Documents to download

Background

Between 2018 and 2020, the University and College Union (UCU) coordinated a series of strikes across UK universities. Further industrial action was curtailed by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic from March 2020.

The UCU once again balloted its members between October and November 2021 for industrial action. Three days of strike action involving 58 universities followed in December 2021. A re-ballot led to 68 universities striking for ten days between 14 February and 2 March 2022.

When are staff striking?

A third wave of strikes was announced for the end of March and beginning of April. The dates include:

  • Monday 21 to Friday 25 March: 39 universities will strike over pensions and/or pay and working conditions.
  • Monday 28 March to Friday 1 April: 29 universities will strike over pensions and/or pay and working conditions.

A list of higher education providers where staff will take industrial action in March and April 2022, including action short of a strike, has been published by the UCU.

Why are staff striking?

The disputes between university employers and staff that have prompted industrial action are longstanding.

The first concerns proposed changes to the pension scheme for many university staff – the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) – which will mean increased contributions and reduced benefits.

A parallel dispute concerns several issues related to pay and working conditions. These include pay levels, gender and minority ethnic pay gaps, staff workload, and insecure contracts. This dispute has been dubbed the ‘four fights’.

The UCU is demanding:

  • a reverse to a reduction in pension benefits;
  • a £2,500 pay increase;
  • an end to race and gender pay inequalities;
  • a framework to eliminate the use of precarious contracts, such as zero-hours employment;
  • meaningful action to tackle unmanageable workloads.

What happens if teaching is disrupted?

Universities are expected to take steps to avoid or limit disruption to students. This might include making up for any lost teaching or learning time and ensuring students are not disadvantaged if changes must be made to assessments. 

Whether students are entitled to tuition fee refunds following industrial action depends on what a university has done to minimise lost learning opportunities. 

Students should make any complaints to their university in the first instance. If students are not content with the outcome of a complaint, or if they believe it has been poorly handled, they can contact the relevant higher education ombudsman for their country. 

Further reading

More information on the pensions dispute is available in the Library briefing Universities Superannuation Scheme.


Documents to download

Related posts