university strikes

University Strikes – What it Means for Students

Earlier this month the University and College Union (UCU) announced three days of strike action from December 1st-3rd. The strikes will take place at 58 universities across the UK and are happening due to issues such as pensions and pay cuts. At the moment, the walkout is set to last only 3 days, but industrial action could be set to take the place for the remainder of the academic year if employers don’t improve conditions.

Why are Universities Striking?

UCU members decided to strike in two separate ballots. The first, which 76% of members supported, was over pension cuts and the second, which 85% backed, was over working conditions and pay. The strikes are about more than just these issues though, as staff are also disputing equality pay gaps, casualisation and unsafe workloads.

Cuts of 35% have been made to guaranteed pensions, and staff pay has fallen by 20%. As well as this, figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency revealed that one third of university staff are on insecure contracts, and that the gender pay gap for academic staff currently sits at 15%. Staff have become increasingly frustrated at these statistics over the years, and 2021 marks 2 years from when strikes initially began.

Jo Grady, General Secretary for the UCU said: “UCU has repeatedly asked employers to meet with us to try to resolve these disputes. But while we set out pragmatic solutions that could halt widespread disruption to UK campuses, university bosses refuse to revoke unnecessary, swingeing pension cuts or even to negotiate on issues like casualisation and the unbearably high workloads that blight higher education.

‘A resolution to this dispute is simple. But if employers remain intent on slashing pensions and exploiting staff who have kept this sector afloat during a pandemic then campuses will face strike action before Christmas.”

How Will the Strikes Affect Students?

The 3-day walkout from December 1st-3rd could mean little to no teaching will take place on these days, so students may miss out on lectures, seminars, or workshops. However, this isn’t the only action that is set to take place.

From December 1st, university staff will be strictly working to contract and refusing any additional work, which for students could make huge changes to their studies. This could include marking being severely delayed, office hours and opportunities to speak to their tutors being reduced and some timetabled sessions could be cut or cancelled completely. Staff have a 5-month mandate for industrial action, so this could potentially last until May 2022.

In a statement released by the UCU, they claim: “The union intends to escalate its disputes next term. If employers do not make improved offers, further industrial action is likely to continue into the spring.”

After a year of online learning, and years of strikes before this, it means that the majority of current students will not have had an undisrupted year of teaching for the entirety of their degree.

Which Universities Are Taking Part?

The number is continuously increasing, but currently 58 universities are taking part in the walk out, whilst 64 universities will have staff strictly working to contract. The full list of universities includes:

  • Aston University
  • Birkbeck, University of London
  • Bishop Grosseteste University
  • Bournemouth University
  • Courtauld Institute of Art
  • Durham University
  • Edinburgh Napier University
  • Glasgow School of Art
  • Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Greenwich University
  • Heriot-Watt University
  • Institute of Development Studies
  • Imperial College London
  • Keele University
  • King’s College London
  • Kingston University
  • Leeds Trinity University
  • Liverpool Hope University
  • Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts
  • London School of Economics
  • London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • Loughborough University
  • Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Open University
  • Queen Margaret University
  • Roehampton University
  • Royal College of Art
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Royal Northern College of Music
  • Sheffield Hallam University
  • SOAS, University of London
  • St Mary’s University College Belfast
  • The University of Birmingham
  • The University of Dundee
  • The University of Kent
  • The University of Leeds
  • The University of Manchester
  • The University of Northampton
  • The University of Nottingham
  • The University of Salford
  • The University of Sheffield
  • The University of Stirling
  • University of the Arts London
  • University of Bath
  • University of Bradford
  • University of Brighton
  • University of Bristol
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Central Lancashire
  • University of Chester
  • University College London
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Essex
  • University of Glasgow
  • University of Lancaster
  • University of Leicester
  • University of Liverpool
  • University of Reading
  • University of St Andrews
  • University of Sussex
  • University of Winchester
  • University of York
  • Queens University Belfast
  • University of Ulster

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