The new head of a union that represents college and university lecturers in Scotland has responded to criticism her views on self-ID compromises her role.

Professor Jeanette Findlay has been elected president of the University College Union (UCU) after serving as vice-president for a number of years.

In May last year UCU members were asked to back a motion opposing ‘gender critics’ and ‘transphobes’.

The Glasgow academic said she had “made no secret” of her opposition to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) passed by MSPs just before Christmas which simplifies the process for obtaining a gender recognition certificate by removing the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

Joanna Cherry KC, an outspoken critic of the bill, was among those who congratulated Prof Findlay on the appointment on social media, writing: “Congratulations. I am confident you will speak up for the many lesbian & feminist members who have been driven from the union by its failure to speak up against harassment on account of beliefs & sexuality.”

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However Dr Kate Davison, a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh and UCU member, who is a historian of sexuality wrote: “I trust that despite any personal views you may hold, you will adhere to the official UCU position on trans rights

Prof Findlay, who is a professor of economics at the University of Glasgow, responded: “Like every sentient being I have personal views on lots of issues but, if asked, I will say what the UCU position is on any issue if that is what you are asking.”

Speaking to The Herald, she said the fact she had been voted president of by a clear majority suggested members were confident that she was able to set her own views aside when representing the union and workers.


“I’m not in favour of self-ID but I’m not one of the standard bearers on it.” she said.

“I think people should be able to live their life and not be discriminated against and we should look after people in the workplace but that does not mean you can infringe on women’s sex-based rights.

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“I think the vast majority of people fall into that category [of having that view].

She added: “This issue has been elevated above all other things, which is very damaging and you are also not allowed to discuss it. There is no debate.”

Prof Findlay will take up the post of President of the UCU at the end of May.
During her time as vice-president she has lobbied politicians and civil servants for greater funding for the further and higher education sectors and said she hoped to make inroads into the gender pay gap, which disproportionately women from ethnic minorities or those with disabilities.

She said: “The ONS data for 2022 shows a gender pay gap of 9.9% but there is variation across the sector. 

“For women with a disability or from an ethnic minority background this gap can be greater. 

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“I would like to see our union addressing this not only in national campaigns such as the one we are currently conducting but also by supporting branches to engage with local management in making real changes which will allow women to be treated equally in the workplace.”

She said she also wanted to see a “greater devolution” of powers from UCU nationally to the union’s Scottish contingent.

She said: “A UK-wide union gives us greater strength but there are some decisions which would be better taken at a Scotland level given that we have a different education system with many distinct and unique features. 

“Allowing some decisions to be taken at UCU Scotland level will increase our effectiveness in areas such as industrial action and education policy.”

Last year Prof Findlay lost her sex discrimination fight against the University of Glasgow but the institution was urged to review its promotion procedures.

She claimed her application to be made a Professor of Economics was rejected by the university due to direct and indirect sex discrimination but the tribunal ruled against her.

While the full panel rejected Prof Findlay’s claim, the university was advised to review its mentoring, career development and academic promotion polices.

The tribunal was told that as of January 2020, there had never been a woman promoted to a Chair in Economics at Glasgow University in the entire history of the university from its foundation in 1451.

Professor Anton Muscatelli said during the hearing that it was “shameful” so few women were promoted to senior roles within the institution.