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Supporting the UCU strike as a finalist
By Lucy Pegg
The University and College Union’s (UCU) strike over pension changes kicks in from 22nd February, spread over four weeks until 16th March, unless Universities UK commit to further negotiations. This industrial action is an important stand against the creeping marketisation of universities, where profit is put before staff or students. But it’s also undeniable that the strikes will have a dramatic impact upon students, who will miss equivalent to two weeks of teaching time; if you’re a finalist, the panic of missing so much of your course will probably hit you even harder. No matter how much you support your striking lecturers, its hard not to feel your final term of university is going to waste.
That doesn’t have to be the case though. Learning doesn’t just have to take space within the regimented hours on your timetable – in fact, the UCU strike in part challenges such a narrow conception of university education. Here are five ways you can make the most of your final term, whilst still standing in solidarity with your lecturers.
Get started on that dissertation
The big obvious answer to what to do with all this unexpected free time is to get to work on your dissertation. Whether you started your research months ago or have only just had to start thinking about it, strike weeks can let you crack on with your work and perhaps even avoid a last minute rush. Even if you’d ideally like to be talking to your lecturers about your dissertation, there should still be books to read and journals to scour – all of which can be very time consuming – in their absence.
Set up off-campus, informal study groups
Just because your lecturer is on strike it doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to gather your seminar or course groups together yourselves and discuss the set material. As many students supporting the strikes won’t want to set foot on campus and cross the picket line, suggest meeting up at your local library or a café that’s good for work. Your university or students’ union might also have set up “neutral” spaces on campus that you can use to meet up in, again without “crossing” the picket line.
Do your secondary reading
In the usual mess of term time, who really gets around to doing their secondary, non-essential reading, when there’s not an essay you need to use it for? But in the absence of your lecturers, this reading can be your guide through the course material. Even if you only manage to skim through it, getting a glimpse of what academics are thinking about your topic will broaden your study beyond your own ideas.
Use office hours
Much like secondary reading, office hours could be an under-used resource that might save you during the strike. If you’re lucky your lecturers’ office hours should every so often fall outside of the strike days, or your lecturers might let you book appointments with them on non-strike days even if this isn’t usually when they’d be seeing students. Go to them with essay plans (or even just essay vague ideas) and anything you’d like to discuss about course content that you found interesting and haven’t been able to discuss due to cancelled seminars.
Take a stand for the future’s students
As a finalist caught up in the strike action, it can feel a bit like we’re punished by fate for happening to be graduating this year. Why are we losing teaching and contact hours at the most crucial part of our university study? And it’s true that we’re unlucky – but in the bigger picture, our support of the strike plays a role in ensuring that the kind of university education we’ve had will be there for the students of the future. University staff must be valued if we’re to have an academic community in which everyone can flourish, and ensuring staff have adequate pension provisions is part of that