This is a letter written by MSc. Sustainability students at the University of Southampton, in response to the current UCU strikes.
To Whom It May Concern,
I am writing to you on behalf of the entire MSc Sustainability cohort of 2018. We would like to make you aware of our support for the lecturers facing pension cuts, and our dismay at the actions of the University in allowing the situation to decline to a point where our educations are affected.
First and foremost, we fully support the action taken by the lecturers. It is outrageous that their tireless contributions to our academic careers, and the work they do to maintain the University’s position as an excellent research institute is not fairly compensated. The relationships we have developed with researchers at the University, for some over our undergraduate degree as well as our master’s, will continue to impact our careers long after we leave the University. They have constantly been there to support us academically, and pastorally in some cases. Their depth of knowledge and dedication to our education drives us to do our best and work hard at our degrees. We feel that this should be rewarded with appropriate compensation in the form of appropriate salaries and pensions.
However, we are outraged at the actions of the University of Southampton, and its national counterparts for their inadequate negotiations with the UCU to prevent actions which are now having an impact on our education. We have all paid, in advance, for a high-quality education and we expect that to be delivered. Due to the strike we will be losing contact time with lecturers. This will severely affect our development of skills required for our dissertations and careers. We will be missing a key lecture responsible for setting one of our assignments and the University has given no guidance as what to do when our deadline comes for a piece of work we have no information about. Our ability to contact potential dissertation supervisors or continue communication with supervisors will be compromised. These all affect the outcome of our intensive master’s course and could potentially impact our likelihood of obtaining a job and getting started in our desired careers.
We are asking that the University personally take action to uphold the pensions and salaries of our lecturers to properly compensate them for their work and to ensure the provision of education. In addition, in light of the actions taking place we would like our marks to be carefully moderated as they will be affected by this disruption to our academics, and compensation for the failure to provide the education we were promised when we paid our tuition fees.
The following are anonymous testimonies from the many students enrolled on the MSc Sustainability course this year:
‘A university is first and foremost an institution of research and learning therefore the welfare of the academic teaching staff and students should be a priority within all business decisions. I cannot understand the justification for the CEO of any business to receive a pay rise whilst staff within that organisation are feeling forced to strike over their own workers rights and, in this particular context, customers (students) of the organisation are not satisfied with the service for which they are paying.’
‘I am disappointed at the university. The quality of the education we receive is being affected. We are unable to learn the skills we may need in our dissertation but, also, our future career. This is simply unacceptable, especially, since we are paying such a high fee.’
‘I decided to study my undergraduate degree and masters degree at the University of Southampton due to the high standard of teaching. I am very disappointed that this level of teaching is being compromised by lack of care for our lecturers, and in turn us, as students. As a student I am being put in a very difficult uncomfortable position during and after this strike. We are mostly uninformed by the university of how they are approaching the strike and what actions will be taken to compensate our loss of contact hours and confusion to be had during and after the strike regarding important assignments. I support the decisions made by my lecturers. The majority of the lecturers I have had contact with during my time at the university have been very invested in our learning and making our university experience a rich one. These issues must be addressed by the Vice Chancellor and his team promptly to avoid anymore disturbance to us as students and also our lecturers.’
‘I’m very disappointed about how the university is handling this situation and affecting their pension. Moreover I came from another country expecting a great education, which it is, but this is deeply affecting my academic formation.’
‘University is expensive and we have paid in advance for a service that we expected to be delivered. If we had bought an airline ticket and the flight couldn’t be delivered we would be compensated or given an alternative flight, so this should be the same for lectures. The strikes are interrupting a very important module for us, a module that is designed to provide a foundation for the skills we need to produce our masters dissertation. This interruption will impact not only an assignment which was due to be set, but also the development of other skills that we need for our dissertation.’
We hope you will take our opinions seriously and acknowledge the stress and disruption that your actions have caused.
The MSc Sustainability Cohort 2018
On behalf of the cohort