Referendum Question:

Should the Guild support UCU industrial action for the 2023/24 and 2024/25 academic years?

In this referendum, the Guild is asking students to cast their vote and determine whether the Guild should support University and College Union (UCU) industrial action. The result of this referendum will decide Guild policy for the 2023/24 and 2024/25 academic years.

The Guild last held a referendum on supporting UCU industrial action in 2021 which showed support for UCU industrial action. Much has changed since then including the different forms of industrial action and the possible resolution of the disputes. As such the Guild Officer Group has decided to call a referendum to decide the Guild’s stance for the next two years.

Find out more about what this will mean for you and how you can get involved.


Throughout the last year UCU has taken multiple forms of industrial action and action short of strike in their disputes. They’ve won back changes to their pensions that were confirmed in October 2023.

The Referendum was called by the Guild Officer Group on Tuesday 3rd October. The Trade Union Belief and Commitment outlines that the Guild will support industrial action by campus trade unions unless intrusted otherwise by a referendum. This policy is valid until 1st March 2025.

The decision to call a referendum was made to ensure that students are able to input in to the Guild stance on this topic. The student body has changed significantly since the last referendum and new students deserve to have their say on the Guild stance.

Relevant Documents

Guild Officer Group Minutes - October 2023

What Is The Referendum Timeline?

18 Oct

Referendum Declared

23 Oct 6pm
Guild Council Chambers

Campaign Briefing

30 October 10am
3rd Nov


6 Nov


What Will It Mean If You Vote


What Does Voting “Yes” Mean?


What Does Voting “No” Mean?

Referendum Documents & FAQs

If your question is not answered below please email our Student Voice Team.

I’ve got a strong opinion about the referendum - how do I get involved?

We will be holding a briefing session to provide more information about the referendum process and to form the official ‘Yes’, ‘No’ and ‘Abstain’ campaign teams:

  • 23rd October 2023 6pm Guild Council Chambers

These teams will have a budget of £50, will receive 5 metres of banner materials and be sanctioned by the Guild as the official recognised teams. The recognised team will also be able to submit a Referendum Case to be displayed on the voting website.

 If you are unable to attend the briefing but would like to be involved in the ‘Yes’, ‘No’ or ‘Abstain’ teams you can sign-up online. 

What is the timeline for the Referendum? 

Here are the key dates over the next few weeks:

  • Referendum declared – 18th October 2023
  • Campaign Briefing – 23rd October 2023 6pm Guild Council Chambers
  • Deadline for Campaign Team Leaders – 25th October 4pm
  • Deadline for Campaign Teams to submit their cases – 27th October 12pm
  • Voting – 30th October 10am to 3rd November 4pm
  • Results – 6th November

When can I vote?

Voting will be open from Monday 30th October at 10am to Friday 3rd November at 4pm, via the Guild website. The All Student Vote will be running alongside the referendum so you’ll be able to vote for any Ideas or Policy at the same time.

Who can vote?

Any full member of the Guild can vote on the Referendum question. If you’re a fully registered student at the University of Birmingham, you’re automatically a member of the Guild - unless you’ve chosen to opt out. 

How many people have to vote?

Quorum for all Referenda referring to governance changes shall be either 5% of the Full Membership or two thousand Full Members, whichever is the greater. As outlined in the Guild of Students’ Bye-Laws, 2.3.5

For this Referendum, the quorum is 2,056 students.

What if I want to Abstain?

If you don’t want to cast a vote for the “For” or “Against” case you can abstain. This means that for personal reasons or due to a conflict of interest, you do not feel able to cast a “yes (for)” or “no (against)” the motion in question. A vote to abstain simply means you are contributing towards quoracy.

What stance has the Guild taken in the past?

In 2021 a referendum was conducted on a similar question. The referendum showed strong support for UCU. Since then the Guild has supported UCU industrial action, providing spaces in the Guild on strike days and lobbying the University.

In addition to the 2021 referendum, last year the student body backed supporting the UCU Postgraduate Researchers as Staff Manifesto as well as renewing the Trade Unions Belief and Commitment. These taken together informed the Guild’s continued support for UCU through the 2022/23 academic year.

What are the UCU Disputes about?

There are two disputes that UCU have been taking action on over the past few years. The first is pensions and the second is pay and conditions.


UCU has been fighting against cuts to their pensions since 2018. These cuts have included a reduction in contributions and benefits received from their pensions. In October 2023 UCU and Universities UK announced that they had agreed to restore benefits to pre-April 2022 levels. UCU is currently consulting members on whether to accept this and resolve this dispute.

 Pay and Conditions

This dispute is sometimes called the “Four Fights” as it covers four areas: Pay, Workload, Equality and Casualisation.

  • Pay – Staff in Higher Education have seen their pay fall by 25% since 2009. UCU are calling for pay uplifts to match inflation.
  • Workload – UCU are calling for a work loading model to be implemented across the sector based on a 35 hour working week to reduce stress and ill health.
  • Equality – UCU are calling for Universities to close the gender and ethnic pay gaps and to ensure that this is done within a specific time frame.
  • Casualisation – UCU are calling for an end to zero-hour and fixed term contracts as well as ensure that postgraduate teaching assistants have guaranteed hours and proper employee contracts. 

When are UCU going on strike again?

UCU are currently re-balloting their members on the Pay and Conditions Dispute. The current mandate for industrial action and action short of strike ran out at the start of October. We don’t know yet if they will take more industrial action through the next academic year.

Industrial action is decided by UCUs National Executive Committee and the University will be given 14 days notice of any strike days.

Can the Vice-Chancellor resolve these disputes?

No. These disputes are national disputes that involved national negotiations. The University of Birmingham Vice-Chancellor can’t make a local deal with the UCU brand to resolve the dispute. Adam Tickell does sit on the national pensions body and all Vice-Chancellors are represented by Universities UK.

Why are you doing this now?

The Guild Officer Group has the power to call a referendum if 75% of them agree to do so. At their meeting on the 3rd October 2023 the Guild Officer Group decided to call the referendum to inform their actions and the support given to UCU over the next two years.

Last year (2022-23) the Guild Officer Group decided to follow precedent from previous years on supporting trade unions and took the passing of the Trade Union Belief and Commitment as an indication that they should continue to support UCU industrial action.

What are you trying to achieve?

The Guild Officer Group has decided to call a referendum on this topic to decide Guild policy on this topic. The Guild is lead by students and we want you to have the opportunity to voice your opinion and decide the Guild’s stance on this topic.

Why is this a Referendum instead of an All Student Vote?

Referendums are a large scale exercise with formally recognised campaign teams that campaign and have an allocated budget. They give students a way to engage with the topic through campaign teams and general set Guild stances or policy on big issues. Referendums can only be called through a number of set mechanisms.

An All Student Vote is an online vote on a specific issue without the campaign infrastrastructure but the Guild will still heavily market voting. All Student Vote items have to be submitted through the Guild’s Democratic System.

For the purpose of this Guild Referenda, the following Returning Officer structure shall be in place:

  • Complaints about a Campaign Team having possibly broken these regulations shall be determined and decided by the Director of Engagement as Deputy Returning Officer; and
  • Appeals against those decisions shall be determined and decided by the National Union of Students (NUS) Charity Director as Returning Officer

In the event that the member of the Director of Engagement declares a conflict of interest to the CEO, their responsibilities as Deputy Returning Officer shall be delegated to another member of the Guild of Students’ Senior Management Team.”


Referendum Regulations

All candidates must take responsibility to read these regulations. Not knowing about the regulations is not an excuse for breaking them. If the regulations are unclear or you need more help at any time, please email the Student Voice Team.


Referendum Complaints

The Complaints Procedure explains how we will deal with any referendum complaints.


Guild of Students Byelaws

Read our governing byelaws around democratic processes.


Guild of Students Zero Tolerance Policy

The Guild believes that a Zero Tolerance approach should be taken towards any form of harassment based on defining protected characteristics that takes place in any of the Guild’s venues or events.


University Harassment and Bullying Policy

The University is committed to creating a working and learning environment free from harassment and discrimination in which all staff, students and visitors to the University are treated with dignity and respect.

Current Referendum

This Vote is only available for students at the University of Birmingham.

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