Visa Fee Increases: the impact on staff and students at SHU

On the 13th of July, the government proposed a range of hikes to visa fees and surcharges as a way to fund public sector pay rises. While everyone can agree that the public sector needs pay rises, the planned increases to migrant fees are a political choice to pit workers against each other.

The IPPR spelled out several progressive tax options available to the government to fund public sector pay rises without impacting inflation that do not involve robbing one group to pay another. Moreover, many migrants are public sector workers themselves, who should not have to pay higher visa fees to support their own pay increase.

On the 6th of September, SHU UNISON passed a motion ‘Stop Planned Visa Fee Increases’ which called upon Unison Higher Education to urge the government to abandon these plans to raise the fees. However, the situation is changing rapidly.

On the 15th of September, the House of Commons published a research briefing which explains that visas and related fees have risen significantly above inflation and above processing costs. Then, on the 18th of September, the Home Office officially announced 15-35% rises to visa fees, which will take effect on the 4th of October. They also announced a 66% rise to the Immigration Health Surcharge (a fee which migrants pay upfront for each year of their visa to fund the NHS in addition to their taxes), which is meant to take place later this year.

How this will affect students and staff at SHU

Firstly, any migrant staff or students will be directly affected by the cost of their visa renewals. Depending on their visa, this is likely to be an increase between £1,000 and £2,000 depending on the route. For example, a two-year graduate route which costs the Home Office £103 to administer, will go from £1,963 to £2,894; three-year skilled worker visas which cost the Home Office £151 will go from £2,591 to £3,932. These unexpected rises during a cost of living crisis will be felt by migrants and families, and are likely to force those with fast approaching visa renewals to make some hard decisions about their finances.

There are implications for university finances which have potential knock-on effects for all university staff and students, as International Student Fees are projected to make up 25% of HE provider total income. As fees become prohibitive to potential students, university budgets may need to tighten accordingly. Additionally, there has been a 19% increase in the cost to the university to sponsor international students and certificates of sponsorship for skilled workers have gone up by 20%, which will have a direct and immediate impact on university budgets and forecasts.

Even where the university does not pay these costs directly, there are concerns from the research and development sector that the fees will actually level down the UK and have a detrimental effect on the HE sector. Sheffield specifically is one of the cities which benefits the most from international students. According to HEPI, International students have boosted the UK economy by £41.9 billion, and have provided a net figure of £1,930 per resident in Sheffield Central alone in 2021/2022.

So, what can we do about it?

The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) fee increase of 66% which makes up the bulk of a migrant’s visa cost has not yet been agreed by the House of Commons or the House of Lords. Write to your MP and urge them to lobby to have this voted down.

Additionally, the 10-year route to settlement disproportionately affects women and minorities. You can write to your MP to urge them to cap the routes to settlement at 5 years, to stop migrants from having to pay high fees on average every 2.5 years for ten years.

Sign this petition to stop the fee increases, and ask your network to do so as well. If it receives 100,000 signatures Parliament will have to debate it.

Hallam UNISON will be campaigning for this to be taken up by other branches and unions across higher education. If you want to know more or get involved, please get in contact with us.

Kayla Kemhadjian – Hallam UNISON member


PAY 2023/24 UPDATE

HE PAY 2023-24

Following the imposition of the pay award for 2023/24, and the continued dispute over the previous year’s award, members might have received emails from UNISON National HQ and seen messages on social media regarding ballots for strike action at some HE UNISON branches. Our branch is not included in this ballot. As a committee we were disappointed not to be included in the list of HE branches being balloted, and we know, both from personal conversations and the responses to last years questionnaire, that many of our members will feel the same way. We know that this round of balloting is unlikely to be the last. We also know that the number of ballots, online and postal, can be confusing for many members. Alongside this there are communications from national, regional and branch levels of the union which can overwhelm many. We are exploring ways to differentiate our local messaging from the national and regional, as suggested by members at our AGM, and hopefully provide a clearer, more focused line of communications for members.



As members are no doubt aware, UCU continue their industrial action through a marking and assessment boycott. Our UCU colleagues here at Sheffield Hallam have sent the following message:“UCU members at SHU are taking part in the national UCU marking and assessment boycott, which involves cessation of all summative assessment activity. The main impact is that marks may not be provided to the requested deadlines. UCU members recognise the difficulties this may cause for professional services staff and would like to apologise and to clarify that, since it is a dispute between UCU and employers, senior managers should deal with the problems without pressuring professional services staff.”SHU management have made a local decision to deduct 100% pay from UCU members participating in the boycott, which members believe is punitive and has effectively put an end to the rest of their work during the boycott period, thereby exacerbating the impact on students and colleagues. To reduce this impact, it would be much appreciated if staff involved in assessment administration could reply to requests from UCU members to clarify when marks are no longer required; UCU members will then be able to return to their other duties.”The following guidance has also been circulated by UNISON’s national office:“UNISON respects the rights of other trade unions to take industrial action and wishes to support them where it can do so. We urge members to consider supporting legal protests organised by other trade unions that take place outside your contracted hours of work. However, UNISON members are advised to continue working their normal duties and responsibilities and must refrain from joining the industrial action taken by other unions unless it has been authorised by UNISON. This is because it may otherwise be viewed as unofficial industrial action endorsed by the union or some form of misconduct by the individual(s) concerned.  UNISON members should carry out any reasonable management instruction given to them in accordance with their contract of employment, which could include duties they do not normally carry out on a day-to-day basis, but which are within their capabilities and commensurate with their grade. Members should bear in mind that any refusal to carry out a reasonable management instruction could potentially give the employer a strong argument that misconduct has occurred. In accordance with s.237 of TULRCA 1992, our members in the circumstances described above are likely to lose protection from dismissal if they refuse to cross a picket line and/or choose to join in the industrial action of other unions.”“Members who are unsure whether or not they need to carry out duties they have been asked to undertake should contact their UNISON rep, branch or region for further advice and support. Members are reminded that due to the current legislation only those employees who have been involved in a legal ballot where we met the 50% turnout threshold with a majority yes vote are allowed to take industrial action.”





There are a couple of upcoming opportunities to become more involved in climate action at work, something we know from our end of year survey many members are concerned about.The first of these is Sheffield Hallam’s Climate Champion Network. As part of our branches drive to organise around environmental issues we are encouraging members to step forward for these Climate Champion roles. While we, along with many members we have spoken to, have reservations about these roles (the additional pressure they put on members, the effectiveness of action mediated through the University’s own structures, and so on) we believe that critical engagement with the network will allow us to effectively identify key areas for action. Through the understanding we gain from our members engagement we will be able to uncover the organisational problems that are the key obstacles to effective climate action. UNISON will provide support for members stepping up to jon the network through our own climate organsing group. Please contact our Environment Officer Tom Kistell (Contacts) if you are plan on, or already are, volunteering as a Climate Champion. You can find the form to express your interest in this role and to attend a preliminary meeting of the network this Wednesday (21st) on the staff intranet: Climate Champions eventThe second opportunity is an invitation to meet and organise around climate action with trade unionists from across South Yorkshire. Organised by Sheffield Trades Council ‘Buildling a Workforce for the Climate Emergency: Putting workers first in the fight against climate change’ will take place on Saturday 15th July, 10am-4pm at the Quaker Meeting House, 10 Saint James St, Sheffield, S1 2EW and will consist of a series of workshops to discuss how we get climate jobs in:

  • renewable energy
  • transport
  • education and training – skilling up a workforce for the climate emergency

We encourage all members to join us to discuss what climate change really means for workers and how rising energy prices, inflation, falling wages and the climate crisis are not only connected but being driven by the same system.The event is free, please book your place here: STUC Climate WorkshopsSTUC Climate Jobs








Finally, Shell’s boss recently took home a £9.7million pay packet – while public service workers have to take industrial action to secure fair pay. It doesn’t have to be this way: windfall taxes in other countries have raised far more for the public purse, and kept bills far lower.Sign UNISON’s petition now and tell the Chancellor to make oil and gas giants – not ordinary households – pay the priceWindfall tax petition



We are keen to hear members experiences of working at Hallam whilst living through the menopause. The University does not currently have a policy. UNISON would like to help them develop one in the near future. UNISON has an excellent model policy that has been developed through thorough research, but is there anything specific to the way we work which needs considering? Please send any comments in confidence to to be added to any bargaining arguments. Your responses will be anonymised.

Personal Safety

I recently attended Stand Up Against Street Harassment bystander intervention training run by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. This short course was focussed on how to intervene when you witness or are a victim of street harassment. This organisation has a great deal of useful information with regards women’s personal safety and issues around stalking.

UNISON Women’s Conference January 2022

Sadly, the conference was online this year. It had been planned to take place in Brighton before having to change due to the ongoing COVID situation. As I joined as Women’s Officer just before the pandemic, I am still yet to meet my UNISON colleagues, either within the branch or nationally.

Despite the physical distance, the conference was an enlivening and informative event. Motions around supporting carers, part time working, the cost of living crisis (disproportionally affecting female workers) and menopause passed. They will now be brought up with the NEC and therefore campaigned for to parliament. It was a lesson in how the grassroots can in turn influence the government.

 Want to know more about what UNISON is doing nationally for Women members?

Are there female centric issues which you think I should be addressing or highlighting? Please get in touch and let me know.

Anna Wiggins

Member Education Programme: Autumn 2022


The following courses are in-person and will be held at our regional office in Leeds which is situated near the train station:

UNISON, Yorkshire & Humberside Regional Centre
Quayside House
Canal Wharf
LS11 5PS

These courses are FREE for UNISON members to attend with lunch provided. 

How to Apply:  

Contact Joanne Ward our branch administrator by emailing who will  contact the education team to book you a place.

Assertiveness Skills: 15th November at 10.00am – 4.00pm 

An opportunity to explore times and places you would like to be more assertive and to build the strategies to do so.

Closing date: 21 October

You can find more information about these courses in the UNISONY&H Member Education Programme brochure: here



A few days ago the Vice Chancellor sent an email to all staff to inform us that negotiations in the 2021/2022 pay round had concluded with UCEA – the employers’ organisation for Higher Education – making a final offer of 1.5% for the majority of staff (with more, on a sliding scale, for those lower on the pay scale).  The University intends to impose this offer in August.

UNISON’s position is that this offer falls far short of the pay claim that the joint trade unions submitted.    Last year (2020/2021) the employers imposed a pay freeze (UNISON is still in dispute about this) as a ‘reward’ for the exceptional hard work HE staff put in during the first year of the pandemic, which itself came after a decade of derisory pay awards.

UNISON is now asking members to say whether they accept or reject the 2021/2022 pay offer.

UNISON’s Higher Education Service Group Executive is recommending that members reject the 2021/2022 pay offer.   If you vote to reject the offer, you need to be prepared to take part in sustained strike action in order to improve the offer.

To emphasise: this is a consultation exercise, not an industrial action ballot.  The result of the consultation will be considered by the Service Group Executive.   If industrial action is to be taken, a formal postal ballot of members would then take place, with a 50% turnout required for a valid vote for action.

The 2021/2022 pay offer consultation will begin on Monday 24th May, closing on Friday 18 June.

All eligible members will receive an email with a link enabling you to vote in the consultation anonymously.   It will also be possible to vote online even if you don’t get an email (perhaps because you have not given UNISON permission to contact you in this way).   Any new members joining before 4th June will be sent a voting link by email.

Remember that you can update some of your personal details in the UNISON membership system here:

For more information see:


29 June 2021, 9.30am-1.00pm

This is a brand new UNISON and The Open University workshop delivered by trained OU tutors and is aimed at people working in early years settings or those with an interest in attachment theory for young children.

Places are limited so this session is being offered strictly on a first come first served basis.

If successful in securing a place, members wishing to attend would need to agree time off work (flexi or annual leave) with their line manager.

The workshop will cover:

  • Attachment classifications and how they are assessed
  • The features of caregiving that influence attachment, and the significance of attachment for lifespan development
  • Why the attachment system is an adapted and adaptive mechanism

At the end of the session attendees will receive a certificate of completion from The Open University.

This workshop will be delivered using Microsoft Teams software.

To apply, please complete the web form via the link below:


A wide range of online courses available for members:

Get That Job  a personal development workshop delivered by the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA).

Power To Be You – look at ways of increasing your own confidence and recognition of your personal achievements.

UNISON learning for mental health: 


Below are one day short courses offered free of charge by Northern College.

To apply visit and select “apply for a course online” and complete the online booking form.  More information about each of these courses can be found on online.


Course Name

23 Nov

Covid Awareness for Work

3 Dec

Covid Awareness for Work

4 Dec

Introduction to Cloud Computing

5 Dec

Keeping kids safe online

17 Dec

Covid Awareness for Work

When applying, please remember to select the box saying you are a UNISON Member.