University strikes: Why staff across the UK are striking

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Staff at 150 universities across the UK are taking part in a series of strikes.

The action is being taken over pay, working conditions and pension cuts.

When are university staff striking?

They will be walking out on three days – 24, 25 and 30 November.

Staff in England, Wales and Scotland will also begin industrial action short of a strike from 23 November, and in Northern Ireland from 18 November.

This will include not covering for absent colleagues, refusing to make up for work lost to strike action and working to rule.

A series of strikes were also held earlier this year and last year.

Will lectures be cancelled?

It is unclear how badly tutorials and lectures will be affected, as union members don’t have to say whether they will be striking.

The University and College Union says the impact will vary between institutions, but they do expect some cancellations.

It says about 2.5 million students may be affected by the strikes.

Universities UK (UUK), which represents 140 universities, hopes the impact will be limited.

It said universities will minimise disruption and many will alert students if they will be affected by strike action. This could be  by email, on university websites and on campus.

Some universities will also extend deadlines and leave libraries, computer rooms and student services open. Some may also reschedule teaching.

If students feel the measures put in place aren’t good enough, they can complain using their university’s complaints procedure.

The National Union of Students is backing the strikes.

Why are university staff striking?

Some are striking over pay and conditions, others over pensions. Some are striking over both.

On pay, the union has demanded:

  • a pay rise of inflation (RPI) +2% or 12%, whichever is the higher
  • action to end the use of zero hours and temporary contracts
  • action to tackle “excessive workloads” resulting in hours of “unpaid work”

The dispute over pensions has been rumbling on for more than a decade. It was reignited by a valuation of a pension scheme used by academic staff – the Universities Superannuation Scheme.

The union said this valuation was “flawed” because it took place at the start of the pandemic, “when global markets were crashing” and recorded a deficit of £14.1bn. It says the scheme was more recently found to have a surplus of £1.8bn.

It said the average member “will lose 35% from their guaranteed future retirement income”. For those at the beginning of their careers “the losses are in the hundreds of thousands of pounds”, it said.

The union is demanding employers revoke the cuts and restore benefits.

How much do lecturers get paid?

A committee including trade unions and the Universities and College Employers Association (UCEA) meets and decides on any changes to university workers’ pay every year.

Most universities opt in to the negotiations, but they don’t have to – they can make their own decisions on how much to pay staff. The 22/23 pay scale was implemented in August.

The union says a third of academic staff are on a temporary contract.

What do university employers say?

The UCEA, says any increase in pay “puts jobs at risk”. Some 30% of universities are already in deficit.

At universities which introduced pay recommendations in August there was “an uplift of up to 9% for those on the lowest points” of the scale and a 3% increase for all other staff, it said. Many staff also benefited from annual pay increments.

On pensions, the UUK said it is working with the union ahead of the next valuation of the pension scheme. It said that without the changes introduced employees would have had to pay much more in contributions.

Which universities are affected?

In total, 62 universities will see strikes over both pay and conditions and pensions:

  • Aberdeen, The University of
  • Aberystwyth University
  • Aston University
  • Bangor University
  • Bath, University of
  • Birkbeck, University of London
  • Birmingham, The University of
  • Bradford, University of
  • Bristol, University of
  • Brunel University
  • Cambridge, University of
  • Cardiff University
  • City, University of London
  • Courtauld Institute of Art
  • Dundee, The University of
  • Durham University
  • East Anglia, University of
  • Edinburgh, University of
  • Essex, University of
  • Exeter, University of
  • Glasgow, University of
  • Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Heriot-Watt University
  • Hull, The University of
  • Keele University
  • Kent, The University of
  • King’s College London
  • Lancaster, University of
  • Leeds, The University of
  • Leicester, University of
  • Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
  • Liverpool, University of
  • London School of Economics
  • London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • Loughborough University
  • Manchester, The University of
  • Newcastle University
  • Nottingham, The University of
  • Open University
  • Oxford, University of
  • Queen Mary, University of London
  • Queen’s University Belfast
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Royal Veterinary College, University of London
  • Salford, The University of
  • Senate House, University of London
  • Sheffield, The University of
  • SOAS, University of London
  • Southampton, University of
  • St Andrews, University of
  • St George’s, University of London
  • Stirling, The University of
  • Strathclyde, University of
  • Suffolk, University of
  • Surrey, University of
  • Sussex, University of
  • Swansea University
  • Ulster University
  • University College London
  • University of Wales Trinity Saint David
  • Warwick, University of
  • York, University of

Five will see strikes over pensions only:

  • Cranfield University
  • Imperial College London
  • Institute of Development Studies (IDS)
  • Reading, University of
  • SAMS at University of the Highlands and Islands

Another 83 will see strikes over pay and working conditions only:

  • Abertay University
  • Anglia Ruskin University
  • Arts University Bournemouth
  • Bath Spa University
  • Bedfordshire, University of
  • Bishop Grosseteste University
  • Bolton, The University of
  • Bournemouth University
  • Brighton, University of
  • Buckinghamshire New University
  • Canterbury Christ Church University
  • Cardiff Metropolitan University
  • Central Lancashire, University of
  • Chester, University of
  • Chichester, University of
  • Coventry University
  • Cumbria, University of
  • De Montfort University
  • Derby, University of
  • East London, University of
  • Edge Hill University
  • Edinburgh Napier University
  • Falmouth University
  • Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Glasgow School of Art
  • Gloucestershire, University of
  • Greenwich, University of
  • Harper Adams University
  • Hertfordshire, University of
  • Huddersfield, The University of
  • Kingston University
  • Leeds Arts University
  • Leeds Beckett University
  • Leeds Trinity University
  • Lincoln, University of
  • Liverpool Hope University
  • Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA)
  • Liverpool John Moores University
  • London Metropolitan University
  • London South Bank University
  • Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Middlesex University
  • Newman University
  • Northampton, The University of
  • Northumbria University
  • Norwich University of the Arts
  • Oxford Brookes University
  • Plymouth Marjon University
  • Plymouth, University of
  • Portsmouth, University of
  • Queen Margaret University
  • Robert Gordon University
  • Roehampton University
  • Rose Bruford College
  • Royal Academy of Music
  • Royal Agricultural University
  • Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
  • Royal College of Art
  • Royal College of Music
  • Royal Northern College of Music
  • Sheffield Hallam University
  • Solent University
  • South Wales, University of
  • St Mary’s University College, Belfast
  • St Mary’s University, Twickenham
  • Staffordshire University
  • Stranmillis University College
  • Sunderland, University of
  • Teesside, University of
  • Trinity Laban
  • UCA University for the Creative Arts
  • University College Birmingham
  • University of the Arts London
  • West London, University of
  • West of England, University of the
  • West of Scotland, University of the
  • Westminster, University of
  • Winchester, The University of
  • Wolverhampton, University of
  • Worcester, University of
  • Wrexham Glyndwr University
  • Writtle University College
  • York St John University