David’s Election Statement

David wearing a pink beanie and a hi-vis jacket holding a whistle in his mouth and a cow bel in his hand.
Bells and whistles: David on the University of Leicester picket line in 2018

UCU has 130,000 members, over 200 employees and an annual income of £23.5m. Several budget-related questions arise. How does UCU support members in dispute, via our legal and fighting funds? How do we secure UCU’s longer-term finances? How do we increase membership and thus amplify our power? Helping members – via UCU’s democratic bodies – answer these questions is just one of the roles of the Honorary Treasurer. I have the expertise and sound judgement necessary to explain the complex issues and thus facilitate sound decision-making.

I currently teach economics at the University of Leeds. Until 2021 I was an associate professor of finance and political economy at the University of Leicester. Deploying my professional expertise to inform UCU campaigns, I authored several reports on that institution’s finances. I have published widely on the political economy of higher education.

I have experience on UCU’s frontline. As Leicester UCU’s communications officer for five years, and a lead negotiator, I played a central role in three major local disputes, as well as our ongoing national disputes.

As well as representing Leicester UCU at congress and various conferences, I have served on UCU’s NEC [2019–20] and on its Strategy and Finance Committee. I am thus familiar with our union’s democratic structures and its finances and, moreover, am mindful of the need to establish respectful working relationships with union staff. 

Outside UCU, I have hands-on experience of finance and accounting, having been treasurer since 2015 of Woodcraft Folk Leeds.

If elected, I would propose two projects for our union. 

First, around transparency. In a nutshell, financial and other information about UCU’s decisions and structures must be easier to locate. 

Second, I would like to beef-up UCU’s research capacity. More research into the corporate structure of universities, colleges and other tertiary-education providers would provide powerful context for our various campaigns. Creating an ongoing archive of industrial disputes – and their associated strategies, tactics and outcomes – would facilitate UCU offering tailored guidance to local branches in dispute.

Finally, I believe UCU should open up spaces to rethink and reimagine the role of universities and colleges in the 21st century. As citizens we face multiplying social, ecological and economic crises. Our institutions could and should play a key part in society’s response to these. But principals, CEOs and VCs are utterly incapable of providing the necessary leadership. If not them, then it must be us. Developing and promoting a vision of education’s transformative power is socially essential; it will also infuse our struggles over pay and conditions – our livelihoods – with greater meaning and even wider legitimacy. 

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