University staff could strike if recorded lectures are misused, union warns

·3-min read

Universities could face potential strike action if they misuse recorded lectures and withhold performance rights from staff, a union has warned.

The University and College Union (UCU) is calling on higher education institutions to accept that those delivering recorded lectures accrue performance rights, as well as copyright of accompanying materials.

The call came as a number of universities across the UK are planning to keep lectures online this term as they adopt a blended approach to learning, with a mix of in-person and online teaching for students.

Storing old recorded lectures to reuse at a later date has the potential to “degrade student learning and academic standards”, the union has warned.

The UCU says staff must retain control over their recorded lectures, seminars and teaching sessions to ensure their work is not used without their permission to justify job cuts or break industrial action.

It is calling for universities and colleges to agree to an initial licensing period of no longer than one academic year, which can be extended with the express consent of the relevant member of staff.

The UCU said it is currently in dispute with the University of Exeter over its performance rights policy for recorded materials.

Jo Grady, UCU general secretary, said: “University and college staff are rightly worried that employers could use the Covid pandemic as an excuse to record lectures and store them for later use.

“Staff put a huge amount of effort into creating lectures, and regularly update and adapt them in response to recent events and changes in teaching methods.

“Reusing old lectures divorces the material from the context in which it was created, and has the potential to degrade student learning and academic standards, so providers need to reassure both students and staff that they will not misuse recorded lectures.”

The union is warning that universities and colleges across the UK could face industrial disputes – including possible strikes – if they misuse recorded lectures and withhold performance rights from their staff.

Dr Grady called on institutions to work with staff to ensure legal requirements are met.

She added: “We are putting employers on notice that staff are prepared to take action if recorded lectures are reused without proper licensing agreements. Every recorded teaching session is the work of that member of staff and only they can agree how it should be used.”

Raj Jethwa, chief executive of Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA), said: “All autonomous HEIs have been advised to review their intellectual property and lecture capture policies and employee/student contracts on a regular basis, to ensure that guidelines in relation to lecture capture accurate reflect their internal procedures.

“Student experience and education is the primary concern for all HEIs and they will do their very best to provide for and protect students, regardless of circumstance.”

A University of Exeter spokesperson said: “We are in discussions with the UCU in Exeter on our Policy on Digital Learning Resources and aim to make progress on the outstanding issues at the next scheduled meeting on  September 9.”

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