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Everything you need to know about the UCU Strike

Friday 23 February 2018 NUS News

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at 61 institutions will be taking strike action over the future of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) after negotiations ended without an agreement between representatives from UCU and Universities UK (UUK).

Here is everything that students need to know about the strike…


Why is the strike taking place?

The University and College Union (UCU) is the trade union that represents academics in universities. It is currently in dispute with universities over proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). These proposals would mean that a typical lecturer could lose up to a staggering £10,000 a year and total £208,000 over their lifetime career.

In response, a national ballot of members took place with 88% of lecturers voting to take strike action. This has started the biggest strike on university campuses in over 50 years.

What happens during a strike?

Strikes are a kind of industrial action often considered a last resort. It involves members of a trade union choosing to withdraw their labour during a dispute, often when negotiations have stalled or a compromise solution has not been found. The ‘right to strike’ is internationally regarded as a basic human right.

When workers go on strike they will form what is called a ‘picket’ outside their place of work. This is to encourage other workers to show solidarity with the strikers by refusing to cross into the workplace – for many, not crossing a ‘picket line’ is a point of principle. 

When will it happen?

Strikes will be begin on the 22nd February 2018. 61 Universities will be taking part in the action over a four-week period that will begin with a five-day walkout either side of a weekend over the following dates:


Week one - Thursday 22 and Friday 23 February (two days)


Week two - Monday 26, Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 February (three days)


Week three - Monday 5, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 March (four days)


Week four - Monday 12, Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Thursday 15 and Friday 16 March (five days)


Here is a list of participating institutions.


Note: Due to their academic calendar four universities - King's, Queen Mary, Edinburgh and Stirling - will not take action in week one. They will start their action in week two on Monday 26 February. They will then walk out for two days on Monday 19 and Tuesday 20 March.

Why is NUS supporting the strike?

We believe that fairly rewarded staff are the cornerstone of the university experience and that the proposal by Universities UK to substantially cut the pensions of members of the USS pension scheme will be hugely damaging if implemented.

Lecturers have consistently demonstrated support for students and have campaigned alongside us over the years on issues such as tuition fees and the scrapping of maintenance grants. There is an agenda to introduce further competition into Higher Education which has resulted in rising fees and cuts to student provision – this attempt to undermine the contracts of our lecturers is just another consequence of these policies.

The power to end this dispute sits with our institutions. We therefore stand in full solidarity with UCU and are calling on university negotiators to immediately return to the table. See the joint UCU/NUS statement.

What about the disruption to students?

The university negotiators, Universities UK (UUK) have refused to continue negotiations with UCU. This means that the responsibility for any disruption entirely rests with institutions. If you are concerned about the impact of the strike, you should let your institution know. You can Write to your institution head to complain about the impact the strike will have on your learning, and urge them to return to negotiations.

If you believe you are concerned about the impact on your assessment, you could apply for mitigating circumstances. You may also want to consider an academic appeal or formal complaint. It is important in these instances to log and evidence any disruption. Get in touch with your with your students’ union for further guidance.

What can you do to help?

Let your lecturers know that you support them – it will mean a lot! Keep an eye out for solidarity actions planned by your students’ union and please join in wherever you can.

The more that students show their support, the greater the chance that the strike will be successful in forcing universities back to re-enter negotiations and settle the dispute.