Statement 1:

I am happy to support Jo McNeill in her campaign to be elected as UCU General Secretary.  Jo possesses the experience and skills vital to this demanding role. She commands huge respect from so many areas of society and displays strong leadership qualities.

It is my opinion that it is precisely Jo’s personal trajectory that makes her the ideal candidate.  Her own education and career path have given her experience at all levels and most importantly she retains close links at all levels.

Jo is a committed Trade Unionist and activist.  I can attest to this because of her visibility. I know that I will inevitably bump into Jo at any important event, even those organised at short notice. This is because she has a deep-rooted humanity and empathy that renders it impossible for her to ignore the plight of others. She will be at the forefront of responding to an injustice or social issue and is an accomplished campaigner.

Organisational skills are crucial to the demanding role of head of a union. Fortunately, Jo’s extensive experience means she is a leader in the area and would bring to the post of General Secretary, an expertise tempered with a sensitivity for the individual. The transferable skills she has developed over time, would be a great asset to UCU.

Jo’s commitment to challenging social injustice at all levels means she has an in depth knowledge of present day society and the ensuing pressures which impact so negatively upon a majority of the population.

I know Jo through my own campaigning and trade union involvement. She is a genuine, personable, strong woman who enriches any company.  Her fundamental humanity gives me hope for the future. Her election to the post of General secretary of UCU would offer hope to so many. I wish her every success.

Sheila Coleman

Unite the Union, North West Region Community Coordinator

Hillsborough Justice Campaign


Statement 2:

As our branch President, Jo McNeill has been crucial to organising members behind our campaigns to resist both the intensification of micro-management and cost-driven restructuring.  Jo led us in a crucial victory in 2014 when management threatened to place hundreds of members on a section 188 notice.  Her ability to galvanise members into action and her strategic acumen in negotiations with management were decisive in this victory. 

Jo’s leadership was equally crucial when we successfully faced down management threats of a lock-out in the midst of the 2015 dispute.  She has shown the qualities of confident leadership, strong tactical judgment and commitment to the interest of members that we need right now in the leadership of the national union.  Jo will breathe much needed energy and life into the leadership of the UCU at a time when we have never needed it more. 

Professor David Whyte

Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology

University of Liverpool

 Statement 3:

Jo McNeill shows complete dedication to the aims of UCU, and to supporting members in her role as President of Liverpool UCU. She has an extensive knowledge of both the HE and FE sectors, the role of the UCU in improving the conditions of further and higher education staff, and the importance of the provision of high quality educational opportunities for all.  Jo is able to use this knowledge very effectively in leading the work of UCU in Liverpool, regionally and nationally. Jo also works in Fair Access and Widening Participation and has been responsible for developing a contextual data system, which provides fairer access for disadvantaged students who apply to study at UoL. Although now only in its third year, the system has been extremely successful and has changed the life opportunities of many students across the city and further afield.


Liverpool, as one of the most deprived areas of the UK, has a proud history of producing leaders who have brought about significant and lasting change for the rights of workers. In addition, The University of Liverpool has played an important role in the development of the Union movement in HE. It is therefore very fitting that the current UoL President is standing to be General Secretary of the UCU nationally.  She is a truly excellent role model for women in leadership and a highly principled person who leads by example. Jo is passionate about social justice, both in her personal and professional life and is an active and inspirational campaigner against social inequality. I cannot recommend her highly enough for this role. 

Dr Debbi Stanistreet
Senior Lecturer 
Faculty Director of Widening Participation, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, 
Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy,
Department of Public Health and Policy,
Institute of Psychology, Health and Society 

Statement 4:

I’ve benefitted from Jo McNeill’s support on a number of occasions, and I would wholeheartedly support her candidature as General Secretary of UCU. Jo is humane, compassionate and sensitive to personal circumstances. She has a holistic approach to issues, she is non-confrontational but persuasive and effective in putting across her views. She really can listen, and her dedication, professionalism and passion for the Union is unwavering.

She has been indefatigable in running the branch, and really galvanises members. Thanks to her experience and knowledge, she comes across as very authoritative, and yet personable. Her leadership skills have been invaluable in orienting and strengthening my actions in the past. This is a very active and highly organised branch as a result of her endeavours.

Dr Stefania Tufi

Italian Studies
School of Histories, Languages and Cultures
University of Liverpool
Statement 5: 

Jo McNeill would make a fantastic General Secretary of the UCU. I have seen here at the University of Liverpool how she brings passion, zeal and campaigning spirit on behalf the UCU membership. Jo’s commitment to equality, fairness and justice is immense. She combines these qualities with her very strong knowledge of the HE and FE sectors (she had direct experience from a staff and student perspective) to offer formidable and forensic advocacy on our behalf.

Jo’s organisational qualities are exemplary. On the full range of issues – whether they be pay, regrading, casualization, equal opportunities, or support and solidarity for branch colleagues across the country, Jo mobilizes members. She calls meetings regularly, keeps members informed and involved and fights the good fight.

I can personally testify how Jo also defends individual members, selflessly devoting countless hours of her own time to ensure proper representation.

This is a crucial time for the UCU, with members under ever-greater pressure from the demands of government and institutions. We need Jo McNeill to defend our interests and give us a strong, articulate and bold voice. Support Jo for UCU General Secretary.

Professor Jon Tonge
President, British Politics Group, American Political Science Association
Department of Politics
University of Liverpool

Statement 6:

I have known Jo McNeill for over 10 years. Jo was employed as the Research and Evaluation Manager for Aimhigher Greater Merseyside. In her role she was a great advocate for the development of evidence based policy. She developed research proposals and devised an associated training programme to enable young people to develop research skills and undertake research amongst their peers on attitudes to progression into higher education. As a result of this initiative, Jo was able to use the findings to lobby local Merseyside MPs and higher education ministers. This included an event in the House of Commons whereby young people from Merseyside discussed their research findings with MPs and lobbied them to build support for widening participation.

Jo has actively demonstrated a strong commitment to social justice and equality in her work. Specifically, she developed successful initiatives to support the education of Looked After Children, girls and young women and black boys. In particular, her work with groups of black boys from Merseyside enabled her to develop a conference attended by the higher education minister who used the findings to support specific provisions for young black males to be included in widening participation initiatives.

Jo was instrumental in the development of a national research network for widening participation in order to co-ordinate research nationally, and to develop a national evidence base to support widening participation.

Throughout her work, Jo was able to combine her passion and commitment to social justice and equality with clear and bold strategies to highlight and support this work. She has demonstrated high levels of political insight and intelligence in order to achieve successful outcomes. Jo understands the key challenges facing the sector. Low pay, short-term contracts, long hours, lack of gender and race equality and uncertain funding regimes are some of the key challenges facing union members in the next few years. If elected Jo will be a tireless campaigner for members, especially those who are most vulnerable and will build alliances with key organisations in order to further the work of the union and most importantly, its membership.

Emeka Onuora

Former Director of Aimhigher Greater Merseyside and Author of Pitch Black: The Story of Black British Footballers

 Statement 7: 

 In 2006 I first met Jo McNeill through the Young Researchers Programme with the AimHigher organisation. The research programme consisted of young pupils working together to find out about the educational issues and to improve the future generation. Not only did AimHigher contribute to our development of interpersonal skills, but the people who worked behind the organisation allowed fruitful opportunities to be grasped by all pupils, no matter their background, race or gender.

I, firstly, had not lived in the UK for a very long time; I moved here from Kosovo and my English required improvement, however this was not an issue, Jo and her team wanted no barrier for pupils in order to progress in the future.  

The inspiration and enthusiasm expressed by Jo about the equality of education for all, not select few, has clearly embedded within me. Even after completing the programme Jo has always helped me to express my enthusiasm towards education. I have been lucky to be part of the extraordinary team and be supported to build and fulfil my dreams.

To date I am a teacher of Chemistry. I have graduated from University of Liverpool with Master in Chemistry and recently completed my PGCE at LJMU. In addition, I obtained a scholarship from the prestigious Royal Society of Chemistry to support me towards my teacher training.

Jo genuinely wants to help make people’s lives better so vote Jo for General Secretary of UCU.

Qendresa Krasniqi BSc MSc PGCE

Former Aimhigher Young Researcher, Now a Chemistry Teacher.

Statement 8:

When she first moved to the University of Liverpool almost 10 years ago, Jo McNeill had already built up an impressive reputation as an effective trade unionist. Since moving to the University of Liverpool, she has demonstrated her qualities and character time and time again. Jo has distinguished herself through her extraordinary commitment to the local UCU branch both as a committee member and as branch president. A gifted negotiator and talented campaigner, Jo has provided incredible support to branch members at the University of Liverpool and been extremely successful as part of the university’s senior branch negotiating team. Her leadership has not only extended support, raised the union’s profile and expanded branch membership, but she has also demonstrated her capacity to lead and unite trade unions across the city, the sector and beyond. Jo is a tireless campaigner for equality and social justice and an exceptional candidate for national office. Liverpool will be sad to lose her but our loss will be the national union’s gain.

Ciara Kierans UCU member, The University of Liverpool

Statement 9:

I am supporting Jo McNeill’s campaign for a number of reasons:

I first met Jo in in 2007, where we both worked at Aimhigher Greater Merseyside, part of a national partnership programme between higher, further and post-secondary education  to increase the aspirations of those most under-represented in higher education.

Jo’s passion and commitment for equity and equality was evident from the first time I met her. Originally working on the primary programme Jo then went on to set up the highly successful Young Researchers project and latterly became the programme’s Research and Evaluation Manager.  Evident in all of these roles was Jo’s excellent communication and negotiation skills.  Inspiring young people to work with academics, to explore policy and legislation that directly affected their education was a challenging task, and one that Jo took on with confidence and commitment.  The young researchers proved to be invaluable when the Aimhigher Programme faced being cut by the coalition Government in 2011.  The training and support that Jo provided to the group enabled them to deliver a powerful lobbying campaign where they travelled to the Houses of Parliament and shared their empowering biographies of how Aimhigher had impacted on them personally to their local MPs.  Jo empowered these young people to frame their personal experiences so that they could highlight the impact that social justice programmes like Aimhigher can have on individuals.

Jo’s more  recent experience of working within the  student Recruitment and marketing team at the University of Liverpool has now ensured that her skills and talent for analysis is also utilised for equity and equality of access.   Jo lead the drive for change of the admissions process by evidencing that contextual data should be a key factor when offers are being made to applicants. Jo has worked tirelessly with Heads of Schools and Departments to share her expertise in this area and the positive impact this is having is evident within the university already.

As Jo’s career has progressed her natural friendly personality has supported her capacity to blend in to many environments, Jo is as equally comfortable conversing with a group of teenagers as she is delivering a public speech to an auditorium full of Union members, both of which she does with passion, professionalism and perfection.

I have absolutely no reservations about supporting Jo’s campaign to be the next General Secretary for UCU, her commitment to providing a fair and equitable working environment for all is evident in the work she has been undertaking at the University of Liverpool’s branch.  I know first-hand how committed she is to working together with senior leaders and staff to secure a productive working environment.  Jo would, as General Secretary be relentless in fighting for our rights whilst at the same time create and sustain constructive and positive relations with all around the negotiation table.

Vote for Jo McNeill!

Deirdre Lynskey (former Deputy Director of Aimhigher Greater Merseyside)

Outreach Officer

Widening Participation Team,

Queens University, Belfast.

Statement 10:

I have worked alongside Jo on the NEC for three years and have been consistently impressed by her organisational skills and her ability to identify the key issues and motivate others in fighting for change. We’re living through times when people worldwide are rejecting established leaders; in the absence of a left alternative we’re seeing voters empowering the dangerous right wing.

UCU needs to recognise that we don’t need more of the status quo. We need change and we need strategists dedicated to motivating members to successfully carry through our campaigns. Jo is the candidate that represents this much needed  breath of fresh air, she is in tune with members and leads a UCU branch with a track record of victories. These are the qualities and experience we need at the top of our union.

Lesley McGorrigan

University of Leeds UCU, Regional Secretary, Yorkshire & Humber and NEC.

Statement 11:

Jo McNeill for UCU General Secretary 

It has been a real privilege to work alongside Jo McNeill on the branch committee for the University of Liverpool UCU in recent years.

Jo is an extraordinary trade unionist. She is utterly free of any sort of self-serving motivation. Her trade unionism is clearly rooted in the strongest value base; a belief in a collective approach to problems faced by members in the workplace. Her commitment to social justice is also evident from the many community campaigns she has had significant involvement in.

Jo is consistently impressive in taking on the local employer over the defence of local and national agreements, on matters of procedure and in new negotiations to improve conditions for members. She is also highly attentive to individual cases, repeatedly going the extra mile for members who are having difficulties.

Most of all however, Jo is up for the fight. Over and over again, members have indicated their willingness to take hard-hitting industrial action over pensions and pay. On each occasion that action has either been limited to token action or has been pulled altogether. Jo has always been ‘at the front’, calling upon the national leadership to press ahead with the action.

When Jo, says ‘we can fight’, she means it!

Jo McNeill is the kind of General Secretary the UCU has needed for some years. She could turn this union around!

Mark O’Brien

Vice-president, University of Liverpool UCU.

Statement 12:

I’ve been a union member since I got my first job back in 1992, and I have had an opportunity to select my union’s leader several times. But most of those times, the choice has been between one suit-wearing professional trade union official or another. In other words, not much choice!

This election is different. Jo McNeill is not a paid up official (she has a real job, like we do), she hasn’t spent years wining and dining on union expenses, and in fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen her in a suit! What she does do, instead, is always fight for the best interests of workers, actively fights against discrimination of all forms (it’s not about paying lip service but something she really believes in), and she’s honest and straight-talking with union members. Jo leads from the front when it comes to taking on the bosses, which means she’s on every picket line from the crack of dawn, not sitting in a warm office messing about with her phone when there’s work to be done.

Nationally, UCU members have a choice. We can continue to vote in career officials who only care about keeping the peace and keeping themselves in cushy jobs, or we can do something to change the direction of the union, stand up for what we believe in, defend those members who are struggling, and fight the tories’ attacks on further and higher education. If that’s the sort of union you want to belong to, then do something about it. Don’t ignore this leadership election, it’s different from previous ones.

Vote for Jo McNeill.

Dr Peta Bulmer, UCU Member, University of Liverpool.