Strike action could disrupt summer examinations if there is no resolution to the dispute over UK higher education’s biggest pension scheme, union bosses have warned.
The warning comes as staff at 65 universities prepare to start a 14-day walkout on 22 February in protest against plans to scrap the element of the Universities Superannuation Scheme that guarantees a certain level of pension income in retirement. It follows a ballot in which 88 per cent of participating University and College Union members voted for strike action.
Industrial action begins with a two-day walkout on 22 and 23 February, escalating to strikes of three, four and five days in subsequent weeks (26-28 February, 5-8 March and 12-16 March).
The union’s higher education committee is due to meet on 2 March, two weeks into the action, to decide whether further action is required.
More than 1 million students are set to be affected with around 575,000 teaching hours lost as a result of the strikes, according to union estimates.
Increasing numbers of undergraduates are angry that the strike means they will not get value for money for their £9,000 annual tuition fees they have already paid.
A series of online petitions have been launched calling for universities to refund students for lectures that are cancelled due to the industrial action. Meanwhile, some students union leaders have been openly critical of action affecting students.
Conrad White, a student at University of York, launched an online petition calling for cash-strapped students to be reimbursed.
The 18-year-old first year politics student stressed that his petition was not against the strike, but merely demanding value for money.
“The university wants it both ways: they want to take the tuition fees money and behave like a business in that way, but then not offer students consumer rights.”
Last night nearly 2,000 students had signed the petition asking for a “fair” £300 refund if the strike goes ahead. Comments posted on the site explain how students feel they are entitled to compensation if the university fails to deliver services they have been paid for.
Alex Jee, 3rd year Politics and English student at the University of York stated today, “Whether or not you agree with the strike is irrelevant. I feel like the lecturers are using my education, and my fellow students’, like a bargaining chip. It’s impossible to be motivated when you feel like your tutors don’t care.”