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Terminology Bank

What the hell does this all mean? Hopefully our terminology bank will explain…



The trade union for higher education workers, including professional services staff, academics and postgraduate research students. Their Higher Education Committee, a group made up of reps elected by UCU to represent their Higher Education members, has launched both strike ballots.



Universities’ UK is the representative body for universities across the UK. They are leading the negotiations with UCU about the amount employers and staff should pay into USS pensions.



This stands for Universities Superannuation Scheme. Lots of universities and higher education employers are members of this scheme, which means that their staff have access to the USS Pension once they earn over a certain salary. The salary level you need to earn before being a member is set by each member institution. It is also the name of the organization that manages the USS pension pot.


Defined Benefit

This is a type of pension scheme. If you have a defined benefit pension, it means that once you retire you will be paid a certain amount of your final salary (how much you earnt when you retired, usually the peak of your earnings) per year as your pension.


Defined Contribution

This is the other type of pension scheme. The amount you get on retirement is based on how much you have paid in, rather than what you earn when you leave.



This refers to academic staff being employed on ‘casual’ contracts, for example for a half day of teaching per week, rather than on an annually-salaried basis.


Joint Negotiating Committee

This is where UCU and UUK meet to discuss pensions.



The Retail Price Index –this is a way of measuring inflation by charting the cost of a shopping basket of standard goods each year. Therefore, if someone’s wages are increasing ‘below RPI,’ the increase in their pay is not going up at the same rate as the cost of a weekly shop.



A picket is a person or group of people who stand outside a workplace or other venue as a protest or to try to persuade others not to enter during a strike.


Picket line

A picket line is a boundary established by workers on strike, especially at the entrance to the place of work, which others are asked not to cross.


What is SMT?

SMT stands for Senior Management Team. They are the top management of a university.



A system of voting anonymously and in writing on a particular issue.


Action short of a strike

Where workers take action such as working to rule, go slows, overtime bans or callout bans.



Something, typically money, awarded to someone in recognition of loss, suffering or injury.

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