Bangor students kickstart petition for strike refunds
By Sam Honey
Students at the University of Bangor in Wales have circulated a petition that calls for £4 million worth of refunds to be paid to students affected by planned University and College Union (UCU) strike action.
The calculation is based upon an average loss of £380 per student during the eight-day strike period, which is set to take place between 25th November and 4th December unless there is a dramatic turnaround in negotiations before the end of the week.
UCU members have resorted to industrial action in protest of current policies on pension schemes and working conditions in UK universities.
Although meetings have been held with the aim of preventing industrial action, the UCU have accused universities of “playing games”, as the institutions have refused to discuss pay issues.
With an eye on forcing concessions, the union has also announced action short of a strike when employees return. Such action will include a refusal to cover for absent colleagues or the re-scheduling of lectures.
A number of voices are now calling for financial refunds to be handed to those who will miss key teaching hours during the planned strike.
The University of Essex have pledged to offer reimbursements to affected students, although they have not disclosed exact breakdowns as of yet.
In addition, the Brexit Party in Wales have called for similar action. Party leader in the Welsh Assembly, Mark Reckless, argued that students should be treated fairly as consumers.
“Any other institution would be expected to offer a refund to their clients or customers if there was disruption like this to their services. Why should universities be any different?”.
As of yet, it appears that Bangor students have not been joined en-masse by other university students in support of fee reimbursement.
During the 2018 strikes, the University of Manchester declined to financially reimburse students affected by strike action.
A University of Manchester student, who wished to remain anonymous, argued that students should be able to access refunds for missed tuition, although insisting that a deal to avoid strikes was the primary objective.
They said: “Students pay £9,250 per year to attend university, and when they aren’t even getting the teaching that they’re paying for, I certainly think it is fair for students to demand a refund from their university. The conflict, ultimately, is between academic staff and universities, not between students and academics, and therefore it feels unfair for students to lose out on so much, and whilst financial reparation does not replace the teaching hours lost, it does give students some reimbursement.
“Whilst I appreciate it may be difficult for universities to implement refunds, this should act as a motivator for them to get to the table and negotiate a deal with their staff so that students can receive the teaching they are paying for, rather than financial reimbursement.”