Staff Struggles are Student Struggles

Royal Holloway students in support of the ongoing UCU strike action voice their concerns in this blog.

It is a simple truth that our lecturers' working conditions are our teaching conditions. As staff face poorer and poorer working conditions, students have suffered from extortionate fees and unfair loans that often leave them less well off than if they hadn’t gone to university. Meanwhile, Principals and Vice Challelors enjoy massive six-figure salaries.

This system of education has produced economic uncertainty, which has increased pressure on both students and staff. Our mental health has suffered as a result of skyrocketing rents and inadequate maintenance loans that cut into our future salaries and economic security. Meanwhile, the pressure exerted on staff through precarious contracts, overwork, and the stripping of pensions, has similarly impacted the mental health of our lecturers. These issues are intensified along the lines of gender, race, disability, class, and sexuality, and cannot be separated from the failure of universities to care for minority students and staff.

The issues our staff face come from the same source as those we face: the marketisation of universities. Both students and staff have found their university life chipped away, as if economic security, mental wellbeing, and student-staff solidarity can be replaced with new coffee shops. Indeed, a key tactic of management has been to set students against staff, to get students to blame the staff for striking, banking on our own economic insecurity and anxiety to turn us against them. No, we must recognise that our worries can be addressed by a university system that privileges learning and community over money. We must recognise that the lives of students have become hell because the lives of staff have become hell and it derives from the same source.

Therefore, it is important we, as students, stand with our staff. The UCU is not merely striking over a few grievances here and there. It is a much larger project to push against the marketisation of universities so that both staff and students have room to breathe. It is a fight to address inequality; to decrease workloads so staff can look after themselves as well as their students instead of being overburdened and unavailable; to ensure the lecturer you need is there the day you need them, instead of suddenly gone as their contract hasn’t been renewed.

We must wholeheartedly support the demands of the UCU and join them on picket lines in solidarity. Their demands are as follows:

  1. Address the scandal of the gender, ethnic, and disability pay gap
  2. End contract casualisation and rising job insecurity
  3. Tackle the rising workloads driving staff to breaking point
  4. Increase to all pay increase points on the national pay scale of £2,500

And:

  1. Stop the cuts to University Superannuation Scheme (USS), which determines lecturers’ pensions, and work with us to avoid future changes to benefits and increases in member contributions.
  2. Call on USS to issue a new evidence-based valuation of the scheme.

We stand with our lecturers, united in the goal to make a better, fairer university system.

UCU Strike Action

If you’d like to get in touch to discuss strikes or would like help in distributing information or promoting events related to industrial action, please feel free to get in touch with VP Education Maia Jarvis at vpeducation@su.rhul.ac.uk.