University strikes: Students face disruption as walkout begins

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A. sequence of strikes took place earlier this year, and last year
By Hazel Shearing
Education correspondent

University staff are strolling out on Thursday on the first of three days of strikes over pay, working stipulations and pensions

Lectures. may be called off at one hundred fifty affected universities

The. National Union of Students is supporting the strikes, however some students are concerned about lacking classes

Universities. say they will put measures in place to mitigate the influence on students’ learning

The. University and College Union (UCU) says more than 70,000 staff will be taking part in the strikes, which also take place on Friday and next Wednesday.

It is unclear how a lot teaching will be called off, as union members do not have to say even if they will be striking


Student. Katherine Greenstein, 19, feels lecturers are “exhausted” so will be joining the picket traces at Queen’s University Belfast

“I. have never seen a lecturer not have a cup of coffee or a cup of tea with them,” Katherine informed the BBC

“These. folks give their all to support you each single day of the tutorial year, and you get you are being asked to get a day off from class and to turn around and support them for three days. Why wouldn’t you leap at that opportunity?”

Katherine is lacking a class on Thursday and will be with collage staff on the picket line

Katherine, who makes use of the pronouns they/them, is a scholar from the US, and is paying more than $20,000 (£16,600) per term to research in the UK on a yr overseas. It means that the missed class is worth even more, in financial terms, than it is for British students.

“I think that the worth of the human being teaching that class is infinitely more than whatever the material is that they were going to educate me,” they said

‘We. are customers’

But Billie Early, a 23-year-old Masters scholar at the University of Sussex, feels that students are not getting a good “deal” simply because of the disruption

Her. undergraduate degree was disrupted by strikes and Covid, and now she is lacking a seminar on Friday simply because of this walkout, she said

“We. are paying clients. We’re not getting what we paid for,” she said

“For. a part-time Masters in a humanity subject, you do not have many contact hours. and then they take that away from you”

Billie. Early says her studying has been disrupted most years by strikes and Covid

Ms Early suggested the strikes carry back a feeling of being “on your own”, which she skilled when in-person teaching stopped in the course of Covid

“I. understand why they are striking,” she suggested. “But I simply feel that maybe lecturers ought to reach out to students, and emphasise and reassure us that they do want to be there for us. Because I’m simply not get getting that from them”

The. University of Sussex suggested it was “very concerned” about its students, and that measures to “minimise the influence of the strike” included rescheduled teaching and additional materials

Sean. Broome, who lectures in schooling at the University of Derby and is the chair of the UCU branch there, says it is unfair that staff pay has fallen in actual terms whereas universities spend funds elsewhere

Colleagues. of his are being asked to take on more work, he said, such as admin tasks and teaching additional modules

“We. earn less than we have done, even though the figure hasn’t gone down,” he said, adding that his personal pay has remained roughly the same for about 10 years

“The. greatest asset of a collage isn’t buildings and infrastructure, this is their staff, really. And who wishes a staff that is overworked, under-motivated and underpaid?”

Sean Broome is joining the picket traces on Thursday

Working stipulations have led to a “lack of motivation” between staff, he suggested – and uncertainty for some of his colleagues who have been on zero-hour contracts for as long as five years

He. sympathises with students whose studying would be disrupted, however added: “Our message, of course, is that they ought to contact the collage and and ask why we’re needing to strike”

‘Even. bigger action’

UCU basic secretary Jo Grady called it “the largest strike motion in the history of larger education”, with the union estimating that 25. million students may be affected

“University. staff. have had enough of falling pay, pension cuts and gig-economy working stipulations – all while vice-chancellors enjoy lottery win salaries,” she said

She. suggested additional disruption may be avoided if concerns were “addressed with urgency”, and added that, if not, “even bigger action” would follow next year

The. UCU is demanding a pay rise of inflation (RPI) +2%, or 12%, whichever is higher, as well as an end to zero and transitority contracts and motion to sort out “excessive workloads”

The. dispute over pensions has been rumbling on for more than a decade, and was reignited by what the UCU suggested was a “flawed” valuation of a pension scheme used by tutorial staff

It. suggested the ordinary member “will lose 35% from their assured future retirement income”.

Prof Steve West, president of Universities UK and vice-chancellor of UWE Bristol, suggested the scheme “remains one of the most appealing private pension schemes in the country”

He. suggested students might be fearful by additional disruption, adding: “Universities are well geared up to mitigate the influence of any industrial motion on students’ learning, and we are all working onerous to put in place a sequence of measures to be sure this”

Many. universities were unable to say what their mitigations would involve when contacted by the BBC, however some pressured that scholar services and libraries would stay open, and classes would be rescheduled the place appropriate

Raj. Jethwa, chief govt of the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, suggested the UCU’s pay demand was “unrealistic”

“Strike. motion does not create new funds for the sector,” he said

Chloe. Field, vice-president for larger schooling at the National Union of Students, suggested it was supporting the strikes simply because “staff working stipulations are students’ studying conditions”

Higher. schooling minister Robert Halfon suggested it was “hugely disappointing” that students would face additional disruption, and urged “all sides to work together”.

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