University of Southampton External Examiners Resign Posts Amid Continuing Industrial Action


Eleven external examiners and counting for the University of Southampton have resigned their posts in the latest development in the dispute between Universities UK (UUK) and the University and College Union (UCU) over proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension scheme.

On Friday 16th March, in the wake of the overwhelming UCU members’ ballot rejection of a proposed deal to end the dispute, the UCU requested that external examiners for the 65 institutions embroiled in the dispute resign their posts ahead of the summer exam season and refuse any offers of posts.

In the UCU website post, they state that:

In order to increase the pressure on employers at USS participating institutions, UCU is appealing to all members who currently hold external examiner positions at those universities to resign from any such position they may hold. Members must however ensure that they provide the relevant institution with due notice of termination as specified under the terms of their engagement.

So far, eleven external examiners to the University of Southampton have resigned their posts, with humanities programmes particularly affected:

  • Heather Ferguson, Kent University – External examiner for ‘Psychology’
  • Chloe Houston, University of Reading – External examiner for ‘Taught Programmes in English Literature’
  • François Guesnet, UCL – External examiner for ‘MA Jewish Culture and History’
  • Sarah Richardson, University of Warwick – External examiner for ‘History and Archaeology’
  • Phil Parvin, Loughborough University – External examiner for ‘Politics and International Relations’
  • Graham Martin, University of Leicester – External examiner for ‘Policy & Research, BSc Healthcare Management’
  • Chris Allton, Swansea University – External examiner for ‘Physics’
  • Michael Cullinane, University of Roehampton – External examiner for ‘BA History’
  • Belén Vidal, King’s College London – External examiner for ‘BA in Film Studies’
  • Caroline Pennock, University of Sheffield – External examiner for ‘History and Combined History taught programmes’
  • Deborah Shaw, University of Portsmouth – External examiner for ‘Hispanic Studies – Hispanic History, Politics and Cultural Studies’

In a tweet, Mr Guesnet suggested that a statement regarding the dispute made on Sunday by UUK Chief Executive Alistair Jarvis, available here, had influenced his own personal decision to resign as an external examiner to the University of Southampton.

In the statement, Mr. Jarvis stated that: ‘Employers, university staff and politicians called for both sides to engage in talks in the belief that a workable compromise could be achieved. That assumption now appears ill-founded.’

At least a dozen University of Southampton lecturers have also resigned their posts as external examiners at other higher education institutions:

  • Sarah Parsons (Professor of Autism and Inclusion, Southampton Education School) – External examiner at UCL for ‘Masters in Special and Inclusive Education’
  • David Owen (Professor of Social and Political Philosophy) – External examiner at LSE for ‘Government’
  • Rosalind Edwards (Professor of Sociology, Social Sciences Director of Enterprise) – External examiner at the University of Newcastle for ‘Sociology’
  • Catherine Clarke (Professor of English) – External examiner at Birkbeck, University of London for ‘English’
  • Shirli Gilbert (Associate Professor of History) – External examiner ar King’s College London for ‘MA in Jewish Studies’
  • Mahesan Niranjan (Professor of Electronics and Computer Science) – External examiner at University of Edinburgh for ‘MSc Informatics’
  • Nicky Marsh (Professor of English) – External examiner at University of Warwick for ‘English’
  • Matthew Schlomowitz (Professor of Composition in Music) – External examiner at Brunel University, London for ‘UG music programmes’
  • Kathleen Kendall (Associate Professor in Sociology as Applied to Medicine) – External examiner at Cardiff University for ‘Doctor of Health Studies – taught modules’
  • Susan Halford (Professor of Sociology and Director of the Web Science Institute) – External examiner at the University of Warwick for ‘BSc Sociology’
  • Laura Stras (Professor of Music) – External examiner at Goldsmith’s College, University of London for ‘MA in Musicology’
  • Ben Saunders (Associate Professor in Political Philosophy) – External examiner at the University of Glasgow for ‘Philosophy’

With the UCU planning two weeks of further academic staff strikes between April and June, disruption to some students’ schedules can be expected. Meanwhile, the University of Southampton’s UCU branch had advertised on social media for an Extraordinary General Meeting of its members today at Highfield Campus in Building 29.

To date, over 600 external examiners across the UK have resigned their posts.


Editor 2018-19 | International Editor 2017/18. Final year Modern History and Politics student from Bedford. Drinks far too much tea for his own good.

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