Staff strikes have been confirmed for:

  • Thursday 24 November
  • Friday 25 November
  • Wednesday 30 November

The Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) have called for a strike at 150 universities.

What's going on?

150 UK Universities will be impacted by strike action this term. The University and College Union (UCU), the trade union representing academic and support staff in UK universities, has announced industrial action over pay, working conditions, and the future of the pension scheme.

Three days of strike action have already been announced in November and it is expected that more strikes will take place in February and beyond in what UCU describe as ‘escalating’ action.

Over the past few years, the pay of staff in universities has not risen as quickly as it has in some other parts of the economy. This year the national pay rise for university staff was 3% for most staff, with many also receiving additional pay progression of around 3%, meaning a total rise of in the region of 6%, whilst inflation has been running at closer to 12%.  

Over the past twenty years there has also been a gradual increase in academic workload as student numbers and expectations have increased. Across the sector, there are also some pay disparities, where women, BME and disabled staff are on average paid less than those who are male, white and non-disabled.

UCU is asking for an increase in pay for all staff of at least inflation +2% or 12% (whichever is higher) as well as many other changes like working hours being set to 35 per week, ending precarious employment practices by universities, and action to close gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps.

UCU are also in a dispute about the pension scheme, asking universities to reverse changes in the pension scheme made last year by reducing staff pension contributions and increasing the amount that staff will receive in pension payments.

When is the next UCU strike happening at UCL?

Thursday 24 November, Friday 25 November, and Wednesday 30 November.

Staff will also begin industrial action short of strike action from Wednesday 23 November, which includes working to rule, refusing to make up work lost as a result of strike action and refusing to cover for absent colleagues.

What does this mean for you?

It is difficult to predict how you will be affected, particularly ahead of time. UCU represent approximately 2,800 staff across a variety of academic and professional services roles, but not all of UCL's 13,000 staff are members. Staff who choose to strike do not have to tell UCL of their intention beforehand and they may not commit to striking each day.

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 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 buildings.

What are your rights?

The Office for Students (OfS) states that all students have a contractual relationship with their university, which means they are protected by consumer protection law. OfS is cleat that universities and colleges must continue to offer the service they have promised to students, even during periods of industrial action.

Therefore it’s reasonable to expect that UCL will make every effort to make up for lost learning. Each department at UCL may take a different approach to this. 

OfS says that students could expect their university to do the following:

  1. The university should be proactive in resolving issues related to missed teaching. If teaching time is lost, it may be appropriate for catch-up teaching to be offered at a later time, missed course content to be delivered in a different way, or for partial refunds to be offered to affected students.
  2. The university should take steps to ensure that students are not disadvantaged in assessment by any disruption. It might be appropriate for coursework deadlines to be extended or moved, or for certain topics to not be examined if they have not been delivered in time.
  3. The university should explain clearly any changes made to how the course is delivered and how they will affect students. Providers should keep students informed of the impact of ongoing disruption and give students reasonable notice of any new arrangements.
  4. Universities and colleges should consider the needs of all students in responding to industrial action, particularly those who may be more affected than others, or may have difficulties accessing replacement learning.

Read the section on fee refunds below.

Does the Students' Union support the strike?

Yes, in November 2022 we held an all-student vote on whether to support the upcoming strikes.

The result of the referendum were as follows:

 Voters%
Support4,32268.7%
Oppose1,69326.9%
Abstain2754.4%

Support for strike action has increased since the referendum on UCU’s previous action in January 2022.

How can I support the strike? 

Here are some of the ways you can support staff on strike:

  • Join staff on picket lines. Each morning from 8:00, staff will gather outside the UCL front gates, coordinators from UCU will organise strikers for different buildings. If you want to join them, feel free.
  • Attend teach-outs. Many of our academic staff will be holding lectures in public spaces near campus. Attend, learn and support their cause. Follow UCL's UCU branch for information.
  • Be supportive of striking staff, they are doing this as 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 Bloomsbury Building or the Lewis Building. If you can re-arrange meetings to meet via skype - do it. It’s the easiest way to show your support.

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.​

Can I still attend / run a club or society event during the strike?

Yes. The strikes are unlikely to impact your events. Students' Union buildings and facilities will be open as usual. If you're running an event with a guest speaker who is participating in the strike, please contact the Activities team who'll be able to advise on the next steps. They're on [email protected]

Will I be penalised for missing a class because I chose not to cross the picket line?

You will not be penalised if you miss class because you have chosen not to cross the picket line.

Will those on a Student Visa be penalised for not attending classes? 

If you are here on a student visa you will not be penalised if you are unable to attend classes that have been cancelled due to the strike action.  

At this point, you do not have to notify anyone that you have missed a class due to strike action.

Will I get a refund on my fees for the classes that are cancelled?

The UCL-Student Relationship Terms and Conditions defines your rights and responsibilities under the contract you made with UCL when you accepted your offer.

Part 4 deals with unplanned changes to your course:

12.2 UCL will not be liable to you for loss and/or damage arising from circumstances or events that are outside UCL’s reasonable control. Such circumstances or events include, without limiting what is intended, strikes and other industrial action (of UCL staff or staff of third parties), over or under demand for courses or modules, lack of or significant reduction in funding from third parties (unless caused by UCL’s wilful default), non-availability of staff (on a long-term or short-term basis, such as staff illness), severe weather, fire, civil disorder, riot, terrorist attack or threat or terrorist attack, political unrest, government restrictions and concern with regard to the transmission of serious illness.

12.3 The circumstances or events set out in section 12.1 are considered rare but when they do occur UCL reserves the right to make changes to or cancel all or part of a Programme. UCL will where practical and possible do what it reasonably can to provide appropriate and alternative options to you to minimise the disruption you experience. If the circumstances or events are ongoing for a continuous period of more than 30 days, either you or UCL may end the Contract without liability immediately on giving written notice to the other.

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.

Extenuating Circumstances - what can I do if the strike affects my learning?

You do not need to submit an extenuating circumstances form as UCL have information about the impact of the strike on your classes. This includes exams and other assessment. 

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?

You don’t have to cross the picket lines to access support services like Student Support and Wellbeing.

Almost all services are available remotely if you do not want to physically come to campus.

How can you find out whether your classes are affected?

As much 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 like at UCL?

A picket line is a boundary established by staff who are on strike outside their place of work.

At UCL, this usually means 3-4 staff standing outside entrances to buildings, or on main gates on Gower Street and Malet Place. Other staff and students will be asked not to cross these picket lines, as to do so may be considered as undermining the strike.

It is your personal choice as to whether you want to cross the picket line, staff cannot stop you from entering campus or campus buildings.

Do staff on strike get paid?

When staff go on strike they forfeit their pay. This is a hugely difficult decision for staff to make.

UCL has told staff that their pay will be deducted for each day they strike, they calculate this by dividing the annual staff salary by 365.

The money deducted from staff pay is transferred from UCL to a student hardship grant.