The UCU strikes, how do they affect us?

In collaboration with HK Norman. 

Lecturers at the University of Essex joined over fifty universities across the country today in a planned walkout amid growing controversy from students who are missing out on lessons.

The Students’ Union has assured it will do all it can to “represent” student’s views on the action and “minimize the impact” on their education.

However, many feel unsatisfied with the SU’s ambiguous stance on the matter, and have joined 70,000 fellow students in signing a petition demanding pay-back for lost classes.

The strikes will take place over the next four weeks, and is in retaliation to pension scheme changes that will allegedly leave them £10,000 a year worse off.

But what does this mean for us? The University and College Union (UCU) claims that the so called cut to pensions will affect us as much as it affects them, whereas some argue that cancelling lectures so close to exam season is an overreaction.

We spoke to students around campus to find out how it’s affecting their day.

The first student we spoke to just arrived on campus, greeted by the Student Solidarity picket.

The Genetics student, with one striking lecturer emphasized, saying that he “gets it” and would “hate my pay to be cut too”.

He also praised Vice Chancellor Anthony Forster for his support of the strikers in an article he wrote.

“It seems more like more support  than the whole universities in the UK, I feel like that’s pretty impressive” The second year shared.

At the Business School, Students have gathered to show their solidarity for the strikes, with signs, music and chanting. We caught one of the supporters for a chat about what’s happening to the lecturers, and whether it’s worth cancelling lessons.

“I want to be an academic, so this is my pension as well. This is all part of the same struggle”

As for the students that are directing blame to the protesters, he sympathized, stating that, “we’ve been told that education is a commodity. The concept of it being a public good that we don’t pay for is completely lost”.

But instead of looking at the side affects of the strike, the fellow protester urges students to look at why industrial action is being taken and how important it is to their future in turn.

“I’m fully in support of the strike because I think lecture working conditions are student learning conditions.”

But what is the stance of our university? Save dismissing requests for student refunds, the Essex Students’ Union has remained unclear in its view.

To better understand the thoughts of the SU, we spoke to VP Educational Officer, Ed walker.

 

Walker echoed the concerns of students regarding the SU, ambivalently stating their official position is acknowledging why the strikes are taking place, but ultimately supporting student’s through the interference.

However, giving his personal view, Walker expressed concern for the pension disputes, describing the planned changes as “absolutely catastrophic”.

In his role as Education Officer, he urges students to understand why industrial action is being taken, but also commends the university for doing all it can to assist disgruntled students in the “inevitable disruption” the walkout’s will cause.

The four phased walkouts will continue until mid March – or until an agreement is made with Universities UK. Talks have now resumed following a break down of negotiations.

 

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