University students have launched a petition to demand tuition fee refunds in response to the University and College Union (UCU) decision to hold eight days of strikes at sixty UK universities, including the University of Southampton.
Affected students launching petitions for financial recompense include those from the University of Bangor, claiming that they are entitled to at least £380 in lost teaching time.
The industrial action comes after UCU members overwhelmingly voted to back two motions on changes to pensions and ‘pay, equality, casualisation and workloads‘. The initial dispute arose from university staff’s objections to changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), which they argue will leave them ten of thousands of pounds worse off. Changes include increasing annual contribution levels from 6.35% of salary in 2011 to 9.6%, introduced last month.
UCU members at the 60 affected universities will walk out from 25 November until 4 December, resulting in one-and-a-half weeks in lost teaching time for students. In addition to this action, members will begin alternative forms of protest upon returning to work, including not covering work for absent colleagues and refusing to reschedule lectures lost due to the strike action.
One of the students behind the petition for refunds said:
“If universities want to run themselves like businesses and treat students like customers, that cuts both ways – customers who don’t get what they pay for are entitled to a refund.”
This newest wave of strikes comes just over a year after tens of thousands of students signed petitions for refunds in response to the longest-ever strike by staff in UK higher education, which lasted for fourteen days in February and March 2018.
This winter’s strikes could affect more than one million students, and there is a possibility that legal action, similar to lawsuits amounting to £20 million taken last year by students against their universities, could be launched again.