A fee paying student’s response to “Why I’m Striking”

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Many of you fee paying students will probably have received an email talking about the staffs’ pay having been cut by 13% over the last four years, and have been asked to not only “understand” this movement, but even to “support” it.

As a student of this University, I fully appreciate the hard work and long hours that our teaching staff “dedicate” to improving their students’ education. However, the bottom line is that they are being paid for this. When applying for a certain post, in whatever job, the applicant has to understand not only what their job role entails, but to also understand their pay and what they’re being paid for.

To be a teacher at Southampton University, you have to be passionate not only about the subject that you teach, but also passionate about your pupils and their wellbeing.

Therefore, in response to the article “Why I’m striking”, in which the teaching assistant clearly realises they have put their seminar groups at a “disadvantage”, I ask “Why?” Why is it that students who are now paying £9,000 per anum, plus living expenses, plus food expenses, should suffer because the teachers have found “no other option” but to strike? I am sympathetic of students who have repeatedly been told to “attend another class”, but cannot because we too have busy schedules and deadlines.

If we students were to “support” this strike, what will we get in return? We will not be taught any better or any worse and we will get no refunds for this, so I ask “What’s in it for the students?” because “Hell knows” we ARE “paying enough”.

Furthermore, if you are going to protest, why not come up with an idea that has had some success in England? As opposed to “striking”, which is a form of protest that clearly hasn’t been working recently; I refer back to the 2012 student protests against the fee increase, which have evidently had no effect.

Lastly, I quote “Will the strike fix all this? Of course not”. If the teaching assistant who has written their article is meant to represent the staff at Southampton University and their opinions and reasons for the strike then I am thoroughly disappointed. How exactly are students meant to support a strike that the teaching staff themselves don’t fully believe will work and improve their pay situation?

It is a somewhat ridiculous thought to know that whilst paying more fees than any past students in English universities, we are now being forced to miss lessons we have paid for, and are being asked to participate in movement in which the teaching staff have no faith.

Why not get together and discuss a solution that you believe WILL work, instead of participating in something in which you have no faith, and disadvantaging fee paying students?

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Discussion14 Comments

  1. avatar
    Kačenka Čerčova

    Apologies to everybody who wrote a comment and has had it removed. I am a new writer for Wessex Scene, and the removal of your comments was entirely unintentional; nothing to do with censorship, it was just down to human error. Please feel free to comment on this article.
    NB: This article is also not meant to be offensive to anyone, it is just trying to look at the strike from an alternate point of view. I hope that my apology will be accepted and this will never happen again.
    Sincerest apologies.

    Fred
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    ok! sorry for the assumption of “cencorship” on my behalf. must learn to never assume 😉 However, is it possible to put them back? don’t want to write the same thing twice, although the current comments seem to go in similar direction anyway…

  2. avatar

    For information its not just lecturers taking action. There are cleaners, catering staff, porters, posties – who are all paid less than the living wage – coming out on strike too. Without them there is no education – the uni has to shut. These people work hard to keep the uni running, yet their pay is being cut in real terms each year.

    So whilst thinking about whether this action is justified or not, spare a fleeting moment thinking about the people who work split shifts – up at 5am and back to work at 7pm – cleaning crap off the loos!

  3. avatar
    Concerned student

    Hi Kačenka

    The article you refer to says that it doesn’t expect the strike to fix all of the problems in HE. That doesn’t mean the strike isn’t the right response to this one issue (pay). What else are staff supposed to do? Employers have all the power over raising or cutting wages.

    You are right it is unfair for students. But the question is who is to blame? Look at it this way – your fees have gone up by £6000pa – and yet you don’t have any extra teachers, and the existing staff are seeing their wages fall! So where is the money going!?

    If the new reforms aren’t benefiting students *or* staff then rather than blaming each other, shouldn’t we be demanding answers from elsewhere?

  4. avatar
    Concerned support staff

    Dear Kačenka

    You should be angry, but who should you be directing your anger at? It isn’t just academic staff who are involved in tomorrow’s strike, but support services as well. Any university has an army of behind the scence staff who make it possible to academics to teach… I have never gone on strike before in my life, and it is something that I have wrestled over with myself. You ask “Why not get together and discuss a solution that you believe WILL work” – well this has been discussed for a long time, and please rest assured that it is not something anyone is taking lightly – I am very nervous about taking part tomorrow, but feel that there is no other resolution. On Friday there was a final meeting between senior management, who resolutely said no to any negotiations on pay. So this really is the last option available. This is the senior management who take home six figure salaries and have significant annual pay increases. Instead they run a “wellbeing day” for staff, with workshops on stress management to keep us quiet, never mind our financial wellbeing. I have every sympathy for the students affected, for what it’s worth you are encouraged to complete a rebate form, to compensate you for missed teaching and your own union, SUSU have voiced their support.

  5. avatar
    A Soton Academic and UCU Rep

    “When applying for a certain post, in whatever job, the applicant has to understand not only what their job role entails, but to also understand their pay and what they’re being paid for.”

    So staff are simply to shrug our shoulders when our pay plunges and we can’t pay our heating bills? Accept a worse life year after year, despite having 8+ years of higher education behind us and internationally-known research expertise? None of us signed up for 5 years of pay cuts, these have been forced upon us.

    The implication that asking for a bare-minimum pay rise that keeps pace with inflation somehow indicates staff here are not ‘passionate’ is, frankly, offensive. Staff at this University are intensely dedicated, and have persevered in their duties despite massive increases in workloads and decreases in pay. Remember that the average UK academic works 55 hours per week — we deserve a fair wage.

    The bottom line is that pay cuts like these not only are disastrous and inhumane for staff, but will undermine the long-term sustainability of universities in the UK. I can attest personally to this — in the last few years, several of my most trusted colleagues have elected to leave UK academia. We are passionate, motivated people — but we have limits. For me that line was crossed last year, when stories were reported on the BBC about UK academics who were so impoverished that they were foraging for food in bins. Enough is enough.

    As a side note, I’m confused as to why you would conflate the 2012 fee protests with strike action? Protests and strike action are different things.

    Jamie
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    I’m still on the fence with whether I support this or not. Whilst I understand the situation that lecturers& support staff are in, I have one problem with the debate…
    How many lecturers stood up to the rise in fees back in 2010? I can tell you for definite that my lecturers told me NOT to attend as ‘it wouldn’t make any difference and wasn’t even that bad for students anyway’. They all seemed very silent about the whole issue back then, yet now are expecting us to be completely behind them.
    I’m still undecided as I don’t want to take the opposing side and essentially end up punishing those few lecturers &s taff that did stand up for students back in 2010 (and 2012).
    Let’s also not forget that most of the staff are British and therefore received free education throughout their studies. It’s pretty frustrating for students to experience an £8k fee rise and then have teaching staff strike. But I do appreciate that that isn’t entirely the fault of staff/Unions.

    Jamie
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    By ‘Attend’, I meant ‘Attend the protests’

    UCU Member
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    Jamie – this is a very fair point. A lot of lecturers should have done a lot more back in 2010. The fees are disgusting, and it’s a disgrace if a staff member warned you off protesting.

    However, many staff did get involved in the campaign against fees – and the union (UCU) did at lot here at Southampton and nationally, so I think it’s worth supporting them. And moreover, if we don’t start to work together to say to VCs and MPs that enough is enough, then what next? The Russell Group is already talking about raising fees to £16,000 – and cuts to pay and staff are likely to get worse still.

    George
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    Tomorrow the Vice Chancellor – Don Nutbeam – is at a meeting of the Russell Group, where they’re going to be discussing putting tuition fees up. When he should be here supporting his staff – cleaners to Professors – in their efforts to be paid fairly.

    UCU’s position is that they’re completely against tuition fees going up. We raised this issue in a meeting with University management a week ago. Their position was to tell us that the Universities official and only position on fees is that they will ‘set them at the highest possible level’.

    Jamie, UCU are on your side, make no mistake about it. And they will back you to the hilt in any struggle to prevent fees rising again (and to ideally get them down). I hope you can support us and our fellow members from Unision and Unite tomorrow.

    Jamie
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    You’ve convinced me. I am fully im support.

    One criticism I have of the protest on the day though:

    Some pickets were not allowing deliveries to independent businesses on the main campus. Businesses that rely on these deliveries and are only related to the university via the building they reside in suffered yesterday as a result. This is poor behaviour…

  6. avatar
    Michael Smith-Browning Page

    I am a student and I am supporting the strike. This is not just about our Lecturers’s pay. This is about our future too. When I finish my degree and start working, I will expect to be paid fairly. I don’t want to be forced into zero hour contracts. I don’t want to be forced to stay living with my parents. I want to be able to support myself and perhaps even raise my own family in the future. Like all my friends and colleagues, I came to the University because I wanted a future. But if we don’t support our Lecturers and University staff, we won’t have a future.

  7. avatar

    The author seems to forget that the only reason why we live in a relatively comfortable society is precisely because workers ‘inconvenienced’ others with strike action. The sneering, pig ignorant tone suggests, however, that a grasp of the facts is not his strong point.

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