UCU Strike Information

Updated 17/04/2018

As you may be aware, during February and March members of the University and College Union (UCU) took part in strike action over proposed changes to the USS pension scheme. This was a national issue and over 60 other Universities across the UK also took industrial action. 

Negotiations took place during the strike period, and on 13/04/2018 UCU members voted to accept UUK's pension offer.  As a result, strike action has now been suspended.

Your Students’ Union (SU) believes that fairly rewarded staff are central to a good student experience and has been in support of the strike. Please read our full statement outlining why we supported this here.

We also recognise that the strikes affected 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 throughout the strike period.

If the information in the following FAQs, and the University's FAQs don't answer your queries, please email askus@le.ac.uk with any questions you may have.

To find out more about the national issue, please see here.

The SU’s current advice:

Here is our current advice to those students affected:

  • You should continue to submit work as normal by the published deadline unless they hear otherwise.
  • If your projects/dissertations have been impacted significantly due to, for example, the unavailability of staff, Heads of Department will take action to mitigate the impact, including extending deadlines if this is practical.
  • Heads of Department have been given discretion to authorise minor amendments to coursework deadlines and will notify you if there are to be any changes.
  • As the University will be taking steps to proactively mitigate the impact of the industrial action, you should not submit mitigating circumstances claims solely due to the strike action (e.g. missed events). However, if a you have a pre-declared specific learning difficulty or disability which is exacerbated due to the industrial action, or, you are unable to attend, complete or submit an assessment for another reason during the period, then you can submit a claim.
  • If you feel that you have been impacted more than other students on your course for a particular reason, you should discuss this with your personal tutor in the first instance who will be able to flag individual cases to colleagues involved in Panels and Boards of Examiners. 
  • The University will take steps to mitigate the impact of industrial action on exams - this will include amendments of examination papers so that any undelivered content is not examined.
  • All Boards of Examiners will be made aware of the impact that the strike action has had on each department and will take it into consideration when giving awards.
  • Read through our FAQs to answer any questions that you have.
  • You can speak to one of our advisors in the Education Unit. They can help direct queries to the University, fill in mitigating circumstances forms, raise a formal complaint to the University, and provide a listening ear.
  • If you want to raise any further issues please contact the President, Amy Moran, at ajm126@leicester.ac.uk

Visit www.leicesterunion.com/leicestertalks for details of Union, University, Student-led and Community services which can provide support on a range of different issues.

SU FAQs:

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 did it take place? (Updated 17/04/2018)

The strike took place over 14 days.  It began during February and continued throughout March, on the following dates: 22-23rd February, 26th-28th February, 5th-8th March, and 12th-16th March.

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 did it take place? (Updated 17/04/2018)

The dispute was 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 meant that someone starting work today could lose £9,600 a year from their pension. Some staff could have lost as much as £200,000 over their retirement.

There were months of unsuccessful negotiations to try to reach an agreement on pension changes, and the strike action was the last resort.

How did students support the strike? (Updated 17/04/2018)

Many students showed great support to staff who took part in industrial action.  The following is what we recommended to students who wanted to 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.

  • Be kind and supportive of staff on picket lines
  • Send an email of solidarity to your tutors and lecturers who might be taking part.
  • Some of our students are making banners and signs in support of the strike action – more information to follow.
  • Talk to fellow students about the strike and encourage them to support staff.
  • Don’t cross the picket line on strike days unless you are heading for the SU, the Student Support Centre, or the Library: the bigger the disruption, the more effective the action will be and therefore the more likely the strike is to end at an earlier date, with a resolution on pension changes.
  • We will be inviting academics to deliver lectures on their choosing in the Students’ Union building - we'll release more information on our social media channels soon.

If you want to keep up to date with how to support any future action (if any) that UCU take, please visit their website.

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.

Were lectures, tutorials and supervision cancelled? (Updated 17/04/2018)

Any lecturer taking part in the strike was not working on strike days - meaning teaching and supervision was not taking place. This meant that many lectures, seminars and tutorials were cancelled.

Striking staff legally do not have to alert the College in advance that they are striking, so you may not have found out until the day of your class that it was not taking place. However, some staff may have chosen to informally tell you that they are striking in advance.

Was campus open on strike days? (Updated 17/04/2018)

There were 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 asked 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? (Updated 17/04/2018)

There will not be any additional penalties for students who missed 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 monitored 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 missed teaching events you may find module assessments or examinations more challenging, and unauthorised non-attendance at events which went ahead during the period of industrial action will not be accepted as grounds for academic appeals.

I’m worried that the strike had an impact on my learning and achievement. What can I do? (Updated 17/04/2018)

We understand that the length of the strike may have impacted on your teaching hours and you might be worried about assessments and achieving a good grade this semester.

The University recorded any sessions that were not delivered due to strike action, so that it can be considered if necessary when calculating student module outcomes. We also encourage you to make note of missed events and the content involved to ensure this information is correctly recorded.

Student attendance records are not affected by event cancellation, particularly where students aren’t able to scan into the session.

What can I do if my final year project/dissertation was affected because it was difficult to contact my supervisor? (Added 17/04/2018)

The University recommends that you discuss this with your Personal Tutor, or another member of staff in your department, who will advise you on what to do.

Can I get some of my fees back? (Updated 17/04/2018)

The University are keeping the situation with regard to compensation under review and taking account of UUK and/or other sector guidance that becomes available.  The University stated that it was difficult to say what impact the industrial action had on teaching events, or how widespread the impact was.  Their priority was to minimise disruption to students wherever possible by varying the delivery of services, which is covered in the University's terms and conditions.

The University monitored the situation very closely and took any possible steps to minimise the impact of industrial action on students. 

If you wish to submit a complaint, please contact our Advice Service 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 had 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? (Updated 17/04/2018)

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 were contactable during the period of industrial action, but you may have experienced a delay in receiving replies to your queries where staff were participating in the action.  There may have also been some delays to feedback on assessed work. 

The University monitored the situation closely to understand what impact there was 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 affected? (Updated 17/04/2018)

If your teaching events were cancelled or did not take place, and a full week passed without you attending any events, please make yourself known to your Department Attendance Expert as soon as possible.

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 I be examined on topics covered in lectures or other teaching events which were cancelled? (Updated 17/04/2018)

The University is working with Heads of Departments to understand the impact in examination questions.  Through them staff have been asked to review question papers to ensure that questions which would rely on content which was not delivered are removed from questions and papers are revised as necessary.  All necessary changes will be made to ensure that all students have the opportunity to demonstrate the knowledge thet have acquired throughout the year on all their modules.  Changes are being monitored and approved at University level to ensure consistency for all students.

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 were 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 monitored the disruption closely, and will seek to ensure that students are not disadvantaged as a result of the strikes.

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 carried on as normal for those teaching events which took place or were re-scheduled.

What happens if my viva was scheduled during the strike period? (Updated 17/04/2018)

If your supervisor and the viva panel members did not take part in the strike, your viva should have gone ahead as planned. 

If members of the viva panel took strike action, then your supervisor will discuss possible options with you and the Departmental PGR Tutor.  If you have had issues with your viva as a result of the strike action, please contact your supervisor in the first instance. 

What support is available to me?  And what will the University do to mitigate the lack of pastoral support if my personal tutor/key staff were on strike? (Updated 17/04/2018)

Pastoral support continued to be available during the strike period, through the Student Services Centre.  Services were operating normally and were not affected by the industrial action.  In many cases academic support continued to be available where staff were not participating in the industrial action. 

Support is still available for students through the Student Services Centre, and 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.

University FAQs:

Please follow this link to read the University’s answers to queries you may have.

UCU Updates:

Keep up to date with updates from UCU here.

Office for Students Guidance:

The Office for Students provides additional guidance for students affected by recent industrial action here.

 

We will continue to work hard to minimise the impact on you and please check back on these pages regularly for further updates.