Ellie Symonds gives us her opinion on the UCU strikes taking place across the nation.
The UCU strikes taking place in February and March may have a damaging impact on the 15,000 students that attend the University of Essex. The strikes are due to occur over a period of 14 days, in response to proposed changes in the pension benefits of lecturers within the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). UK law states staff taking part in the strikes are also not required to inform the University in advance.As a first year student at the uni, the strike probably affects me far less than it would a second or third year, for my grades do not go towards my final degree. However, it is incredibly frustrating to know that due to the layout of my timetable, I will potentially be missing a whole term of lectures. As 2017/18 annual tuition fees recently rose to £9,250, if I were to miss all of my scheduled lessons on the proposed strike days, I would be losing roughly £1,275 worth of education. Surely, we should be reimbursed this amount?
“…it is incredibly frustrating to know that due to the layout of my timetable, I will potentially be missing a whole term of lectures.”
With several assignments due in March and April, and all of my exams taking place in May and June, losing four weeks of teaching will most definitely have a detrimental impact on my grades. I also rent privately in Colchester and go home on weekends, only coming in during the week to attend my classes. With the strikes in place, I will miss about a month of teaching while still having to pay rent and bills. If the strike goes ahead as planned for all of the stated dates, I believe there certainly should be assignment and exam extensions.
First year student Georgina Case stated she feels the university isn’t “doing anything to reduce the disruption that the strikes are going to cause to students.” She adds that as we are treated as consumers, we should be entitled to consumer rights.
Amber Larke, who commutes from Ipswich, said: “As we don’t know if our lecturers or GTAs are going to turn up until we get there, I’m going to be driving an hour or more, wasting petrol, to have to turn around and go home again.”
A student who lives in Colchester and commutes to the equally affected Queen Mary University in London shared his opinion on the strike:
“Strikes are designed to inconvenience the employer. If you take the miner strikes as an example, the miners not going to work meant there was no one mining the coal and thus the business was hurt financially as they weren’t producing as much, so couldn’t sell it. That strike makes sense as it inconveniences the people that are paying them.”
The situation is very different now, though: “However, this strike isn’t inconveniencing the universities, as they are benefiting financially from our tuition fees, but rather the students. The teachers taking action is affecting us students rather than the governing body. As a commuter, I think it is extremely frustrating that the teachers are not obligated to let us know if they are taking part in the strike. I spend at least £250 a month on train tickets to go to my university, and I cannot afford to be losing out on this money.”
“…this strike isn’t inconveniencing the universities, as they are benefiting financially from our tuition fees, but rather the students.”
There seems to be a widespread opinion among students that we should support the cause of the strike. However, I for one do not agree with the length and timing of it: If all 14 days go ahead, it will surely cause us all major disruptions and impact the final and most important term of our academic year.