Frequently Asked Questions
THIS PAGE RELATES TO THE 2019-20 STRIKES
What is going on?
74 UK Universities will be impacted by strike action. The University and College Union (UCU), the nationwide trade union representing academic and support staff, has announced 14 days of industrial action over the future of the pension scheme, pay and conditions across 74 different universities, including UCL.
In November last year, UCU members backed strike action in two separate legal disputes, one on pensions and one on pay and working conditions, including the gender and ethnicity pay gaps and reducing casualisation. Overall, 79% of UCU members who voted backed strike action in the ballot over changes to pensions. In the ballot on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads, 74% of members polled backed strike action. Strikes this February and March are a continuation of this action.
What might this mean for you?
It is difficult to predict how you will be affected, particularly ahead of time. UCU represents staff across a variety of academic and professional services roles, but not all staff are members. Staff who choose to strike do not have to tell UCL of their intention beforehand and they may not commit to all 14 days.
This industrial action could mean that your classes or lectures are cancelled or that labs and spaces are closed or have limited availability. You may also find that offices and student support services are not fully staffed on strike days.
You may see a picket line made up of UCU members outside some UCL buildings. Staff may ask you not to cross their picket line but they are not allowed to prevent you from entering the building.
When is the UCU strike happening?
14 days in total, spread across four weeks.
- Week one - Monday 24, Tuesday 25 & Wednesday 26 February
- Week two - Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 & Thursday 5 March
- Week three - Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 & Friday 13 March
- Week four - Thursday 19 & Friday 20 March
Will Students' Union buildings and services be open?
Yes, all Union buildings, cafes, bars and the gym will be open as usual. If you arrive on campus to find your lecture cancelled, our spaces are open for you to study.
Will not crossing the picket line effect my attendance?
Will Tier 4 visa students be penalised for not attending classes?
UCL have said that if you are a student on a Tier 4 visa, you will not be penalised if you are unable to attend classes that have been cancelled due to the strike action. UCL will assume that you are engaged with your studies in other ways if your classes are not running.
What if I am on a learning agreement but miss classes because I choose not to cross a picket line?
If you let your department know that you are absent for that reason it will not count as a breach of the learning agreement.
Refund of fees
The UCL-Student Relationship Terms and Conditions defines your rights and responsibilities under the contract you made with UCL when you accepted the offer to study at UCL.
Section 4 deals with unplanned changes to your course:
Occasionally UCL may need to make changes to or cancel part of or an entire Programme due to circumstances that are beyond its reasonable control. This could include ... industrial action, over or under demand for courses or modules, lack of funding, non-availability of suitable staff, severe weather, fire, civil disorder, political unrest and government restrictions.
If UCL take the position that the industrial action is a circumstance ‘beyond its reasonable control’ it is unlikely that refunds will be offered to any students. Students can contact our Advice Service for further assistance; however the advice available will be limited until the full impact of the industrial action is known (including whether departments are rescheduling teaching and learning opportunities missed during this period).
More information on UCL’s terms and conditions can be found here.
What do I do if my learning is affected?
During the last strike, UCL established a Learning Opportunities Fund for students to help mitigate the impact of the strikes, students were able to apply for £250. We expect UCL to establish a similar fund or extend the current fund in March.
You will however, not be assessed on any academic content that was not properly covered due to strike action.
Extenuating Circumstances - what can I do if the strike affects my learning?
UCL have committed to ensuring that you are not disadvantaged by this action.
You may be concerned about missing key parts of your course and how this will affect your assessment. At UCL, extenuating circumstances are defined as circumstances which are sudden, unexpected, significantly disruptive and beyond the student's control and which may affect their performance at assessment.
We strongly suggest that you log any disruption to your classes and also keep evidence of the disruption if you wish to apply for extenuating circumstances at a later date.
For more support on the above or any other academic problem, our Advice Service is here to help. You can also contact our Advice Service using our contact form. More on UCL’s extenuating circumstances policy can be found here (scroll down the page).
What to do if you need to access support services during the strike
We want to remind students that to access support services like Student Support and Wellbeing, you don’t have to cross the picket lines if you don't want to. You can video chat in to see staff or ask to meet off-campus.
How can you find out whether your classes are affected?
As far as possible your department will try to inform you about changes to the teaching schedule through the usual channels, i.e. email and Moodle, but please remember that striking staff do not have to tell UCL in advance.
Throughout the period of action, you should:
- Keep a close eye on your UCL emails and look out for Moodle page announcements.
- Stay informed by following the links in this update and looking out for announcements in the media.
What is a picket line?
A picket line is a boundary that is established by workings on a strike. This will usually be entrances to their place of work. Others will be asked not to cross these picket lines, as to do so may be considered to be undermining the strike. It is your personal choice as to whether you want to cross the picket lines, but we would urge students to seriously consider the ethical implications of doing so.
Staff on strike do not get paid
When staff go on strike they forfeit their pay. This is a hugely difficult decision for staff to make. The money that UCL doesn't pay to staff due to strike action is put into a Learning Opportunities Fund which will be used to support students who have missed teaching or learning due to the strike action and to offset the disruption caused.
We fully support striking staff
We are strongly in support of UCL's academic and support staff. They are an integral part of our university community and it is important that they are fairly rewarded for the contribution they make to our education. Their working environment is our learning environment. We are encouraging UCL and UCU to work together to protect the rights of staff and lobby UUK. A policy was passed at our December Executive meeting which outlined why we support striking workers.
What can you do to support the strike?
Write to the Provost using this tool on the UCU website, calling on him and other leaders of universities to provide sustainable solutions to our problems.
Be supportive of striking staff, they are doing this a last resort. They’re fighting Universities UK (the representative body for Universities in the UK) and any frustrations you might feel should be directed to their door.
If you can, don’t cross picket lines. If you can work from home, in other public spaces or in the SU Bloomsbury Building or the SU Lewis Building, if you can re-arrange meetings to meet via skype - do it. It’s the easiest way to show your support.
Attend teach-outs. Many of our academic staff will be holding lectures in public spaces near campus. Attend, learn and support their cause. They will typically start at 1pm on the Main Building picket line.
Sign our open letter, encouraging UCL to put pressure on UUK resolve this matter.
Join staff on picket lines. Each morning from 7:00, staff will gather outside UCL front gates, coordinators from UCU will organise strikers for different buildings. If you want to join them, feel free.
Want to join the striking staff?
Meet outside the UCL quad main gates on the morning of each strike day (from 7:00). UCU coordinators will let you know where to go.