Performance Review – Important Update

Performance Review 2017 – York UCU Update

11 August 2017

Colleagues should now be aware that York UCU has not approved the current version of Performance Review.  We have long been concerned by the breach of confidentiality entailed in the 2017 version of Performance Review.  In a series of meetings with university management, going back to 2014, we have argued on your behalf that confidentiality is essential to any properly constructive process of Performance Review. In June 2017 our discussions with university management reached an impasse over this issue of confidentiality.

Performance Review used to be developmental and contained within departments, in accord with custom and practice.  The 2017 version is top-down, disciplinary, centralised and no longer confidential.  Many of you have indicated to us that you find it intimidating and contrary to the proper purposes of the exercise.

Having taken legal advice, we now advise colleagues to engage in Performance Review 2017 when requested, but to make it clear that we do so ‘under protest’.  A brief statement to this effect could be included in the body of your PR form.  Please note that this advice supersedes the UCU advice circulated to members on 28 July.

In conclusion, we note that university management is currently constructing what they describe as a ‘holistic performance management system’. The aim is to integrate the data that comes from diverse forms of appraisal:  from student questionnaires, from performance review, and from the REF. Assembling such information will then make it possible to rewrite individual colleague’s contracts in accord with the market priorities decided by the University Executive Board.

Eroding the confidentiality of Performance Review is the essential first step in this larger process. This is why we regard confidentiality as an issue of principle.

On behalf of the York UCU Executive  

Performance Review? Comply Under Duress

Invited to do your next Performance Review?

Defer until explicitly instructed

Then comply, but do it ‘under duress’

Stage One

In the event of an HoD/line manager or departmental administrator issuing a general instruction, to reviewers or to reviewees, to undertake the annual PR process, we advise any member to whom such an instruction is issued to respond as follows:

I shall engage with performance review, according to my individual contractual obligations, only when I receive a direct individual WRITTEN instruction from my manager. Until thus instructed, I am deferring my compliance in the process.  Please note that I do this in protest at the erosion of confidentiality entailed in the new version of performance review that has recently been imposed upon us all.

(We note that contracts are individual, not collective.)

Stage Two

When a direct individual WRITTEN instruction is received from the appropriate source, the reviewee is advised to respond with the following:

I wish to make clear that since I have received a direct instruction to complete my PR as a contractual obligation, with the implied threat of sanctions if I do not comply, this in spite of the fact that I have NOT refused to undertake PR, I am now following your instruction, but I am doing so under duress.

Stage Three

When completing the PR form, reviewees are advised to insert the phrase ‘solely with my explicit written consent’ at the appropriate point in the final paragraph of the PR form, the paragraph entitled Oversight.

York UCU has consistently argued that this Oversight, apparently benign and reassuring, actually means potential breach of confidentiality.  This erosion of confidentiality violates the spirit of a performance review process which is supposedly developmental, reflective and motivating.

UCU members who are reviewers are urged to inform their reviewees of the option to add ‘solely with my explicit written consent’ to the final paragraph of the PR form.  The UCU view is that amending the PR form is not a breach of contract, since by completing the form you are doing all that is contractually required of you.

Stage Four

We urge UCU members who are reviewers to draw attention on the PR form to the fact that a reviewee has stated that they are complying with the contractual requirement under duress.

The reviewer’s form of words might look like this:

I note with grave concern that as a result of a direct instruction, with its implied threat of sanctions for non-compliance, my colleague X has completed the PR process under duress.  I note with regret that this seriously compromises a process which is allegedly supportive and developmental.

27 July 2017
For and on behalf of York UCU Exec.

Performance Review – Further Advice for Members

12 July 2017 


On 30 June, York UCU asked all members to defer participating in the annual performance review process until the issue of confidentiality has been resolved.  Aware that some members may already be under pressure on this issue from their Head of Department or line manager, we now offer the following advice:

  1. In response to any initial approach from your appointed reviewer, emphasise that you are not refusing to participate, but deferring participation until an issue of principle has been resolved. This response does not constitute a breach of contract.
  1. Only agree to participate if and when you subsequently receive a formal written instruction from your HoD or your manager. If you receive such an instruction, then you should comply in order to avoid any allegation of breach of contract, but should also declare explicitly on your PR form that you are participating under duress.
  1. If compelled to participate under duress, you should also immediately let York UCU know that this is the case, so that we have an accurate picture of the disposition of our members.

York UCU will continue to demand that university management live up to its repeated assurances of a constructive and confidential PR process.