Strike Action: Answering Student’s questions

We know that many students will have concerns about the upcomming strike action and it would be disengenuous of us to claim that there will be no negative impact on students.

What is important to sayis that we really don’t want to strike because not simply because we obviously lose pay in doing so but also because we all want to see our students do as well as possible. The issue of course is that the employers aren’t recruiting enough lecturers, they aren’t financing support services well enough and they aren’t paying wages which mean we can recruit enough staff.

All of these things have been going on for years and the quality that students experience has inevitably fallen as a result (unlike their fees). So if we don’t make a stand now then it will simply get worse and worse.

We want the same as students: To provide the quality of education they deserve and which is value for money. It is a real shame that the only way we can get the Universities to provide this is to strike.

Recently we asked the Oxford Brookes Student Union to invite questions from students and below are the answers provided by the Chair of the Oxford Brookes UCU Branch.

Will I and if so, how can I claim monies back from missed lectures due to lecturers not being there.

This would have to be taken up with the university, via Head of School – the union is not in a position to reimburse students for lost learning – we lose pay every time we go on strike, so it would be a double whammy!

Will the strikes impact exams? will we be assessed on missed content?

There is no simple answer to this. In the first instance, if you are concerned about this you should speak to your lecturer and seek their advice: I am sure they will be sympathetic, but need to balance this against the need to ensure that the learning outcomes and assessed appropriately – particularly if the programme is externally validated, so we can’t guarantee their won’t be some impact – but the sooner the employer recognises the union’s claim the less risk there is of this.

What happens about the topics I miss during the strike? Am I just expected to learn about them myself?

As with the previous answer – seek guidance from your lecturer on managing learning and assessment expectations.

Why Can’t the university pay staff what they’re asking?

UCU believes they can – but this is really a question for the VC and governors.

Can you give a breakdown about how we have needed up in this situation and why lectures are striking?

The union has been attempting to negotiate over pay and other issues – workloads, equality and, precarious contracts – for several years, with little progress. The purpose of the strike action is to try and get the national employer – UCEA, which represents all universities and HEs across the country – back to the negotiating table and to put a serious offer to us on all of these. The value of academic pay has gone down in real terms by at least 20% in the last twenty years, and pay has not kept pace with the rise in the cost of living. The employer has imposed a 3% deal for this year and we are seeking a 12% increase, which will only go part way to making up for pay lost over the years. Striking is a last resort – and all members across the country were balloted, and the majority voted in favour of taking this action – so it’s not just Brookes.

This link gives further details: UCU why we are striking

Could you potentially give a rough estimate of which faculty’s will be most impacted?

Impossible to say – we have strong representation across the university, and hopefully all members will be supporting the action.

Will lecturers tell students beforehand if their lectures are cancelled or could we show up to no lecturer?

This will be up to the lecturer – there is no obligation to tell the university if someone is going on strike , only after they have taken the action. My advice to colleagues is that they can tell students, and I can’t see a problem with asking whether a class is going ahead or not – but don’t pressurise the lecturer for an answer.

How are students who are going to be impacted by the strike going to be supported due to missing on on learning time? If there is a support plan, how will lectures be held accountable for providing support?

Lecturers are held accountable by not being paid for time they are on strike. It’s the employer that needs to be accountable for not providing adequate pay and other conditions of employment. If a class is missed because the lecturer is on strike, they will not be required to reschedule since this is work they won’t be paid for.

For the university: what are your plans in regards to raising wages to meet the rise of inflation of living costs?

Good question. You can find the Vice Chancellor’s contact details here. Students should feel free to email and ask

Can students get exceptional circumstances for missed lectures/ delayed responses from strikes and will the uni tell them this if so?

We haven’t seen any guidance on this, and it is not a decision those on strike can take – it should be addressed to the university via Heads of School and Deans

Why is it always students who lose out when there’s an issue? Has anything been done to reduce the impact on students?

Staff are also losing out by losing a significant amount of pay – in the longer term students should benefit from having better motivated lecturers who are properly paid and not overworked, but the point is taken.

Will we be told in advance if our lectures are cancelled? Can we get refunds for travel if we turn up and our lecturers don’t?

See above – if students have suffered unnecessary costs then they should contact the university – Dean or Head of School. In the past, the university has put any pay saved from striking staff into a student hardship fund, so there may be a mechanism for claiming against this under certain criteria which we do control.