TUC Diploma in Contemporary Trade Unionism

This course is designed to help experienced trade union representatives broaden their knowledge of the past, present and future role of trade unions.

The course will develop a greater understanding of trade union values, policies, and workplace issues enabling reps to become more effective as workplace representatives. The course will extend the capacity and skills of learners, whilst improving the confidence of learners to access higher education opportunities.

Who is this course for?

This course is for experienced trade union representatives. It focuses on the early, present and potential role of trade unions, and develops the values and skills needed for higher level study and activism.

How long is the course?

This course is 36 days, delivered over a year .

What will the course help me to do?

The course will help you:

  • become more effective as a workplace representative
  • promote an understanding of trade union values and policies
  • extend your capacity as a learner, preparing you for union officer posts or higher education opportunities
  • understand trade union and workplace issues at a deeper level
  • develop personal/study skills, the ability to work collectively and improve your confidence to study at a higher level

What subjects will be studied?

The TUC Diploma is accredited by the NOCN and is divided into several units - three core units and four study skills units - see below.

The development of trade unions in Britain

This unit includes:

Economic, social and political context 1700-1997

  • changes in state policy
  • emergence of the women's movement
  • trade unions and the state

The impact of industrialisation on working people and the origins of trade unions

  • industrialisation and working people
  • the impact of industrialisation on women
  • the development of trade unions, protest and resistance

Trade union experience 1850-1997

  • changes in trade union strategies and tactics
  • trade unions and the law
  • syndicalism
  • trade union achievements
  • women and black workers in unions

Trade unions today

This unit includes:

Trends in trade union organisation

  • mapping trade unions and comparing results

Trade unions and the economy

  • trade union trends
  • influencing change


  • trade unions and globalisation
  • private sector
  • public sector


  • how European law is made
  • proposals for European directives
  • trade unions and monetary union

Trade unions and the law

  • workers' rights
  • how British law is made
  • trade union business and the law

Collective bargaining

  • bargaining structures
  • the bargaining agenda
  • drawing up, progressing and testing a claim

Models of organisation

  • organisational structures
  • how unions influence
  • research on media influence
  • trade union messages

The future of trade unions

This unit includes:

Models of trade unionism

  • new unionism
  • social partnerships
  • organising unionism
  • social movement trade unionism
  • union democracy and representation
  • union leadership

European and international trade unionism

  • European works councils
  • trade unions and Europe
  • trade unions internationally

Challenges facing unions

  • membership and recruitment
  • labour market trends
  • the future of collective bargaining
  • globalisation
  • multinational companies

Study skills units

Communication and study skills

  • read and respond to written materials
  • produce written materials
  • prepare and make a presentation to a group
  • take part in discussions and work collectively

Research project

  • project planning
  • research skills
  • presenting a project

Working with figures

  • statistical and mathematical techniques to collect and record data
  • sources of data
  • presenting numerical information

Information communication technology

  • prepare and input data
  • display and present information
  • present data
  • use database, word processing and spreadsheet applications

What are the entry requirements?

Union representatives who wish to take this course should have:

  • previously attended the TUC Union Reps Stage 1 and Stepping Up - the advanced course for union representatives; or
  • obtained 30 OCN credits, with a minimum of 15 credits at Level 2; or
  • obtained a suitable equivalent to the two categories above through their own union's courses or from elsewhere.

Please note all applicants to the online course will be required to complete a second stage application form detailing the knowledge and experience that they have gained as a trade union rep. This will be used by tutors to assess applicants' suitability for the course.

What qualifications will be awarded?

The TUC will award its Diploma if participants complete all seven modules and gain 48 credits (at level 2 for level 2 diploma or 27 credits at level 3 plus 21 credits at level 2 or 3 for level 3 diploma)

Learners who do not achieve the above will be awarded OCN certification for units achieved. All learners completing the course will receive a TUC certificate of attendance.

Can I get time off to learn?

Union representatives who wish to attend TUC courses in working time should first ask their employer for time off with pay. The Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 and the Safety Representatives and Safety Committee Regulations 1977 give accredited union and safety representatives a legal right to reasonable time off with pay to attend courses approved by the TUC or their union. Guidance towards establishing what constitutes reasonable time off can be found in the ACAS Code of Practice (pdf).

You can also get time off for online courses. Online learning should not be seen as an alternative to paid release from work. The law still applies, whether learning takes place away from work or in work, at a workstation or in a company learning centre.

Representatives who find difficulty in obtaining paid time off to attend TUC courses should seek assistance from their senior union representative or full time union officer.

How much is the course?

There are no course fees for union reps from TUC affiliated unions.

Further information

If you require any further information about this course, please contact your TUC Regional Education Officer.

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Last modified: Monday, 19 January 2015, 11:37 AM