Jo Grady has been elected the new general secretary of the University and College Union, though on a turnout of only 20 per cent.

The employment relations lecturer at the University of Sheffield secured 64 per cent of the vote, almost double that of second-place Matt Waddup, UCU’s national head of policy and campaigns, who received 33 per cent of the vote.

The president of the University of Liverpool UCU branch Jo McNeil also ran, but was knocked out in the first round of voting.

Grady said the HE and FE sector faced “extraordinary challenges”, including from the “pressures of volatile funding regimes”.

The election was called after the previous general secretary, Sally Hunt, stepped down in February owing to health reasons, after 12 years at the helm.

Her successor has called the level of pay in FE an “urgent issue”, and called out the UCU for FE being the sector where “the union has made the least progress in protecting or improving our members’ wages” and for not spending more of its ‘fighting fund’ to support striking workers.

UCU branches at colleges across the country have opted for strike action this year, which has led to further talks with management and pay increases.

In 2017/18, the fund made payments of £1.13 million, but still had £1.4 million in its reserves by the end of the year.

Grady wants the union to encourage members to draw on the fund and promised to both ensure her salary does not increase any higher than the most recent national pay offer in Further Education, and donate a portion of her salary to the fighting fund, then publish the amount she has donated.

She noted that “expectations are high” after she won an “overwhelming” mandate, on what the UCU called a record turnout.

However, only one fifth of eligible members voted, which is equal to 23,638 votes and compares with 14.4 per cent in 2007 and 13.7 per cent in 2017.

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