Last week, the University and College Union (UCU) has announced another five days of strikes before Easter break. Strike action will therefore take place in 68 universities across the UK, unless vice chancellors withdraw pension cuts and meet staff demands concerning pay and working conditions. According to the UCU’s website, over 50,000 university staff will be taking part in the strike action, which could potentially last over two weeks for both the USS pension disagreement and the pay and working conditions dispute. Overall, a million students will be impacted across the country.
UCU members also are continuing to support ‘action short of strike’ (ASoS), which involves “working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues, not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action, and not undertaking any voluntary activities”. Strike action and ASoS should end on or before May 3 2022.
According to The Tab, students will have lost an entire month of teaching due to strikes this year. However, for current third year students who started university in September 2019, this represents a way more important loss. Without including disruptions due to Covid-19 pandemic, the strikes will have lost 3 months of teaching over their three years of university.
Gwen, a third year History student explains that undergraduates are conflicted as they both support strikes, understand the reasons for staff strikes, but still need to get taught, especially as the end of their degree, which includes crucial deadlines, is approaching. Other students, such as Julia, a third year Law student, find these strike action “sad” as it seems that university staff simply “never is listened to and never manages to find agreements with vice chancellors”.
Both Gwen and Julia also agree on the fact that strikes impact students very unequally, as Julia only lost one day of teaching this year, where Gwen missed out on four weeks. Indeed, depending on their degree but also on the university they are studying at, students do not get the same experience of strikes at all. Students are asking who really gets impacted by strikes? And how could we find a way of striking without penalising students? Students declare “being fed up with strikes”, as they feel that their “9ks are being thrown away”.
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