The UCU industrial action is now approaching its third week of strikes over the proposed changes to teaching staff’s pensions.
The result of the 14-day strike means that students will face cancelled lectures, seminars and tutorials. This has left them questioning whether they deserve compensation for the missed contact time, as they are concerned about the effect this will have on their assessments and overall grade.
One student from the University of Nottingham (UoN) told Impact: “Although I understand the lecturers right to strike, I feel that at a time when a lot of us have coursework and deadlines to meet, [it] is somewhat irresponsible. Also, I don’t think it is right for the SU to take a position in the strike, especially as how they are supposed to be supporting students, and a lot of students are being badly affected by these strikes. Some of us are paying a lot for very little contact hours as it is. [Thus], missing out on even a few hours has a really big impact.”
“I don’t think it is right for the SU to take a position in the strike […]”
With some students feeling this way, petitions have started demanding compensation over the loss of classes. According to The Independent, ‘nearly 100,000 students have signed petitions’.
In response to these petitions, both UoN Socialist Students and UoN Left Society, have either released or shared a statement in regard to why asking for refunds and compensation is counterproductive.
One of the main points that they mention is that asking for compensation ‘is tantamount to blaming the lecturers for the UCU strike.’ The point continues to mention that lecturers should not be scapegoats for a problem that could be resolved with the UUK opening up negotiations.
“Whilst I understand the situation of the staff, our results and future shouldn’t be on the line for it”
Another point they mention is that your ‘tuition fees do not only fund your contact hours.’ For instance, they can go towards ‘the wider extra-curricular experience’ and ‘granting you access to all the resources at the library that are necessary to complete your degree’.
You can read more about these points and the entire statement here.
One English student told Impact: “What we pay for should be received, if I could teach myself by paying for just library services and books (which was a reason for why we wouldn’t receive compensation, because our money also goes on these services) then I would have done that and saved more money than the £9000+ on uni. We’re being punished for something that isn’t our fault and it isn’t fair. Whilst I understand the situation of the staff, our results and future shouldn’t be on the line for it.”
The Students’ Union has chosen to stand in solidarity with the lecturers choosing to strike, stating that ‘after dedicating much of their time and resource to enhancing the student experience, we believe our lecturers have the right to a pension that will give staff peace of mind and stability.’
“I did not just dictate to the whole SU that you all got to support [the strike]”
Impact spoke to Cassie O’Boyle, the SU Education Officer, who provided more information on the SU support and what is being done to help students.
Why did you decide to support the UCU strike?
Cassie: “There has been a lot of questions around this. It wasn’t my opinion. I did not just dictate to the whole SU that you have all got to support this. We had a vote and every representative from schools, departments, faculty reps, and the full and part-time Officer team were given the opportunity to vote, [and] from the votes, it was really in favour of supporting the strike.”
Cassie goes on to explain some reasons for why the SU are supporting the UCU strike:
“The first [reason] has to do with Postgraduate research students. They are our members, but they can also be members of UCU, and in a few years’ time, they are going to become academics, and while we have struggled in the past to be engaged with those students, this is an issue that they feel really strongly about […].”
“we want good teachers, that is what we stand for”
Another reason being that “the quicker we can get the strike to finish, the better.” She says that if everyone adds pressure to the University, then it is more likely that change will occur.
The last reason talked about was “if our academic staff feel unhappy in their workplace, then they are not going to be good teachers and we want good teachers, that is what we stand for.”
You can read more about these points here.
Have any suggestions been made to help students who will be affected by their contact hours being greatly reduced?
Cassie: “This is why this has been really challenging because not only are we supporting the strike, we also need to lobby to make sure that students are not affected. I have emailed the registrar because people had raised some concerns with me. They guaranteed me that it is not going to have an effect on assessments.”
“They guaranteed me that it is not going to have an effect on assessments”
She goes on to say that they have informed the University that they need to make better provisions for counseling to be replaced and making sure that the way courses are assessed are not changed.
“People have been telling me that courses that were meant to be 50% exams and 50% coursework are now just 100% exams which is not acceptable. It breaks the University’s Quality Manual. I have raised this with them, and we will be gathering all of these incidents and bringing it to the Quality and Standards Committee at the University.”
Hannah O’Hanlon and Sarah Lindgarde