Staff in the University and College Union (UCU) will be on strike for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week. This is part of a continuing dispute with Universities (UUK) over proposed changes to pension arrangements. Further strikes are planned over the following weeks: this schedule may change if the parties involved return to talks or take up arbitration.
How will this affect me?
It’s impossible to say for certain: not all staff are UCU members; many different people are involved in running various parts of the university; and the situation changes day by day.
I expect that some or all of your lectures, tutorials, seminars, classes, and labs will not happen. The withdrawal of labour by those on strike is quite comprehensive: on strike days the staff involved will not read or respond to email; and afterwards they will not undertake any additional work to replace cancelled activities. They will also have their pay docked by the University as a penalty for this.
Online resources will probably all remain available, as will computing services, and you can continue to submit any coursework for assessment.
Can I continue to study?
Yes, certainly. Most first-year courses follow a very fixed and predictable schedule, with extensive supporting material. For Inf1-DA, I recommend you consult the Archive of previous years courses. Going back to 2016/17 you will see a list of lectures, including that scheduled for this Tuesday, on Navigating XML using XPath.
I expect that many first-year courses will provide enough material available in textbooks and online to learn everything that is in the curriculum: indeed, this is how many students each year practice for the resit exam in August if they have not passed at the first attempt. Even so, this is clearly less satisfactory than the regular schedule of teaching. There is a Board of Examiners who award the final marks and grades for the year: they meet after all teaching and assessment is complete. This year, they will also know what lectures, tutorials, and other events did not happen as planned, and can take this information into account.
How can I find out more?
Both the employers organisation (UUK) and the staff union (UCU) have produced information for students and others.
Local and national unions of students support the strike and have published their own guides.
- Student FAQ from EUSA, the Edinburgh University Student Assocation
- Everything You Need to Know About the UCU Strike from NUS, the National Union of Students
Many people involved in university education, both staff and students, have published articles and videos about the strike. I’ve collected links to a few.
- Everything you want to know about the strike in 2 minutes from staff and students at the University of Warwick (also on YouTube)
- UCU Pensions Stike Explainer by staff and students at Goldsmiths, University of London
- Why We Strike by Waseem Yazoob of Cambridge University
- Please join the UCU strike action right now by Kate Cross at St Andrews
- Why I Don’t Want to Go On Strike by a UK university lecturer (anonymous)
- Made in Westminster: The Source of the USS ‘Crisis’ by Sean Wallis, University College London (UCL)
I think the following two points are particularly relevant and are not always included in press coverage.
While UUK claim the pension fund is several billion pounds in deficit, this is strongly contested by others: both in the method used for calculating this estimate and the assumptions made in doing so.
Previous reductions in 2011, following the 2008 financial crisis, finished any ‘final salary’ part of the pension scheme and considerably reduced staff pensions: under the claim that while painful this would at least ensure long-term sustainability of the fund.
The heads of several UK universities have come out to say that the UUK should return to negotiations with UCU. So far, this has not included Edinburgh: recently 278 professors at the university published their letter to the Principal urging him to do so.
Can I Complain to Someone?
Please do. You can write to the Principal at P.Mathieson@ed.ac.uk or firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you might write to Prof. Jeffery, email@example.com, Senior Vice-Principal with responsibility for student experience, teaching and learning.
The UCU offer an online email form to contact the Principal; you can use their text or write your own.