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5th April 2018

Students demand voice in debate over strike mitigation and compensation

Take Action! UoM, a student-led campaign demanding mitigation and compensation for students affected by UCU strike action, held their first public meeting in Squirrel’s Bar
Students demand voice in debate over strike mitigation and compensation
Photo: The Mancunion

A group of around thirty University of Manchester students met for the first public meeting of the Take Action! UoM Campaign, demanding mitigation and compensation for students in light of recent UCU strike action. The group is led by first year Politics and Anthropology student Jack Swan, and included a variety of undergraduates and postgraduates.

The campaign, which now as over 600 student members on its Facebook group, met in Squirrel’s Bar. They covered a spectrum of opinions regarding financial compensation, with Masters students feeling particularly strongly that they should receive some money back from the university. However, the goal of the Take Action! UoM Campaign is for students to look past their differences and work together towards the one thing they all agree they want: mitigation.

Swan voices two major requests from the group: firstly, that students get a voice in any decisions made regarding mitigation, and secondly that they are involved in any decisions regarding the allocation of funding and financial compensation.

Speaking later, Swan told The Mancunion: “My main concern is that although everyone in the team has their sympathies with the strike action, it’s currently between the lecturers and the university, and regardless of who wins between the lecturers and the university, it’s the students who have lost out.

“I feel it is unfair for students to be acted upon in such a way and for our loyalties to be taken for granted in such a way. We have an opportunity and a responsibility to organise ourselves and push for our own interest, which may involve compensation, but certainly involves mitigation.”

There was a verbal consensus of support for lecturers. The majority of students’ anger was directed at the university, with many expressing disappointment that the university had the power to stop the strikes, but chose not to.

One student fighting for financial compensation was David, an MA International Relations student. David told The Mancunion that he had missed dissertation meetings and core content lectures due to the strikes. Referring to the university’s response to calls for compensation, he stated: “It’s invalid to say that you can’t put a price on it. My degree costs £1,500 more than a Masters degree in Politics. They’ve put a price on it already, so they cannot say that it is impossible to put a price on what we have missed.”

The University of Manchester has so far refused to compensate students for lost tuition time. A spokesperson previously stated that “since we charge a composite fee for our courses, we cannot reimburse for specific elements of missed teaching and assessment.”

They emphasised, however, that the University will “consider the impact and consequences of the industrial action for each student retrospectively and take any necessary corrective action where possible.”

David is not the only Masters student to demand compensation. Sam Warrenger, an MA Politics student, said he has already withdrawn his final instalment of fees to the university in hope that others will follow.

“Money talks,” a fellow student added, although she admitted she was undecided about withdrawing her fees.

“I’m worried about the repercussions”, she clarified, “and it won’t be worth it unless a lot of people do it. But the whole strike is about money. It feels like it’s the only action we can take.”

First year Anatomy student Phoebe expressed anger at missing her labs, stating: “It’s active learning. It isn’t something I can teach myself or catch up on.” Similar feelings were shown from other students who shared stories of missed research and publication opportunities.

The group filmed a message to Vice-Chancellor Nancy Rothwell, with Swan requesting a face-to-face meeting. Speaking to the camera, he offered this meeting as a chance to “work constructively.”

To find out more or get involved join the ‘Take Action UoM’ group on Facebook.

Nicole Wootton-Cane

Nicole Wootton-Cane

Deputy Editor of The Mancunion

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