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KCL Professor Ewan McGaughey to Run for UCU General Secretary

Dr Jo Grady (left), Professor Ewan McGaughey (middle) and Jeremy Corbyn (right).

A King’s College London (KCL) Law Professor has announced his candidacy for General Secretary of the University and College Union (UCU).

In a video shared to social media on 13 November, Professor Ewan McGaughey announced an eight-point policy platform for his UCU leadership bid. He said if elected, he would “transform UCU and transform UK education” by working towards these eight goals:

“1. Fair pay: pay back to real levels before 2010, not more waste on fancy buildings or management bureaucracy

2. Democracy: university governing bodies must be majority-elected by staff, not have self-selecting cronies

3. End the gender pay gap with raised and equalised paid parental leave to 26 weeks, not more gendered childcare

4. Job security for every worker in written collective agreements and zero tolerance for discrimination

5. USS pension board two-thirds elected and a shareholder voting policy for clean, pro-labour investments

6. Boost our legal department and back UCU staff and branches, with facility-time buyouts, to defend all workers’ rights

7. 100% clean energy at UCU, USS, in all universities, investments and endowments, not more toxic gas, oil or coal

8. Restore public education funding with fair tax, not forced fees, and equality and respect in further education”

Professor McGaughey via his election website (https://ewanmg.uk/)

Professor McGaughey will stand for election against the incumbent, Dr Jo Grady (University of Sheffield), as well as Vicky Blake (University of Leeds) and Saira Weiner (Liverpool John Moores University).

This November, the UCU failed to pass a motion to renew the mandate for strike action and action short of a strike (ASOS), as turnout fell below the 50% legal threshold. This challenged the ‘Four Fights’ campaign of incumbent General Secretary Grady and has put at least a temporary hold on the strike action that has been taking place across British universities since 2021.

Professor McGaughey has received public endorsements from several other academics at King’s. Professor Crawford Spence, Professor of Accounting at KCL and Vice President of KCL UCU under Professor McGaughey, said “our union needs a shake-up at the national level and Ewan has the drive and leadership abilities to make this happen”. Dr Christine Cheng of KCL’s War Studies department said that, “Ewan’s accomplishments at King’s College London are noteworthy and I am excited to support his candidacy for UCU General Secretary”.

Professor McGaughey, who holds a degree from KCL, joined King’s full time in 2014 as a teacher and researcher specialising in labour, pensions, corporate and public service law. Elected President of KCL’s UCU branch in December 2020, McGaughey will officially step back from leadership of the branch in December 2023. He told Roar earlier this year that he was “happily pass[ing] on the reins to others, after 3 years of work”. The election for General Secretary of the UCU is set to take place in early 2024.

When approached for comment, Professor McGaughey said:

“We’ve got to rebuild UCU, and transform UK education – and we’ll do that with a clear strategy for good-faith bargaining, backed with collective action, legal action and targeted publicity where we need it.

“[…] We must restore public education funding with fair tax, not forced fees, because free university is a universal human right, and we are in the business of merit, not money. As a labour law professor, and having had the experience and success already at a local level, I know it’s possible to transform our workplaces and UK education when we work together, united by these goals.”

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