Update - UCU industrial action called off
Thursday 21 September 2023
The UCL branch of the National University and College Union (UCU) has called off plans to take part in five days of industrial action from Monday 25 September to Friday 29 September.
Thursday 14 September 2023
The Universities and Colleges Union (UCU), representing many academic and support staff at universities across the UK, has announced plans for nationwide strikes for five consecutive days from Monday 25 to Friday 29 September.
The impact is likely to vary according to your particular course and department. Not all UCL staff are members of UCU, and those who are don't need to inform UCL in advance of going on strike.
In March 2023, UCU successfully renewed its industrial action mandate through a vote by their members, allowing industrial action to be called for a further six months. This mandate expires on 30 September 2023. After which UCU will need to ballot their members again to renew their mandate to strike. This vote is taking place now.
Want to help get academic and support staff a better pay deal and better working conditions and help end the industrial action? Sign the petition.
We're regularly updating this page with new information. Last update - 11 September 2023.
When is the next industrial action taking place?
- Monday 25 September
- Tuesday 26 September
- Wednesday 27 September
- Thursday 28 September
- Friday 29 September
Why is this happening?
The University and College Union (UCU), the trade union representing academic and support staff in UK universities, has been negotiating on pay, working conditions, and the future of the staff pension scheme. These negotiations have not led to an outcome supported by UCU members, so they have voted to use industrial action (i.e striking) as part of their negotiating tactics.
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.
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 take this action do not have to tell UCL of their intention beforehand.
If you miss any classes due to industrial action, UCL will take this into account either in the assessment that they set for you or when they consider your marks.
Is Welcome Week still going ahead?
We have hundreds of different things for you to do during Welcome Week and the campus will be full of music, events, and celebrations for the start of term.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Our support for the industrial action does not stop us from supporting you and upholding your rights.
The result of the referendum were as follows:
The outcome of this referendum is binding until November 2024, unless another referendum is called to overturn it.
Support for strike action has increased since the referendum on UCU’s previous action in January 2022.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
Will I get a refund on my fees for the classes that were 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 industrial action 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).
Do staff taking industrial action 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 mitigation measures and student hardship funds.
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.