Build your branch with UCU Training

Today we’re pleased to feature a guest blog from UCU’s Training Officer Karen Brooks, on how training can help build your branch:


With more and more bargaining taking place at local level, it’s more important than ever that branches have plenty of reps with the training necessary to deal with their employers. Whether you are a new or more experienced UCU rep, our training programme will give you all the skills, information and support you need to get the most out of the role, both for your members, and yourself. UCU takes its activist training programme extremely seriously and every effort is made to ensure all our materials reflect the scope and depth of knowledge our reps require.

The UCU programme begins with introductory courses that are designed to equip newer reps with the necessary competence and confidence to deal with the challenges and opportunities that the role presents. The introductory courses cover the essentials of UCU’s structure, facility time, branch organising and campaigning along with practical advice and tips from experienced professionals. These courses are also open to more experienced reps who perhaps have not completed training in the past, or who would like to update their skills. We would normally recommend that reps update their skills every five years in order to keep abreast of current legislation and practice.

Further to the introductory courses UCU offers reps a continuation programme for those who have completed the initial reps courses. This training presents a chance for reps to take a more in-depth study of specific roles within the branch, such as health and safety, representing members, and negotiation.  These courses allow reps to gain a more comprehensive understanding of legislation surrounding each area, collective approaches to bargaining, representing individual members, and how branches build strength through effective negotiating.

UCU also run courses designed to add to a branches toolkit of knowledge and expertise. These courses deal with specific issues such as‘ ‘Media and Political lobbying’, tackling organisational stress’ ‘Pensions’ and ‘redundancy’.

As far as possible all UCU courses are delivered on a regional basis. This not only decreases the need for reps to travel long distances, but also allows for the development of local support networks. Often UCU regional staff attend local courses, giving you the opportunity to chat over branch issues with officials who understand your particular employer.

All UCU core courses (stage 1 and 2) are taught by qualified and very experienced TUC tutors who are able to offer practical solutions to workplace issues. In addition our courses are structured in a manner which promotes a collaborative approach and allow reps to share experiences.

All elected UCU reps are entitled via legislation to ‘reasonable’ time off for training. The UCU training department encourages all reps to assert this right; to this end you will find further information on the training pages of the UCU website

UCU is keen to attract activists from our equality strands (black, women, disabled and LGBT) and we welcome applicants who self-identify in one of these areas. Our wish is to increase participation from all groups in order that we reflect the diversity of our membership.

I hope the above information has given you a brief overview of our Activist Education Programme and I look forward to seeing you on a UCU training course in the future.

You can find out all about the UCU Reps Training programme and see what courses are running in your region, at our website.  

 Karen Brooks, UCU Training Officer


This web site is designed to help you, our branch officers and representatives, to build our union at branch and local association level.

UCU is a democratic organisation reliant to a large degree on the large-scale participation of its volunteer members. How effective we are as an industrial force and professional body, protecting our members, depends on how well our participatory structures work.

  • Do we have enough local representatives?
  • Are members able to get involved in raising the profile of the union locally?
  • Are our branches communicating effectively with their members?
  • Are members coming to branch meetings?
  • Are members participating in elections and ballots?

The answers to all these questions determine how much our employers – and the government – listen to us.

That’s why the union has put in place a series of new initiatives to help build our union:

  • a drive to recruit new members to offset the effects of the government’s cuts to post-secondary education.
  • a drive to recruit new local department or workplace representatives, to ensure that UCU branches are healthy at the most local possible level
  • a drive to ensure that our branches are equipped with the resources and skills necessary to ensure the maximum possible engagement in branch life from their members

On this website, we will feature all our latest advice and guidance to branches, alongside all the examples of good and inspiring practice that we know is already happening.

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