You may have heard about the University and College Union announcing strike action. Below we have collated some information to help you understand what strike action is, when it might take place and how you can find out more information.
Of the 6,000 colleagues working at the University of Exeter, approximately 400 UCU members voted in support of taking strike action on the national pay and working conditions and USS pension disputes.
The UCU are yet to confirm the exact details of the strike action they will be taking but have confirmed this will include a marking and assessment boycott.
We are working with the University of Exeter to understand the impact any proposed strike action will have on University of Exeter Cornwall students and will communicate what this means for our members when we have more information.
If you have any concerns, please speak to your elected representatives, such as course reps, part-time officers or SU presidents. The SU intends to release a poll to understand how you feel about the strikes – this is now open on the UCU Industrial Action page.
We will keep updating this news article as we gather more information.
Strike Action FAQs
What are the reasons for the strike?
Members of the UCU at University of Exeter have voted to take industrial action on pension cuts, pay and working conditions.
Demands around pay relate to the fact that university workers’ pay has fallen by a quarter in real terms since 2009, rather than in line with inflation.
Working conditions refer to the fact that many university staff are employed on precarious short-term contracts and are frequently overworked. Another issue cited as a reason for striking are race and gender inequalities of pay.
Pension cuts were implemented in April 2022 which see the typical lecturer lose 35% from future retirement income according to the UCU. These cuts were based on an evaluation of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) which was conducted in March 2020, as markets crashed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since the economy has recovered better than expected at this point in the pandemic, a re-evaluation of the scheme could result in pension benefits being increased.
When will the strike be taking place?
UCU have announced that industrial action will commence on Monday 23 May. Exact details of strike action are yet to be confirmed but this currently includes a marking and assessment boycott.
Staff are not obligated to let students, or the university know if they are planning to partake in the strike.
What happens on a strike day?
On the day of a strike, members of the striking union will not work. There may be protests or picket lines on campus. This means that classes taught by striking staff will not go ahead. Some staff will choose not to answer emails during the strike period.
Other forms of action that may take place are exam or marking boycotts, where staff refuse to participate in scheduled exams or marking during the designated strike period.
How will strike action affect me? /How will my course be affected?
It is difficult say how the strike action will affect each student individually. Scheduled classes lead by striking staff will not take place. Some courses will be affected differently, depending on how many staff choose to strike.
We do not know which courses will be most affected, as striking staff are not obligated to let their departments know ahead of time that they are striking. Some staff may let you know if they are choosing to strike.
The university and SU will be open as normal during the strike period. The university will ask the UCU members if they intend to strike so they can inform students of how their timetabled sessions will be affected.
How long will the strikes be taking place for?
The UCU have announced that a period of Action Short of a Strike will begin on Monday 23 May at and could continue until October 2022.
Will my attendance record be affected?
If you are unable to attend a scheduled class because they are cancelled due to strike action, then your attendance will not be affected.
If you choose to not attend scheduled classes that are not cancelled, for example if you wish to not cross the picket line, then your attendance record may be affected.
Who can I talk to if I am worried about or affected by the strikes?
If the strikes are causing you extra stress or anxiety, you could consider contacting the wellbeing services.
The SU Advice service are available to support you with guidance on academic issues related to industrial action.
I am an international student with a visa; how will the strike affect my tier 4 visa status?
Any teaching or timetabled sessions that are missed due to strike action will not be recorded so your attendance record will not be affected. This means that your tier 4 visa status will not be affected.
What is the SU’s stance on the strike?
At present, the SU has not taken a stance for or against the strikes. We will shortly be putting out a short poll to evaluate student opinion on the strikes, which we will use to form our stance as a Students’ Union.
Are exams affected?
The University of Exeter is doing a lot of work to make sure that exams take place as planned. Now that the UCU have announced a marking and assessment boycott, there may be disruption to students receiving exam or assessment marks. The university are advising that you continue preparing for your exams as planned and attend all timetabled exams.
Falmouth and Exeter Students' Union UCU Industrial Action page
University of Exeter Industrial Action webpage
You can contact the University of Exeter directly with any queries at firstname.lastname@example.org
Office of the independent adjudicator - Industrial Action FAQ for Students
You’ll see these key words and phrases used by the university, UCU and SU when sharing information about strike action. If you find any other words or phrases that you’re not sure about, please let us know so we can clarify the information for you and make sure you understand.
UCU: UCU are the University and College union, representing staff in higher education institutions across the UK.
Industrial Action: Industrial action is any form of protest taken by staff against their employer, over grievances with pay, working conditions or other terms of employment. This can consist of a complete strike or action short of a strike (ASOS).
Strike: An organised stoppage of work by staff for a period of time, for the purpose of disrupting the regular business of an employer. This is usually a last resort for unions to take if regular negotiations do not work.
Action Short of a Strike: Any industrial action short of striking. This can include not covering for absent staff, not working more than contracted hours, not providing additional materials or a marking and assessment boycott.
USS: Universities Supernnuation Scheme – the primary pension scheme offered by higher education institutions.
UCEA: Universities and Colleges Employers Association – represent universities in national negotiations with government bodies, unions and other organisations.
If you have any further questions, please contact your Student Voice team and elected representatives. The SU is here to support you and your university experience and ensure that your voice is heard by the university.