Lecturers from a total of 67 universities across the country, including all 24 members of the Russell Group, are threatening industrial action in response to a proposed pension cut.
Academics may boycott the marking of students’ courseworks and exams, causing a large amount of disruption, after proposals by universities which would affect the Universities Superannuation Scheme.
This proposal involves forcing lecturers to pay more into a pension fund, a £40000 salary cap on benefit entitlements, and an end to final salary pension schemes.
Models show that the proposed pension shakeup would cause up to £20000 per year knocked off academics’ pensions.
The union estimates the changes would affect a 40-year-old professor on £75000 per year to lose out on £230000—the worst affected individual, facing a total of a 27 per cent cut.
The University and College Union is now asking members to support a marking boycott in response to this. The ballot opened on the 1st October and runs until the 20th.
According to the UCU, “the action would stop students being set coursework or receiving formal marks and feedback, as well as halting exams.”
However, universities see this move as rash, since talks about the changes have not yet started.
Similar industrial action was proposed earlier in 2014 in response to a level of pay that had, in fact, seen a 13 per cent fall in real income since 2009. This failed to materialise after successful talks between universities and academics.
However, lecturers staged six one-day walkouts over the dispute earlier in the year and in 2013. The UCU has not ruled out further strikes and boycotts in the future in response to unfair pay.
General secretary of the union, Sally Hunt, said, “if members back industrial action, and there is no negotiated solution, we will be looking to quickly move to an assessment and exam boycott.
“Staff see their pension as deferred pay and are understandably angry.”