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An update for University staff.

Dear colleagues,

This is the fourth and final week in the latest period of industrial action. The UCU and universities across the country are continuing what both sides describe as constructive negotiations on pay and pensions. I am disappointed that no settlement has yet been reached. Many students are missing out on precious learning opportunities and striking staff are losing out financially. 

However, I want to emphasise that locally, the University is working with the Cambridge UCU on the key issues at the heart of the dispute. I also want to reassure you that I and many of our colleagues are doing everything we can – albeit within the collective structure of national negotiations – to play our part in bringing these strikes to an end. 

I said back in March 2018 that the University was willing to accept greater risk and cost as a bridge to a longer term, more sustainable approach to the USS pension scheme. The University has not changed its views and is supportive of the most recent report of the Joint Expert Panel, which I believe provides a helpful blueprint for much-needed reform of some key aspects of the scheme. On pay, the University had budgeted for an uplift of up to 2 per cent for all staff ahead of the 2019/20 award. 

Much recent attention has focused on precarious working practices in higher education. Cambridge, like other universities, relies heavily on the contribution of a broad and varied workforce, and it is important that we have contractual and working practices in place to help all our staff thrive. We are working on a set of principles relating to fixed-term and casual workers to guide the way we engage our workforce on the most appropriate contract, balancing the needs and circumstances of individuals and departments. 

I recognise also that while we have made some progress over the past 12 months on our gender pay gap, with the mean pay gap falling by 1.3 per cent, accelerated progress needs to be made. 

We have been working in partnership with UCU on these critical issues since the end of 2018. The University will continue to work with Cambridge UCU, and has invited the union to make a formal request for recognition.

I will write to you again when I have new information on both disputes.

With best wishes,


Professor Stephen J Toope



10 March 2020