NEC Election Statements (2023)

UCU Commons candidates are currently standing in the National Executive Committee elections, across the UK.

Download our election flier in English or Welsh

Here you can read their collected election statements (ordered by position they are standing for, and how they appear on the UCU website):

Links to each statement in order of appearance:

Emma Battell Lowman (Vice President)
David Harvie (Honorary Treasurer)
Chris O’Donnell (Scottish Honorary Secretary and UK-wide NEC)
Francis Clarke
Matilda Fitzmaurice (Casualised Representative)
Rebecca Harrison (NEC South)
Bijan Parsia (Representative for Disabled Members)
Mark Pendleton (LGBTQ+ Representative)
Caroline Proctor (NEC Academic-related representative)
Vivek Thuppil (Migrant Members representative)


Emma Battell Lowman (Vice-President)

Vice President is a vital role. From negotiating with employers, to chairing key decision-making committees, to liaising with members and staff, I am ready to serve our union with focus, compassion, and creativity. I am ready to build collaboratively on the brilliant work of members, representatives, the General Secretary, and staff.

About Me

I am a queer cis woman (she/her/they) who relocated from Canada in 2009. Like many of you, I have spent most of my career precariously employed, despite recognised teaching and research excellence. As vice-chair of Leicester UCU, I brought that university to the table to address casualisation, demanding a response to the human toll of precarity. Elected to NEC in 2021, I energetically represent diverse member views and push for strategic use of strike action, cross-sectoral support, and improving transparency and union democracy. 

Facing Our Future

For years, post-16 educators demanded reasonable improvements to pay and conditions – demands employers and their representatives attempted to dismiss. They misrepresent facts, choosing to invest in vanity projects and obscene executive salaries. They stoke fear with threats of punitive deductions and artificially-created austerity. We must choose critical hope and face these challenges with unity.

UCU has a powerful alternative vision for the future of post-16 education. We know education is a common good – not a commodity. We know our contracts and working conditions can and should be better. We glimpse our future through enthusiasm on picket lines, heroic efforts of caseworkers, creativity of branch-building activities, and the way union education and engagement empower members. 

Building our Union 

If elected, I will:

  • Develop a series of short, accessible, energising resources explaining how UCU works and outlining diverse pathways to engagement
  • Lead meetings with consensus-building techniques to ensure participants know their contributions are valued and large committees achieve powerful decisions
  • Build relationships of understanding and shared support between members in Prison, Adult, Further, and Higher Education 
  • Improve understanding of the political environments of the devolved nations and NI and their impact on members
  • Deploy intersectional techniques in concert with UCU’s Equality Committees to address discrimination and harassment and improve inclusivity and accessibility 
  • Identify, amplify, and embed engagement approaches that maximise member accessibility, enjoyment, and satisfaction

What next? 

Until July 2022, I worked for the University of Leicester as a research associate in History. Remaining unemployed is a real possibility and worry, as it is for many members, but my commitment to UCU does not change with my employment status. I continue to fight for our members and hope you will support me. 

We are the Union. 

I’m proud to stand with David Harvie for Treasurer and all UCU Commons candidates 

Contact me, find out more, stay connected:



Dr David Harvie (Honorary Treasurer)

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. 

I’m standing alongside other excellent UCU Commons candidates, including Emma Battell Lowman for vice-president.

Twitter: @realDavidHarvie and @ucuCommons

Website: and


Chris O’Donnell (Scottish Honorary Secretary and UK-wide NEC)

Who am I, and why me?  

I am a Head of the Psychology department at the University of the West of Scotland. It’s Scotland’s leading widening participation university. I’ve been a union activist for 20+ years and served as an elected local, Scottish and National Union official. I am a UK-elected NEC post-92 member. I am a  member of UCU Commons  

Our national strike ballot and amazing strike action have shown that UCU is at its best when we are an inclusive of all genders, races, member-centred, & student-partnered union. In my election address for UK NEC, I promised to listen to our members and work to prioritise your goals, such as an aggregated ballot and subsequent UK-wide action. I’ve used the mandate to build a union, its plan and outcomes representing you. 

Why is it time to elect a post-92 member to these critical positions? 

What’s been clear from the post-92 member, communications, and my lived experience as an activist in post-92 is that post-92 universities are very different from those of the ancient, chartered institutions.  

The utility of elevating the post-92 experiences into our collective action tells me that the time is right for a post-92 member to be in both of Scotland’s roles. A robust representation of post-92 voices and experiences has led to post-92-focused initiatives at the heart of our collective actions that benefit us all. It led to the successful passing of UK-wide motion on capping numbers in England to enable all of our institutions to be valued and the creation of a post-92 working group in Scotland.  

For instance, Scottish post-92 branches are worried that winning in #ucuRISING will mean Managers’ squandering of scant resources risks a low-wage strategy being the only viable one. It cannot continue. Elevating our experience in the post-92 institutions will help us draw out financial mismanagement in the Sector and turn the face of the Scottish Government to the reality of their cuts and their impact on post-92s.   

Why vote, and why me? 

Now is the right time to use the plight of post 92s to lead change for us all.  

We all want a fair day’s wage, manageable workloads, inclusive rewards and conditions and security for an honest day’s work. The experience of the fragility in the post-92s can be essential for change in all sectors. Your dedication, skills and love for our work have been exploited day in and day out, and it’s gone on too long; support us to continue our outstanding actions. 


NEC candidates:

Francis Clarke (Midlands and UK-wide HE)

University of Birmingham

I am a dedicated academic-related professional services (ARPS) member of UCU. I would be proud to serve as an NEC member and support our union’s collective efforts to create a higher education system that works for staff, students and the public good.

In 2017, after over a decade working in public, private and charity sector roles, including as an Equality Officer in local government, I secured my first job in higher education. I joined UCU a few months later, after being promoted into the ARPS role of Web Marketing and Communications Officer, and have been an active member ever since.

I have held various leadership roles within my branch, including Co-Chair, Communications Officer and, perhaps most significantly, lead Health and Safety Officer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout this time I have also supported members as a caseworker. I have recently returned as branch Health and Safety Officer. 

Through these roles and as a rank-and-file member of UCU, I have gained important skills and experience which I would share as an NEC member. These include: recruiting and developing members; delivering successful ballot campaigns; organising and speaking at strike days; working collaboratively with other trade unions; securing support for campaigns from local MPs, councillors, trade unions and other stakeholders; and communicating effectively with national and local journalists.

I am especially proud of my contribution as Communications Officer in opposing the controversial University of Birmingham Dubai campus. This culminated in a boycott, which received widespread national media coverage. Our campaign centred on protecting the safety and dignity of LGBT+ staff and students, including exposing serious concerns over Stonewall’s involvement in the project. We also educated people about other problems with the project, including the treatment of migrant workers, the prohibition of trade unions and the lack of academic freedom for colleagues working in Dubai. 

If we are going to successfully advocate for the transformative power of education, we will need to build and sustain as many alliances as possible. As the elected Trade Union Liaison Officer (TULO) for Selly Oak Constituency Labour Party (CLP), I have experience of doing just that. As TULO, I have worked hard to strengthen links between the Labour Party, UCU and other trade unions. I have also successfully encouraged my fellow UCU members to really get behind other disputes, such as GMB Midland’s campaign for equal pay at Birmingham City Council and the ongoing CWU postal workers’ strike.

I’m standing alongside other excellent UCU Commons candidates, including Emma Battell Lowman for vice-president and David Harvie for Honorary Treasurer.

Twitter: @francisclarke and @ucuCommons



Matilda Fitzmaurice (Representative for Casualised Members)

I joined UCU in 2017 as a PhD student in geography. I spent four years as an hourly-paid GTA and I am now a research associate who, come 2023, may be unemployed. I have research expertise in international climate change politics.

I have branch- and national-level experience, including of equalities work. I sit on the Women and LGBT+ members’ Standing Committees, where I have worked to commit the union to trans solidarity and opposition to LGBT+ conversion therapy, as well as the protection of colleagues and students engaged in sex work. As a queer woman, I proudly stand with all trans and non-binary people, including comrades in our union fighting for trans liberation.

Precarious work is intersectional and affects people differently. Therefore, if elected, I would push for greater cooperation between UCU’s anti-casualisation and equalities work. We have so much diverse experience and knowledge in our members – both from their trade union activities and professional expertise.

Recent mass layoffs show there is no longer a clean distinction between secure and precarious. This is not to claim that we are ‘all precarious now’, but it can and must be the foundation of a holistic approach that targets precarity head-on. Moreover, I am dismayed by how often union-wide discussions of casualisation are unproductive, indeed toxic. Pursuing an inclusive approach would make visible the needs of precarious colleagues, in all their complexity and diversity. Pensions are one example: they are not only a concern for the more secure among us, especially as so many of us start our careers late. 

PhD research is work. PGRs and GTAs are precarious workers, and I fully support the PGRs As Staff campaign. Having been an active PGR member, I know how they are sidelined by universities, although without them, much university teaching, research, administration and student support would grind to a halt. However, at times they are also sidelined by the union. If elected, I would work closely with the UCU PGRs team to ensure that UCU, and ACC, remain accountable to PGR needs and priorities.

Finally, climate change is a workers’ rights issue: it is affecting and will affect most those who are precarious. But HE and FE must also help us respond: in a climate-changed world, we need more education and research, not less. If elected, I will work with the Climate Emergency Committee, as well as making our collective research expertise central to the new world we must build.

I am a member of @UCUCommons and encourage you to vote for other Commons candidates, especially Emma Battell Lowman for VP and David Harvie for Treasurer. Find me on Twitter @matilda_jt


Rebecca Harrison (South region and UK-wide HE)

Lecturer, Film & Media, Open University

Like so many of you, it’s fair to say I’ve had a tough time surviving UK Higher Education. There have been late stipends, casual contracts, low pay, and exploitative workloads. Moving hundreds of miles from friends and family for a job. Isolation. Incidents of gender-based violence that perpetrators and managers have tried to suppress with tactics including legal threats and victimisation.

In short, as for thousands of you across the sector, my career has required personal and professional sacrifices. The misogyny, classism and ableism rife in university structures has brought me close to leaving more than once.

Over the past few years, hundreds of you have shared similar stories with me. These accounts include racism, transphobia, homophobia, and other abuses in the workplace. Data reveals the stark truth: 39% of respondents to UCU’s ‘Eradicating Sexual Violence’ survey experienced or witnessed abuse, or acted as a confidante, in the five years to 2021 (p.3). More than a decade ago, 38% of respondents to the UCU ‘Who Listens?’ survey (2010) reported being bullied in the previous six months. Since then, worsening precarity has contributed to the problem.

How can anyone thrive in these conditions? Another way has to be possible.

This is why I’m standing for UCU’s National Executive Committee with UCU Commons: To continue highlighting the appalling treatment of staff within the academy. To take survivor-centred action that promotes community and transformative justice. To resist hierarchical and neoliberal systems that harm us all and seek to end the erasure of marginalised people who question the status quo.

To do so, I’ll draw on past experiences. I have challenged institutions for covering up abuse; consulted for UCU on members’ access to legal support; called for change in the press and with political leaders; undertaken training to support survivors; organised workshops to improve conditions; helped instigate an institution-wide review of campus gender-based violence; and attained that rare thing – an apology from a VC.

Of course, the work will be hard. We will have to reflect on our own behaviours and environments. And, in addition to our vital industrial action, we will need to consider creative strategies to achieve our goals. But we can and must reclaim our workplaces from those who exploit us. I propose a range of actions, including:

·   a follow-up survey on bullying

·   campaigning to prevent gender-based violence on campuses

·   collaborating with our sister campus unions.

Together, we can and will succeed in changing universities for the better – for our colleagues, our students, and ourselves. 


Bijan Parsia (Representative for Disabled Members)

I am a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Manchester. I sit on NEC as a UK-wide elected rep and the Disabled Members Standing Committee. I have lifelong social anxiety and developed arthritis and major depression during my PhD. I have been fortunate to win the career lottery after a lot of precarity.

Please consult this post for my NEC track record.


Disabled people face the injustice of  lack of access, whether to buildings, online content, education, jobs, advancement, or participation in a Union. However, access accommodations that work for one person in one instance might decrease access for another. For example, online meetings might open up a class to a housebound person, but present a serious burden to another whose executive function is compromised by Zoom. Thus, we must face intersectional issues within disability as well as between it and other identities. We must also be vigilant against ableism used against other characteristics, e.g., the common line that trans people are “mentally ill” thus “dangerous” or “unfit”.

Universal design, that is, making systems, processes, and the physical environment accessible for all, is what we should aspire to. But realising it is challenging, not least because existing systems resist such change. 


I believe that UCU institutionally and in its membership is committed to access for all both within the union and in our workplaces. But getting there is not an easy road. I want us to develop a long range strategy for improving meaningful access across the sector.

COVID lockdowns showed us that things traditionally claimed to be “too hard” or “too expensive” could be done but also done badly. We need to build on our recent common experiences. For example, future UCU meetings need to be meaningfully hybrid, or rather, multi-model, to allow people to participate regardless of circumstance. This is not just a tech issue! We should restructure our meetings to facilitate variant participation. We know from our emergency shift to online teaching is that it is not enough to slap a video call on a lecture. We need to rethink the goals of such meetings and ensure everyone has fair access to the most critical.

The pandemic continues and many disabled people face greater restrictions with the Government’s irresponsible policies. Long COVID is pushing millions out of the workforce with little accountability from employers who risk our lives and our health. We need to hold universities responsible for the harm they have facilitated.

I am running on the @UCUCommons slate and encourage you to vote for it, especially Emma Battell Lowman for Vice-President and David Harvie for Honorary Treasurer. Find me on Twitter @bparsia. DMs open.


Mark Pendleton: (LGBT+ Rep, HE)

My rival and I have worked closely together on the LGBT+ members committee. We share a lot in common – firm opposition to transphobia, biphobia and homophobia; a commitment to addressing the needs of LGBT+ members; and track records of developing effective policy.

Whoever is elected, LGBT+ members will have a rep that understands and delivers for our communities. In my case, that has developed through branch roles as equalities officer and secretary over the last five years, through UK-wide work on the LGBT+ committee (2019-present) and NEC (2020-21) and through work across the sector, including co-authoring the Royal Historical Society’s report on LGBT+ inclusion. I have been active in various social movements and community organisations around LGBT+, HIV and migration issues, alongside my day job as Senior Lecturer in Japanese Studies at the University of Sheffield.

However, your LGBT+ rep also makes decisions on wider issues – pensions, pay, casualisation, inequality and more – and members have a real choice in this election. We need elected decision-makers who are responsive to threats and supportive of emerging campaigns, but also help develop effective strategies to win. When I was on NEC, I fought to address the free-for-all in student recruitment, which has differential and damaging impacts across HE. I also proposed action to confront the various consultancy firms that have worked to undermine our sector, particularly in the arts and humanities. These were blocked.

I have been a long-term advocate for aggregation in industrial action ballots – a split union is a weak union. After years of fractured mandates, we finally overcame those in our union who wanted to do the same thing over and over again and together delivered a landmark UK-wide mandate that can transform higher education. We need an NEC that is focused on more than just the timing of the next strike dates, that thinks proactively about how to combat employer and government attacks, and that explores strategic and tactical innovation when needed. We cannot remain stuck in the same old patterns that have delivered little. We also cannot let personal differences distract and divide us – I opposed last year’s unjustified, partisan attempt to censure the general secretary.

I am standing with UCUCommons – a diverse group of grassroots members who bring experience from across the sector and beyond, and have delivered change in branches, workplaces and communities. We are committed to growing UCU’s membership, our density and our members’ confidence that we can win. We believe in resourcing and supporting branches to take effective action. We will focus on building solidarity across differences.

Vote Emma Battell Lowman for VP, David Harvie for Treasurer and the UCUCommons team:

We can be a bigger, more inclusive and more effective union.


Caroline Proctor (Midlands region and UK-wide HE)

I have worked in departmental professional services teams as an academic administrator, web developer, or IT support at the University of Warwick since 2014, and I’ve been a UCU branch committee member for professional services staff since 2018.

Having spent the majority of my working life on temporary, casualised and zero-hour contracts, my primary focus for union work is supporting and fighting for the rights of casualised workers. Nobody should have to move yearly to pursue a career in the HE sector, and give up a stable home environment because universities desire last-minute staffing to suit their own needs. If you can’t even adopt a cat because you don’t know where you’ll be next year, there’s something very rotten with the whole system.

Coming from a professional services background, having worked closely alongside academics and research students in four very different departments, I can see the struggles all of us face and I’m keen to make sure we don’t let the universities divide us based on the jobs we do. ARPS staff are overworked and often underappreciated by employers, limited in promotion prospects by fixed grade job positions, and increasingly trapped in between pie in the sky central policies and the realities of teaching and research in our universities. Academic staff are judged on research, despite ever-dwindling time and resources to undertake it, and more and more they’re expected to police their students instead of teaching and supporting them as they should. Meanwhile our PhD students are burdened with excessive teaching and marking, on short notice and in poor conditions, for which they are often paid unacceptably late. As an NEC representative I want to be a voice for all our members, student, academic or ARPS alike.

I am a vocal supporter and ally of our LGBTQ+ members, and support trans and nonbinary colleagues unequivocally against any and all discrimination and hate speech.

Working in IT, my focus is on developing practical and effective solutions to problems. My ethos as a union representative too is that while thoughts and prayers are all very well, definite action is better. On the picket line, I’m the one with the tea and coffee, putting up the gazebos, waterproofing the signs and fixing the stapleguns. When the branch motions for solidarity to a cause, I’ll suggest practical action rather than stop at a tweet. This is what I would bring to NEC — not to curb debate, but to ensure that debate isn’t all we do, and that we arrive at a resolution with real action. 

I am standing as a member of @UCUCommons, and endorse other Commons candidates, especially Emma Battell Lowman for VP and David Harvie for Treasurer. I am on Twitter @cagglesproctor.


7. Vivek Thuppil (Migrant Members Representative)

Bangor University

However exploitative the FE/HE sector seems, as a migrant living in the UK since 2019, I know that it is so much worse for migrant members. When a migrant member is made redundant, they lose not just their job, but also their right to remain in the UK, as well as that right for any family members dependent on their visa who lose their right to work or continue their schooling.

When employers tell our migrant members that they are required by law to report strike action absences to the UK Home Office, that exacerbates the hostile environment. And even when our members make it to apply for settlement, they face the hostile environment in the form of salary thresholds and needing a letter of support from their employer.

In addition to providing a voice for migrants, I am contesting this election because we need a democratic union that can deliver wins, carry our membership, and grow our union. We need to end the proliferation of special HESCs and Branch Delegate Meetings (BDMs) to influence decision-making. The problem with these meetings is that an activist core tends to dominate proceedings, and the decisions taken can be steeped in privilege and out of step with our membership.

Strike action is the most powerful tool we have, and it is a tool that we should use judiciously. We need a clear strategy that respects our membership and only calls them out to the picket line with loss of pay (and for migrant members, exposes them to the hostile environment) as a last resort. 

Our union needs to be goal oriented. We are here as a union to fight for our members’ pay, benefits, and working conditions, including campuses free of all kinds of bigotry, including transphobia. We are not here to act as the official opposition to the UK Government, or to advance the agenda of the Socialist Workers Party. 

I am originally from India and lived in the US and Malaysia before eventually coming to the green and pleasant land of Wales. I work at Bangor University, and I am also the Bangor UCU branch secretary. I am a Plaid Cymru member, and on Plaid Cymru’s National Council representing Undeb, the trade union section of Plaid Cymru. On the National Council, I was proud to vote to approve the historic Co-operation Agreement between the Welsh [Labour] Government and Plaid Cymru. If elected to NEC, I will continue supporting pragmatic, goal-oriented policies that deliver results for our members.

I am a member of UCU Commons, and endorse other Commons candidates, including Emma Battell Lowman for VP and David Harvie for Treasurer. Personally, I endorse Dyfrig Jones for UK-elected member HE.

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