May Contain Neanderthal: what genetic tests can and can’t tell you about your ancestry

Your DNA is not your destiny, but what about your ancestry? The availability of relatively cheap, direct-to-consumer genetic tests means that many people are now using genetics to build genealogies and learn about their recent and distant forebears. In this talk, Jonathan Pettitt will explore the science of genetic testing and the sometimes counterintuitive implications of human genetics.  

Join us in New Kings 1 at 1pm on Thursday 30 January - bring your lunch! All welcome!



The focus is now on ASOS (Action Short of Strike) and keeping pressure on employers by working to contract. Under the ASOS mandate UCU asks members to:

  • work to contract
  • not cover for absent colleagues
  • not reschedule lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
  • not undertake any voluntary activities.

It is worth familiarising yourself with the extensive guidance on ASOS on our action centre webpage and making sure that members are also aware of this resource:



Sixty UK universities, including the University of Aberdeen, will be hit with eight days of strike action from Monday 25 November to Wednesday 4 December.

UCU members backed strike action in two separate legal disputes, one on pensions and one on pay and working conditions. Overall, 79% of UCU members who voted backed strike action in the ballot over changes to pensions. In the ballot on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads, 74% of members polled backed strike action.

At a local level at the University of Aberdeen:

  • 586 members who were eligible to vote on pay, 328 votes were cast (a 56% turnout) with 214 (65.8%) voting in favour of strike action, and 243 (74.5%) voting in favour of ASOS. 
  • 584 who were eligible to vote on USS, 321 votes were cast (a 55% turnout) with 239 votes (74.9%) voting in favour of strike action, and 256 (80%) voting in favour of ASOS. 

Universities have to respond positively and quickly if they want to avoid disruption this year. The disputes centre on changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and universities' failure to make improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads.

The overall turnout in the USS ballot was 53% and on pay and conditions it was 49%. The union disaggregated the ballots so branches who secured a 50% turnout can take action in this first wave. The union's higher education committee has now set out the timetable for the action.

As well as eight strike days from 25 November to Wednesday 4 December, union members will begin 'action short of a strike'. This involves things like working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues and refusing to reschedule lectures lost to strike action.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'The first wave of strikes will hit universities later this month unless the employers start talking to us seriously about how they are going to deal with rising pension costs and declining pay and conditions.

'Any general election candidate would be over the moon with a result along the lines of what we achieved last week. Universities can be in no doubt about the strength of feeling on these issues and we will be consulting branches whose desire to strike was frustrated by anti-union laws about reballoting.'

Last year, university campuses were brought to a standstill by unprecedented levels of strike action. UCU said it was frustrated that members had to be balloted again, but that universities' refusal to deal with their concerns had left them with no choice.

Last month, shadow education secretary Angela Rayner called on both sides to get round the table for urgent talks. She said she fully supported UCU members fighting for fair pay and decent pensions and called on both sides to work together to find solutions to the disputes.



University staff being balloted for strike action are paying far more for their pension, but will lose tens of thousands of pounds in retirement because of a series of detrimental changes made to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) since 2011.

According to modelling by First Actuarial, because of the changes to USS, a typical member will pay around £40,000 more in to their pension, but receive almost £200,000 less in retirement leaving them £240,000 worse off in total. That is compared to a hypothetical member who also joined in 2011 on the same conditions, but has not been affected by any of the changes brought in since then.

UCU is balloting over 52,000 USS members in 69 UK universities for strike action. That ballot opens on Monday 9 September. It will run at the same time a ballot over pay, equality, job security and workloads at 147 UK universities. Both ballots close on Wednesday 30 October.



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Get in touch!

For further information on any matter please contact Susan Melvin - ucu@abdn.ac.uk| 01224 272377


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