The Results:

Should the Students' Union support the UCU strikes of 2021?

YES: 2,996 (60%)

NO: 1,997 (40%)

5,116 students voted, including 123 voting to abstain

If you have any questions, please get in touch with us at [email protected]

Argument for YES

Be angry at the bosses, not the workers! The Students’ Union should follow NUS and the vast majority of students’ unions across the country, in supporting UCL’s staff fighting for fair pay, pensions and conditions, organizing through our sister union. Solidarity is more than fancy words - VOTE YES!

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Watch the video for the 'Yes' argument.



Staff at UCL are being robbed blind. 20%. That’s the real-terms pay cut your lecturers, seminar leaders, teaching assistants, administrators, and counselors have had since 2009. Staff on the USS pension have had their guaranteed pension cut by 35% since 2011. Added to this, higher education has become highly casualised, damaging job security for many early-career staff, and there are gender and race pay gaps which UCL stubbornly refuses to address.

Given all of this, what would you do? Would you meekly accept these injustices, keep your head down, and watch as things get worse? Or would you stand up for yourself, and strike?


According to the NUS’s research, 73% of students support the strikes. In London alone, no less than eight different students’ unions have shown support for strikes on their campuses (these are the unions at Birkbeck, the Cortauld, Goldsmiths, Imperial, LSE, Middlesex, SOAS and UAL). As much as the SU claims its current position of non-support is a "moderate middle ground" stance, its position is actually unusually right-wing and out of step with students across the country. Let’s correct the record for them.


This will be worth it. There is substantial evidence that this kind of action works: in 2017, a UCL student rent strike won £1.5million in concessions from UCL. Just last year, strikes at Liverpool UCU have prevented their management cutting jobs at their university - this means more lecturers and contact time for Liverpool students. Elsewhere, trade unions like RMT and UWV are winning victories for their workers through strike actions.

What UCU is fighting for here is bigger than any one workplace - it’s fighting the greed of an entire sector. But they’re winning, and they just need another push. UCU is asking for our continued support, because that could make all the difference.


Concerns about student wellbeing and mental health after an already heavily disrupted year should not be dismissed, but no-one can avoid the fact that if we go on like this then these conditions will only get worse. The best thing to do for student wellbeing in the long term is for staff to strike now and change the conditions at the university – and for students to support them in this.

You will also hear weaselly arguments about now “not being the right time” or “there being other tactics that UCU can use”. These arguments are never accompanied by suggestions about when the right time to strike is, or precisely what other tactics are open to UCU that they haven’t already tried. Going on strike is always a last resort. Staff members have each lost hundreds of pounds of pay for doing what they’ve done, and they don’t do it lightly. Be very suspicious of anyone who tries to minimise this sacrifice – they’re usually trying to mislead you.


Argument for NO

The UCU strike is designed to cause the maximum amount of disruption to your studies. UCU hope your anger, directed at UCL, will lead to a breakthrough in their ongoing negotiations. Why should students be used like this? After three years of lost learning – say NO to more disruption.

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Members of UCU (the Trade Union representing around 2,500 staff at UCL) are currently planning strikes in term two. UCU are in dispute with universities nationally over four key points; casualisation, pay, pensions and working conditions – the Students’ Union passed a policy supporting the UCU demands. We firmly believe that all staff should receive a fair and secure pension and decent working conditions. Everyone deserves the right to a prosperous retirement, and this should be defended for everyone in our university community. 

If UCL and other universities worked with trade unions like UCU to reduce casualisation, increase pay in line with inflation, close the ethnicity pay-gap in HE and reduce workload for staff - then strikes could be avoided. But they haven’t. UCL and other universities have led UCU to the point of strikes, but unlike previous years, this academic year, students have had enough.

Students are hit hard during disputes between UCL and UCU. Strikes lead to lost learning, delayed teaching, increased assessment stress – students suffer to add pressure on UCL during staff pay negotiations. 

The Students’ Union has fully supported strike action in the past, most recently in 2019-20. But the last three years have been significantly disrupted, first by strikes and then by Covid. Students are at breaking point, with years of disruption causing a significant impact on mental health, loneliness, and isolation. We urgently need to repair and rebuild the communities so damaged over the past few years. But sadly, this doesn’t seem to be on UCU’s radar. Hundreds of thousands of students signed a petition to refund tuition fees last year over Covid disruption – we’ve all had enough of a fractured education. Is it so much to ask to have a single uninterrupted academic year and take part in the education we’ve sacrificed so much for?  

Regardless of what you think about UCU’s four fights (we support them), vote NO to show there isn’t student support for more disruption.

What happens after the vote?

We will announce the results of the referendum on this website on Wednesday 26 January.

The outcome will only be binding if more than 5% of all students vote. Read the full bye-law on referenda here.

If the minimum number of votes are received, we will implement what you decide.

Got other ideas for change at the Union and UCL? Tell us!