The UCU and University staff have announced another 18 days of strikes throughout February and March. After a strike action before the Christmas break, strikes are back on. This time the strikes are longer and will affect university students more than we realise. So what impact will the UCU strikes have on students?
2.5 million students across the UK will be affected.
The reason? Pay, pensions and working conditions. The UCU warned that the disputes need to be resolved soon. Otherwise it will cause even more widespread disruption. On top of everything, there was a marking boycott last year.
Whilst there is no denying that higher education staff have good reasons for going on strike, unfortunately no one is discussing the impact that these strikes are having on students themselves. Undergraduates and postgraduates are the ones affected and they cannot help resolve the issue. Is that really fair?
The UCU announced that their members had rejected the latest offer made to them.
Are strikes fair on students?
No. The strikes are not fair. However that does not mean that we don’t understand why our professors are going on strike. Surely if we were in their position we would do the same. However, we are not.
But what is clear is that the strikes are affecting the wrong people.
We, the students, are paying over £9,000 a year in tuition fees. International students are paying over £20,000 in fees. When prospective students are looking at joining a UK university and see 18 days of strikes they will take their money elsewhere.
Students pay £9,000 a year in tuition fees in order to follow their curriculums. Why should they keep paying if they have to teach themselves?
On top of paying and putting ourselves in debt we are missing out on a lot of contact hours. Many professors will often say, come to lectures, come to the seminars they will help you do better in coursework. They will even show you proof.
But then they disappear on you. Missing contact hours is important for all students, whether they are first years, third years or even Masters students. When seminars are cancelled because of strikes and students need these seminars to write their coursework, you can see how unfair it is.
It is unfair in this year’s strikes just as it was unfair in those that took place last year and the year before.
Students have gone through two years of online studying and now are impacted by strikes.
However, there is no denying that the action staff are taking is important. Everyone should speak out. Why are students being the ones affected?
Students speak out
Many will tell you that they support their professors and their demands. It is honourable. Students are allowed to join the picket lines in support of their professors. This student is.
However, it is necessary to highlight the real-life impact that these strikes are having on students. The strikes that are happening now and those that happened before. University of Nottingham History MA student, Emily Oxbury, told me that because of the strikes she is missing on average two out of four classes a week.
As an undergraduate student, Miss Oxbury told me that she was affected by the boycott of marking and assessment that happened last May.
After working months on a dissertation, no one read it. We ask again: how is that fair? Unfortunately, students do not play a role in getting professor’s demands met.
A final year Politics and International Relations undergraduate, who did not wished to be named, told me he would miss 13 hours of contact time because of the strikes.
I spoke to another student of German and Politics who is again missing an average two out of four classes a week.
If professors and members of the UCU can speak out, then so can students. Undergraduates and postgrads are the ones affected by the strikes but cannot do anything about it. If things continue, students themselves will want to strike over missed contact time.
We beg universities and the UCU to come to an agreement and to stop disturbing our studies.
Related: How Much Does The Open University Cost?