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UK Lecturers on Strike: What it Means for Business Schools

UK Lecturers on Strike: What it Means for Business Schools main image

On February 20, University and College Union (UCU) members at 74 UK universities began 14 days of strikes, in a dispute over pay, working conditions and pensions of lecturers and university staff, including librarians and employees on temporary contracts.

Institutions affected by the strike include Imperial College London, the University of Oxford, the University of Warwick, the University of Cambridge, the University of Manchester and the University of Edinburgh – all of which are ranked among the UK’s top business schools and MBA providers.

If you’re a student at one of these universities and are wondering what the strike is about and how it might affect you, here’s everything you need to know.

What are university workers striking over?

Strikers argue that the expansion of higher education institutions after the increase of tuition fees in 2012 has pushed universities to invest excessive amounts of funding in recruitment at the expense of working conditions and the quality of teaching.

According to UCU research, staff’s real-terms pay has declined by 20 percent over the past decade, with gender and ethnicity pay disparities still far from being resolved.

Seven out of 10 higher education researchers are stuck with fixed-term contracts and 30 percent of teaching is done by academics under hourly-paid casual working arrangements, leading to 42 percent of faculty members struggling to pay bills.

Lecturers and faculty are also demanding fairer workloads. Daniela Caselli, a lecturer at the University of Manchester, told the Guardian: “We should work 37.5 hours a week, but it’s actually more like 60 or 70. We want to do our job well, but I feel constantly put in a position where I perform not at my best.”

Do politicians support the strike?

The Government hasn’t said much about the strike.

The only official comment came from Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi, who said: “Students are paying good money for [their] education. [Universities should] make sure that education is delivered to them. It’s important that if any student is impacted that that university has a plan in place to deal with that.”

On the other hand, Labour members have declared solidarity with striking university workers.

How will I be affected by the strike?

Most universities that offer postgraduate business management courses have said to be open as usual.

While there are likely to be picket lines in some campus areas, picketers cannot stop you from entering university buildings or force you to engage in discussions – so if you want to go to class, you’re absolutely allowed to.

Teaching hours may be changed or canceled depending on your lecturers, tutors and assistants. If you haven’t received any official communication from your teachers or the head of your department, your schedule will probably be unaffected, and you’ll still be able to go to class, tutorials and feedback sessions.

If any of these activities have been canceled, your department will arrange alternative teaching, assessing and feedback sessions, although these will vary from school to school.

If you have scheduled assignments to turn in, all universities have advised students to complete them in time for your original deadlines. Feedback may be delayed, but this depends entirely on whether your lecturers and tutors are striking.

To minimize the impact of the strikes on student activities, a UCU spokesperson has also advised universities to invest the money they will save from not paying striking staff into student-facing activities. It’s still unclear if universities plan to do so.

The last official day for striking is March 13. After that, teaching activities will likely go back to normal.

Can I ask my university for compensation over the strike?

If you’re unhappy about the impact the strike has had on your studies, you have a right to complain to the university and demand compensation.

If your school refuses, you can take your complaint further to appropriate institutions: the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) in England or Wales, the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) in Scotland, and the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO) in Northern Ireland.

In 2018, when 575,000 hours were lost to strikes, the OIA advised one university to give an international student compensation totaling £1,283.75 (US$1,640.27), so it’s not entirely impossible you’ll get some money back.

Nevertheless, you should wait until the end of the strike to raise a formal complaint.

For any news or official statement on the strike, keep an eye on the UCU website.

Written by Linda Mohamed

Linda is Content Writer at TopMBA, creating content about students, courses, universities and businesses. She recently graduated in Journalism & Creative Writing with Politics and International Relations, and now enjoys writing for a student audience. 

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