As you may be aware, members of the University and College Union (UCU) are currently taking strike action over proposed changes to the USS pension scheme. This is a national issue and 60 other Universities across the UK are also taking strike action. Although UCU and UUK have returned to negotiations moderated by ACAS, this continues to be a difficult time, and our hope is that this new round of discussions can bring a sustainable agreement. Furthermore, staff who are taking action short of a strike will have no partial deduction of their salary, and money recovered as a result of the strike will be added to the student hardship fund.
We recognise that the strikes are affecting the studies of students across the University, and we are sorry that this is the case, however we would like to thank you for your support of University staff, and for your patience during this time.
Your Students’ Union (SU) believes that fairly rewarded staff are central to a good student experience and is therefore in support of the strike. Please read our full statement outlining why we support this here.
Action short of a strike began on 22 February and could continue through to 19 June 2018.
To find out more about the national issue, please see here.
At this stage, it is difficult to say how the strike will impact your studies. The SU are hoping to see a nationally negotiated and agreed outcome with UCU that will resolve the dispute as quickly as possible.
The strike action is now over, for the time being, but some staff will continue to take ‘action short of strike’ between 22 March and 19 June. This means that staff will be working to their contract and not doing any work they deem voluntary, such as University Open Days. Exams and assessment should not be directly impacted during this time.
Here is our current advice to those students affected:
Visit www.leicesterunion.com/leicestertalks for details of any support services:
What is a strike?
A strike is when workers protest by not working in order to put pressure on their employer. Academic staff won’t work on strike days, meaning they won’t hold personal tutor sessions, teach, plan lessons or mark assessments.
When is it taking place?
The strike is planned to take place over 14 days. It began during February and continues throughout March, on the following dates: 22-23rd February, 26th-28th February, 5th-8th March, and 12th-16th March. There is a chance that all or some of the strike days won’t go ahead if the negotiators reach an agreement on pensions with UCU before the dates.
Since 22nd February, UCU members have also been ‘working to rule’. Many academic staff take part in activity that is over and above their normal hours of work and therefore they aren’t paid for; working to rule means they are no longer doing this, and instead are only working their contracted hours.
Why is it taking place?
The dispute is over the future of the USS (Universities Superannuation Scheme), the pension scheme of which many of our academic members of staff are a part. Proposed changes to the pension scheme mean that someone starting work today could lose £9,600 a year from their pension. Some staff will lose as much as £200,000 over their retirement.
There have been months of unsuccessful negotiations to try to reach an agreement on pension changes, and this strike action is the last resort.
How can I support the strike?
It is best to direct your frustrations to University senior management, the people who can have an impact on the pension negotiations. They have the power to influence the process and the more pressure we put on them the more likely they are to act.
What is a picket line?
A picket line is where workers and union reps ('picketers' or 'pickets') stand outside a workplace to tell other people why they are striking. The picket line draws attention to the cause the workers are fighting for.
Are my lectures, tutorials and supervision cancelled?
Any lecturer taking part in the strike is not working on strike days - meaning teaching and supervision is not taking place. This means that many lectures, seminars and tutorials are cancelled.
Striking staff legally do not have to alert the College in advance that they are striking, so you may not find out until the day of your class that it is not taking place. However, some staff will choose to informally tell you that they are striking in advance. You should feel comfortable emailing a staff member in advance to ask whether or not they will be participating in strike action.
Is campus open? Can I come onto campus on strike days?
There are picket lines in front of academic buildings on strike days. A picket line is a boundary established by workers on strike, usually at the entrance to their place of work, to draw attention to their cause and to encourage others to not cross the picket line and enter the workspace.
We ask you to support your lecturers and tutors and not cross the picket line unless heading for the Students’ Union, the library, or the Student Support Centre.
Will I be penalised for missing classes that have not been cancelled, but fall within the strike period? (Added 15/03/2018)
There will not be any additional penalties for students missing timetabled teaching events during the period of industrial action. You are expected to attend all timetabled teaching events associated with your programme of study in order to achieve the maximum benefit from the learning opportunities offered.
The University will continue to monitor student attendance throughout the period of industrial action and may make contact with students they are concerned about, for example if you are sponsored on a Tier 4 visa.
If you miss teachng events you may find module assessments or examinations more challenging, and unauthorised non-attendance at events which take place during the period of industrial action will not be accepted as grounds for academic appeals.
I’m worried that the strike is having an impact on my learning and achievement. What can I do?
We understand that the length of the strike could impact on your teaching hours and you might be worried about assessments and achieving a good grade this semester.
The University are recording any sessions that are not delivered due to strike action, so that it can be considered if necessary when calculating student module outcomes. We are also encouraging students to make note of missed events and the content involved to ensure this information is correctly recorded.
Student attendance records are not affected by the event cancellation particularly where students aren’t able to scan into the session.
Can I get some of my fees back?
The University will keep the situation with regard to compensation under review and take account of UUK and/or other sector guidance that becomes available. The University state that it is difficult to say what impact the industrial action will have on teaching events, or how widespread the impact will be. Their priority is to minimise disruption to students wherever possible by varying the delivery of services, which is covered in the University's terms and conditions.
In the meantime, the University will continue to monitor the situation very closely and take any possible steps to minimise the impact of industrial action on students.
If you wish to submit a complaint, please contact our Education Unit to find out about the complaints procedure.
Will I be compensated for time lost/money spent if I commute to University, and find that my timetabled teaching event is cancelled? (Added 15/03/2018)
The University have advised that as some interruption of teaching events is inevitable in normal circumstances, for example due to illness, unfortunately compensation is unlikely.
How will the University ensure that students are compensated/affected equally across all year groups and departments? (Added 15/03/2018)
The University do not know the extent of the impact that action may have on students and it is probable that any impact will vary across the institution, however they are taking every possible step to mitigate the impact on students of any action.
I'm a Distance Learning student - how will I be affected, and will I be compensated? (Added 15/03/2018)
The impact on Distance Learning students will be different given the nature of provision. Typically, materials are made available to you for self-study. Academic staff will be contactable during the period of industrial action, but you may experience a delay in receiving replies to your queries where staff are participating in the action. There may also be some delays to feedback on assessed work.
The University are monitoring the situation closely to understand what impact there may be on particular programmes and students, and will take appropriate mitigating action as required.
I’m a postgraduate research student who teaches. How does this affect me and can I get involved?
If you're a postgraduate student who teaches, you are eligible to join UCU for free, and we encourage you to do so. You can find out more here: www.ucu.org.uk/join
I’m an international student - is my visa status be affected?
If your teaching events are cancelled or don’t take place, and a full week passes without you attending any events, please make yourself known to your Department Attendance Expert.
Otherwise, please regularly check your emails and ensure that you record missed events due to strike action.
Will the strike impact the length or dates of the exam period? (Updated 15/03/2018)
There are currently no plans to change the length or dates of the summer exam period, and you should continue to prepare for examinations to occur during the published examination period.
Will the University ensure that content in summer exams changes according to content that has been missed during the strike? (Added 15/03/2018)
The University is making every effort to ensure that students are not disadvantaged as a result of the industrial action. The examination period is still several weeks away and the University will be working to review and amed papers where there has been disruption that may impact upon the assessment. Please be assured that the University are monitoring the disruption very closely, on a module-by-module basis, and will take mitigating action as required. It is important to note that the level of disruption varies across the University and many modules will not be impacted. Examinations will take place as planned.
What should I do if I can't contact my dissertation supervisor? (Added 15/03/2018)
Trade Union guidance indicates that academic staff will continue to answer emails from students. It is possible that there may be a delay in receiving a reply from colleagues who are participating in industrial action, but not all staff are taking part.
What should I do if there is an assessment deadline during the strike period?
The University have advised us that you should submit your work as normal.
Why are assignments still due in during the strike, and how will the effect of the strike on these assignments be mitigated? (Added 15/03/2018)
The University have advised that assignments are likely to have been set prior to the start of the strike, or as a large number of academic staff are not striking, they may have been set during this period.
Assignments are not typically reliant solely on teaching as students undertake their own reading and research, however, they will be marked by academic staff who are aware of the circumstances that may have impacted the assignment. The University are monitoring the disruption closely, and will seek to ensure that students are not disadvantaged as a result of the strikes.
What shall I do if I need an academic reference from a staff member who is on strike? (Added 15/03/2018)
During the period of industrial action there may be delays in receiving a response from academic staff who are striking. If you need a standard University reference (e.g. confirming periods of study and published outcomes), this can be obtained from the Students Services Centre (Charles Wilson Building).
Where specific academic input is required and the request is urgent, steps can be taken to liaise with third parties to explain the situation on behalf of the student. If this is the case, please contact the Education Unit who can pass this on for you.
Will this affect my outcome at the end of the academic year?
The University is keeping the situation under close review and we will update you as the year progresses.
Should I submit mitigating circumstances if I am affected by the strike action?
It is not necessary to submit mitigating circumstances as the University are aware of the issues, and will take these into account as appropriate during our examination and assessment processes.
If I am a finalist, how will my degree be classified?
The Examination Boards which consider degree classifications do not take place until June, and at this stage the University is keeping the situation under close review, so there are no changes to how the University will calculate your degree classification
If I am a finalist, will I still graduate on time and as planned? (Added 15/03/2018)
We expect graduation ceremonies to go ahead on the published dates (17th-20th July).
Will the academic year be changed or extended to make up for lost teaching time? (Updated 15/03/2018)
The University’s academic year dates will not change as a result of the strike action. The University will seek to resolve any potential impacts on your learning experience within the published dates. Examinations are expected to go ahead as planned.
Is lecture capture still be available?
Lecture Capture is carrying on as normal for those teaching events which are taking place or are being re-scheduled.
What happens if my viva is scheduled during the strike period?
Please contact your supervisor in the first instance to see if they or any of the viva panel members are taking strike action. If they are not taking strike action, then the viva should go ahead as planned.
If members of the viva panel are taking strike action, then your supervisor will discuss possible options with you and the Departmental PGR Tutor.
What support is available to me during the strike? And what will the University do to mitigate the lack of pastoral support if my personal tutor/key staff are on strike? (Added 15/03/2018)
Pastoral support continues to be available through the Student Services Centre. Services are operating normally and are not affected by the industrial action. In many cases academic support continues to be available where staff are not participating in the industrial action.
If you urgently require contact with a member of academic staff you should ask for advice from professional services staff in your department, or College professional services staff who should be able to advise on who is available.
You can also find lists of Union, University, Student-led and Community support services on our Leicester Talks webpage, on a range of different issues.
Please follow this link to read the University’s answers to queries you may have.
We will continue to work hard to minimise the impact on you and please check back on these pages regularly for further updates.