Everything you need to know about the UCU strikes

The UCU strikes are set to go ahead but what does this mean for students?

Which universities will be affected?

61 universities across the country would be affected by the strike. Out of them, twelve are in London: Birkbeck, Brunel, City, Courtauld Institute, Goldsmiths, Imperial, KCL, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Queen Mary, Royal Holloway, SOAS and UCL.

Not all staff members at universities are UCU members. It is up to their discretion whether to stand in solidarity with their striking colleagues or carry on with classes as usual.

When are the strikes supposed to take place?

  • Thursday 22 and Friday 23 February.
  • Monday 26, Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 February
  • Monday 5, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 March
  • Monday 12, Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Thursday 15 and Friday 16 March

Due to academic calendars, four universities – including King’s College London – will not be starting the strike with other universities. If the strike continues, then lecturers will be striking on : 

  • Monday 19 and Tuesday 20 March.

What will happen on strike days?

  • Lawful picket lines could be set up around university entrances.
  • Classes will be disrupted if no agreement is reached before the first strike date.
  • There is no legal obligation for staff members to inform their departments that they are striking. As a result, lecturers may or may not show up for seminars and lectures, and classes will be disrupted if the strike takes place.
  • In some institutions, lecturers wrote to students to inform them lectures will still be taking place (and attendance will still be taken), after individual requests from students for information.

Why are UCU members striking?

  • At present, those on USS with salaries up to £55,550 have what’s called a Defined Benefit Pension, which means their employers promise to pay them specified pension payments on retirement. For money earned over this threshold, pension contributions are instead put into a Defined Contribution Model, which means pension payments on retirement depend entirely on returns from stock market investment.
  • UUK’s proposal would move the entirety of members’ earnings on to a defined contribution model, in a bid to close a deficit that USS estimates to be £7.5 billion.
  • UCU says this would leave a typical lecturer almost £10,000 a year worse off once they retire.

What does this mean for students?

  • Unless an agreement is reached, it is likely that students will have classes disrupted.
  • However, as lecturers are not obliged to inform their heads of department about whether they will be striking, students will have to contact lecturers individually – who can inform them at their discretion – or turn up on the day of seminars and lectures and find out.

Are the strikes definitely going ahead?

  • At present, some institutions have informed students that they are negotiating with UCU and Universities UK in order to come to an agreement.
  • However, there has been no further information provided from UCU or institutions involved to suggest this is the case.

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