Strikes: What Are Students Entitled To?

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After seeing several articles about why we should support the UCU strike action that’s planned to take place on February 22, 23, 26, 27, 28 and March 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and upon hearing the news that SUSU have also said they support it, I did find myself agreeing that there is necessity for a strike. With threatened changes to pension schemes, lecturers are set to lose around £10,000 per year after they retire. This, in my opinion, is in no way acceptable. Departments are already facing staff cuts and now they want to make more cuts to those who do stays pensions, how is it all justified? This doesn’t, however, change the fact that we students, who pay a lot of money for our degrees, will face major disruption to our studies with little detail on what compensation if any, we will receive-so I ask the University, what will you do about it? .

Obviously, strikes mean lectures, seminars and any contact/office hours will be cancelled. Although some students have expressed their excitement to use this period for the, I quote, “sesh”, they may be forgetting that we are paying actual money for this and for 14 days, are pretty much throwing it down a drain. Lecturers don’t have to disclose also if they are striking, so we could face turning up to our 9am, forcing ourselves to get up after a good old Sobar Tuesday, to find it’s not even on.

In e-mails that have been sent out to inform students of strike action, there have been statements along the lines of “our main concern is minimising disruption to you”, which is pretty unachievable if they have no lecturers around to neither teach nor to assist students. Strikes, no matter what for, are meant to cause disruption and if they go ahead most students will be affected to some extent. We all agree that lecturers need the pensions they deserve, but we are also parting with a lot of money so should get the education we deserve.

Tutors not being available will be a nightmare for those third/fourth years writing their dissertations – who do they contact when their tutor is absent for 14 days? It isn’t just final year students that need the support either; for many students, in fact, the strikes come at a bad time.

The period the strikes have fallen in is the time leading up to and covering many semester 2 deadlines, perhaps one of the most important and stressful times for students; a time whereby any disruption can cause unnecessary stress that ideally needs to be avoided. My issue is that if the strikes do go ahead for this many days, students will potentially be left with little to no essay/coursework guidance and an incomplete knowledge of course content that may be vital for their work.

If then, this is reflected in their grade, if we see unusually low grades on work submitted during or after strike action, I ask the University what they are going to do? How exactly will they respond if there is evidence that strike action has affected student performance? What would they count as evidence for this, and will students be able to file for special consideration on the basis that strike action has left them with a lack of understanding?

I am currently waiting on a response from the University of Southampton as to what their plans are with regards to the questions above.

It’s not just about a loss of hours but a loss of something many students cherish…Money. £9000 per year for university is already overpriced for many degrees (*cough* humanities *cough*), some only have 3 contact hours a week, so when these are being cut because of strikes, what actually are we paying for? After doing a few calculations for my own course I worked out that per 1 contact hour, I am charged around £55. I then tried to work out how much money I’d be losing over these 14 days if all my lecturers strike…£770. I’d be losing £770 and I only have 7 contact hours a week.

I’d have given the uni £770 to receive nothing back and this does not lay well with me. It’s difficult to know what universities across the country will do about this; how they will respond to many students who quite frankly want their money’s worth or want their money back. There has been such a lack of information provided regarding the strikes that I’m starting to think that universities are not prepared for the disruption and haven’t yet got answers to students’ questions.

So overall you can see, students are really losing out. It isn’t really fair as we have little to no involvement with the matter and can only support the strike, yet we are facing such negative repercussions from it. I understand why strike action is needed but for it to come at the price of thousands of students is not acceptable.

I ask the University of Southampton and universities nationwide, if they cannot work out or negotiate a solution and if disruption is on such a large scale, to at least refund students or give some compensation as we have been unfairly caught up in a dispute that will now affect us just as much, if not more, than themselves.

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