Brian Cox cancels lecture at University of Manchester after pressure from UCU protesters

Academics hope for a public statement of support


Professor Brian Cox has cancelled a lecture at the University of Manchester today, after striking university staff urged him not to cross their picket line.

Cox, a famous TV personality and professor of particle physics in the University of Manchester’s School of Physics and Astronomy, was set to present a lecture to first-year physics students at the University this morning.

However, he came under fire from members of the University and Colleges Union (UCU) yesterday, who asked him not to cross their picket line to show solidarity with their strikes this week.

This comes as thousands of university staff and UCU members from 60 universities across the country have gone on strike this week, to protest cuts to their pay, pensions and working conditions.

He sent an email out today to all first-year physics students at the university, which read:

"Dear everyone

"Due to the UCU strike action, this week's lectures (PHYS10121) are cancelled.

"We are sorry for the short notice."

The email was sent by Cox and Jeff Foreshaw, another physics lecturer. The lecture was on quantum physics and relativity.

Dr Jo Edge, a medievalist at the University of Manchester and candidate for the national executive committee at UCU told the Manchester Tab,

"I asked Brian not [to] cross the picket line as he is one of our most well-known staff members with a huge following on Twitter – almost 3 million people. So, hearing yesterday that he and Jeff had cancelled today's lecture was heartening.

"The strikes are already starting to achieve what we want – for UUK and UCEA to come to the table and talk to us about untenable workloads, pay, the gender and BAME pay gap and the unnecessary downgrading of the USS pension scheme. Negotiators from UCU sat down with UCEA yesterday – these were talks they were not willing to have before we went on strike.

"We want to get on with our jobs, but as things stand conditions are making many people ill."

Historian and broadcaster Professor Michael Wood also came out in support of the strikes today, in a tweet.

Those who urged Cox to cancel his lecture say they are now hoping he also supports the strikes publicly.

Related stories

Confirmed: Unis will be striking for eight days at the end of November

Striking lecturers march down Oxford Road

The strikes saved the University of Manchester over £1 million