour of the current sector’s pension scheme contribution rates and explains how our latest infographic can help member HEIs illustrate the rising cost of the pension schemes they offer their staff and some of the concerns this raises. 

22 October 2021, Re-thinking New JNCHES, is by David Duncan, Chief Operating Officer and University Secretary, University of Glasgow. David is a New JNCHES employer representative but writes this blog in a personal capacity. David’s is the third of our recent and excellent blogs encouraging readers to think outside the (current HE national pay bargaining structure) box as part of UCEA’s ‘national conversation’ consultation. David acknowledges that, throughout the last two decades, HE employer-employee relations have been far from optimal with regular disputes about pay. The blog lists 7 suggestions with a range of fresh ideas about every aspect of the negotiating process and how these should be considered in moving forward.

24 September 2021, Creating a menopause friendly workplace, is by Anne Saxelby, HR Adviser, Projects, Organisational Development, Human Resources at The University of Sheffield. Anne explains how the University’s work programme is underpinned by key objectives such as creating an inclusive place to work and study and progressing gender equality. One of the important strands of this work is their ambition to create a menopause friendly workplace. The blog examines Sheffield’s trailblazing work and Anne describes the many actions in place and how these aim to continue to support those experiencing menopause symptoms. This work provides important steps in the University’s efforts to support and encourage the wellbeing of their staff and students.  

16 September 2021, It is time to talk about pay talks, is by Jerry Cope, Deputy Chair of the UCEA Board and Chair of the Board of Governors at London South Bank University. Jerry's blog provides readers with a timely reflection on his past experiences as UCEA and its members start the ‘national conversation’ consultation on the most effective pay bargaining structure for all moving forward. As former chair of the NHS Pay Review Body and longstanding New JNCHES employer representative, Jerry explains the need for a transparent formal pay strategy, both nationally and locally, explaining that this in-depth consultation is not about pay outcomes but pay structures.

5 August 2021, 'Placing our values at the heart of hybrid working', is by Patrick Hackett, Registrar, Secretary and Chief Operating Officer at The University of Manchester. Patrick's blog provides readers with an open and honest insight into Manchester's hybrid working pilot approach which is co-created by colleagues and continues to develop.

30 June 2021, Perfect blend: employers must involve students and staff in plans for hybrid working, is by our Chief Executive, Raj Jethwa. It focuses on the emergence of new working practices as our members continue to show their determination to offer work patterns that meet the desire of staff for greater work flexibility, while providing for students and their new learning experience, with many seeking revised flexibilities. 

14 June 2021, It’s time to listen: the future of collective pay bargaining, is by our Chief Executive, Raj Jethwa. An important element of UCEA's Strategic Priority 'Promoting constructive employment relations' and ongoing service to our members relates to a planned national conversation on the structure of collective bargaining (New JNCHES) moving forward. The blog explains how UCEA’s forthcoming consultation on collective bargaining is about ensuring we achieve the most effective pay bargaining structure for our sector, our universities and our staff. 

8 June 2021, HR and Communications - Perfect Partners, is by Deborah Mattock, Director of HR, Marketing and International Relations at the University of Northampton. Deborah's blog provides readers with a summary of just why HR and communications are inseparable. The innovative approach of putting together HR and marketing/communications under one umbrella was adopted by the University of Northampton nearly a decade ago, but the benefits continue. Deborah explains how effective communications, internal and external, are key to engagement and wellbeing, for students and members of staff. 

13 May 2021, Allow us to (re)introduce ourselves to our members… is by Andy Fryer, UCEA’s Head of Communications and Membership. Without the meeting and greeting opportunities at events and meetings and the occasional treasured campus visits, this blog is an attempt to encourage members to get to know UCEA’s valued staff. This follows on the success of our spring ‘Getting the most from UCEA membership’ webinar. The blog focuses on reminding members what UCEA has provided over the pandemic period and explain that we will, in line with our strategic plan, continue to adjust and deliver membership services. 

27 April 2021, Agility in a time of uncertainty: delivering for our members over the next 30 months, is by Raj Jethwa, UCEA's Chief Executive has been written to launch our new strategic plan. It provides a short take on why we need to agile, hear more about the work we will deliver and how we want to work with our members and partners from across the sector to deliver our ambitious and challenging work programme.  

23 April 2021, The end in sight? Managing staff return to campus, is by Roshan Israni, UCEA's Deputy Chief Executive. Roshan's blog focuses on UCEA's new guidance, an already well received comprehensive resource for members on managing staff returns to campus. The blog underlines the fundamental role staff play in supporting students and the importance of managing their safe return to campus. Roshan steered the writing of the guidance and she explains how valuable contributions helped to bring together key themes, including psychological transition, change management, hybrid working, line management, leadership, health and safety and legal issues. The blog explains how the guidance's rich information, useful examples and case studies help reiterate key basic principles and bring these to life.  

23 February 2021, Now is the time for change: what HE can learn from other sectors, is by Michelle Gordon, freelancer and most recently Director of External Relations at the University of Sussex. Michelle's blog focuses on how effective communications and genuine staff engagement needs to be both the beating heart and thinking head of our universities adapting to this changed world. She explains how this last year has made it clear that we need to truly embed communications in an organisation’s decision-making process. Michelle shares her starter guide to what universities, who are serious about success, can be doing in 2021.

16 December 2020,  Not out of the woods: fulfilling staff potential in a forest of uncertainty - the challenge for 2021, is by Raj Jethwa, UCEA's CEO. He reflects on the many unprecedented challenges the sector has faced in 2020 before turning to 2021 and how we all need to adapt still further and work together. Raj's blog lists just some of the very many difficult decisions HE institutions have made this year and how these institutions have recognised and appreciate the hard work of staff throughout the sector from the moment the pandemic hit. He also reminds us that UCEA aspires to a genuine collaboration with sector unions so that we have the confidence of our workforce in addressing the demands of the present, as well as in adapting for the future. 

5 November 2020, Challenging common pensions misconceptions in a sector that offers great options, Richard Paul, Senior Pensions Technical Adviser at UCEA explores how pensions will always make media headlines. While it is usually strikes and costs that hog the headlines, the importance of communicating that HE sector employees have access to some of the best pension schemes in the UK cannot be ignored. Richard explains that DB pension provision is still common in HE whereas this is no longer the case in the private sector and that based on UCEA research HEIs with a DC scheme have commonly introduced generous contribution structures which compare favourably to FTSE250 companies. While retaining good quality pension provision and ensuring continued member participation is more challenging than ever, it seems important for HEIs to remind staff of the value and quality of their pension arrangements and the importance of continuing to save during these difficult times.

25 September 2020, A Rewards ‘Paradise built in Hell’? by Dr Duncan Brown, Visiting Professor at the University of Greenwich and Principal Associate IES. Duncan's detailed blog includes burning questions relating the 'new new normal' working world, emphasising that these unprecedented workforce challenges can actually present new opportunities relating to employment matters in our sector and beyond. His questions are designed to support discussion about the wider stakeholder and longer-term people and reward agenda. 

26 August 2020, Reimagining the next normal in HE with Covid-19 by Hayfa Mohdzaini, Senior Researcher at UCEA asks how might UK HE working life look like for the 2020-21 academic year and beyond? In trying to answer she reviews the four key trends that emerged during the pandemic – agile decision making, blended learning, flexible working and virtual spaces. 

2 July 2020, Communicating Covid-19: From crisis comms to a “new normal”, by Russell Reader, Associate Director of Strategic Communications & Brand at Keele University focuses on our sector's comms professionals adaptability and the important role they play during this time. Russell explains how Covid-19 comms is no longer crisis comms as it is now firmly embedded in all our day-to-day duties. 

25 June 2020, ‘Are we now at tipping point on race and what can our sector do?' by Umar Zamman, Director of Human Resources & Organisational Development, Sheffield Hallam University, is truly inspiring as it draws on his personal experiences shared as a result of the black lives matter movement. Umar includes the ongoing work he is involved in at Hallam while raising the challenges that the sector faces, even providing readers with some 'top tips' for being an inclusive leader. 

9 June 2020, 'Preparation and support in returning to our new campus', Professor Neil Budworth, Head of Health and Safety at Loughborough University and Chair of the Universities Safety and Health Association (USHA), provides insight into how one university has focused on the recent health and safety challenges and is now preparing for a future which is likely to be very different to the past.  

2 June 2020, 'Is the future of flexible working at home?', Gemma Dale, Wellbeing Manager at the University of Manchester and Lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University focuses on the benefits and concerns surrounding flexible working, encouraging HR colleagues to prepare for the potential increase in demand for flexible working as restrictions continue to ease.

26 May 2020, 'Starting a new job in a new sector in a new normal', Muriel Bankhead, who joined UCEA as Head of Research on 14 April, recounts her first two weeks at UCEA during the height of the lockdown.

19 May 2020, 'Responding to Covid-19 challenges with VUCA action', by Professor Nick Petford, Vice-Chancellor of University of Northampton and UCEA Board member, examines how at Northampton they have used components of the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) model to underpin their rapid response to Covid-19. Professor Petford's contribution is also a Wonkhe article

12 May 2020 - In Sector support for wellbeing during the pandemic and beyond UCEA's Senior Researcher, Hayfa Mohdzaini, examines some of the home working and wellbeing challenges experienced in the sector.

5 May 2020 - In Beyond the bubble – early Covid-19 lessons learnt from outside our sector UCEA's Researcher, Rebecca Gregg, looks beyond HE in trying to learn from the employers' mistakes and good practices at the start of the ongoing pandemic 

21 April 2020 - In Certain uncertainties: Labour lockdown consultant Laurence Hopkins introduces a report which looks at the potential economic consequences of Covid-19

9 April 2020 - Our first blog, by UCEA CEO Raj Jethwa, sets out how university employers are working to support staff through the pandemic:  Covid-19 and the sector’s unprecedented workforce issues