The University and College Union has seen its membership increase by 16 per cent last year, following 12 months of industrial action affecting colleges and universities across the country.
Despite the headline increase, the numbers joining from the FE sector are considerably smaller than those from the higher education sector.
The number of FE members increased by 2 per cent from 27,928 at the end of April 2017 to 28,462 a year later. The bulk of the increase came from the HE sector, which boosted its membership by a fifth following its university pensions campaign. Overall, the union gained 16,316 members.
'Radical new offer'
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said the “remarkable” increase was a tribute to the hard work of everyone in the union.
She added: “It is also because of our radical new offer to those who are new to the profession in higher education or employed at the margins of teaching in further education. That offer shows we are a union for everyone – not an exclusive club for the most secure or the better paid.
“The union’s membership has increased across every section – across higher education, in further education, in adult education and in prison education, too. Our membership has grown every single month for the last eight months.
“We are also increasing membership in areas that have previously been hard to reach. In the last 12 months, we have increased our membership among casualised staff by 24 per cent, while membership amongst people under the age of 30 has doubled.”
At last year's UCU congress, Ms Hunt spoke of her concerns at "falling FE membership".
'We need to mobilise branches'
There are now 17,137 women in the UCU FE section, 52 per cent more than the number of men, who total 11,310. Across the rest of the union’s membership, there is a more equal split, with only 5 per cent more women. The number of women in the FE section of the union grew by 2.5 per cent in the past year, whereas the number of men only grew by 1 per cent.
In a rallying call to delegates at the union’s annual FE sector conference, UCU head of FE, Andrew Harden, said members at 50 or more colleges could walk out in the autumn, building on the strike action at 15 colleges in the past year.
He added: “We need to mobilise branches, show them the way to win their own ballot, engage with and mobilise their membership.
“The 'FE 15' was a strong start and lessons have been learned, so now it’s time to roll them out. If we are really going to get the employers' serious attention, we need an 'FE 50', and beyond.”