Open University and UCU reach agreement over associate lecturers

The transitional agreement ensures improved pay and job security for over 4,000 associate lecturers

The Open University (OU) and the University and College Union (UCU) have signed a transitional agreement over pay and job security for over 4,000 OU staff.

The new agreement comes as the OU moves more than 4,000 associate lecturers onto new contracts.

The union and the provider clashed in March when the OU announced it was delaying the introduction of ‘life-changing’ new contracts for casualised staff.

Following extensive negotiations, UCU and the OU have now signed a legally binding agreement – which came into force on Tuesday 29 June – meaning that from October 2021 associate lecturers will benefit from the main elements of the permanent contract, including:

  • 10-15% pay rise, including additional annual leave and staff development allowance
  • An annualised salary that includes all elements of work, not just module teaching. Previously most associate lecturers were unpaid over the summer
  • No redundancies or loss of duties before being moved onto the new permanent contract in August 2022


“After the university’s sudden announcement of a contract delay in March, this legally binding agreement will ensure more than 4,000 associate lecturers do not suffer any detriment and can rely on the university’s promise to implement the permanent contract in August 2022,” said OU UCU branch president Caitlin Adams.

“UCU has been campaigning and negotiating for years to improve the conditions of associate lecturers. This agreement provides guaranteed job security and a pay rise, which is absolutely life-changing for our members.”

UCU general secretary Jo Grady added: “This is a significant moment which is down to a sustained and monumental effort from UCU staff and members who haven’t shied away from demanding security for associate lecturers.

“The Open University is the biggest undergraduate university in the UK, so this contract agreement is a benchmark for the whole sector. This sets an example other universities must follow. They must commit to working productively with UCU to address the moral stain of precarious work and low pay in the sector. There is no excuse for vice-chancellors choosing not to do this, university finances across the sector are very strong, and it is imperative they halt the gig economy approach that is damaging higher education.”

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