Ahead of the upcoming UCU strikes, we've compiled a handy guide on everything you need to know.
These FAQs about the UCU Strike will continually be updated across the strike period as more questions come in from students. If you have any questions that aren’t answered here, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The dates of the strike at Royal Holloway have been changed by Royal Holloway UCU in relation to the national UCU strike dates. The two day strike week has been moved to now occur after the five day strike week, with the full strike dates detailed below.
Week 1: Monday 24, Tuesday 25 and Wednesday 26 February
Week 2: Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 and Thursday 5 March
Week 3: Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 and Friday 13 March
Week 4: Thursday 19 and Friday 20 March
In addition, action short of a strike is planned to continue until no later than Wednesday 29 April 2020.
The reasons for the strike have remained the same since the December strike action.
Unlike the 2018 strikes, which were about ensuring the benefits of the pension scheme were safeguarded for staff, this round of strikes is concerning who contributes the funding to cover the increased costs necessary to maintain the pension scheme. The UCU believes this cost should be covered by the employer (the University), not the employees (the members of academic staff). The UCU is calling for the University to cover the deficit, through increased employer contributions, with no detriment to UCU members.
The UCU believes the pay of academic staff at universities has dropped by around 17% in ‘real wages’ since 2009 based on findings from the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA). In more general terms, ‘real wages’ go down for everyone when inflation is higher. For example, if you get an annual pay rise of 2% but inflation is at 3%, it is a ‘real wages’ pay cut of 1% despite the extra pay; this is driven by economic trends and inflation. The UCU is calling for the University to immediately take steps to reverse the supposed pay decline, by increasing staff pay. The working conditions dispute also focuses on the increased casualisation of staff, the gender and BAME pay gap, and increasing workloads.
You can find more information from the UCU on both issues here.
Anyone who works as an academic, lecturer, trainer, instructor, researcher, administrator, manager, computer staff, librarian or postgraduate in a UK university can join the UCU. At Royal Holloway, there are around 400 members of UCU, with the majority academic staff and postgraduate research students. Whether an individual strikes is their own decision and those who are striking do not need to inform you that they will not be running a particular lecture or other session, although they may choose to do so at their own discretion.
During the strikes, your lecturer may be striking. This means they will not come in to teach your lectures, seminars, tutorials or other academic sessions. They will also not be present in their office hours or undertake any work such as marking of assignments or replying to emails. Those who are striking do not need to inform you that they will not be running a particular lecture or other session, although they may choose to do so at their own discretion.
We do not know the level of disruption the strike action will cause as not all staff are members and those who are members may not take part in the strike or may decide only to strike on some days. Staff are not obliged to tell the University if they will be taking action in advance of the strike.
If you receive a message from your lecturer that your class has been cancelled, then you do not need to attend and we recommend you act in solidarity with the UCU by not crossing the picket line and coming into University buildings. The SU and a number of support services (such as the GP Surgery, Wellbeing, and religious spaces) are neutral spaces that we hope you feel able to cross the picket line to attend. However, the University have stated that if you have an in-class assessment such as a test or presentation, you should still attend as the assessment may be on. In this case, we understand that you may need to attend these classes so that you are not marked absent.
Many lecturers may ask you to not ‘cross the picket line’. This means they would ask you to act in solidarity with those striking and not come into campus through the picket line of striking lecturers; this boundary is usually established at the entrance to a workplace.
As a Students’ Union, it is our responsibility to act in the interests of our membership, you – the students. We are working to mitigate any negative effects to your experience.
Trade unions are able to organise strike action if they have balloted their members on the strike action and passed a 50% threshold. At Royal Holloway this 50% threshold was passed for both the pensions, and pay and working conditions disputes, therefore the UCU are able to organise a strike on both. This strike action is legal and therefore RHSU has no jurisdiction over the strike action. The student body voted in our preferendum to support the UCU strikes and their stance in its entirety, therefore RHSU is supporting the strikes.
Members of staff who are taking strike action are not obliged to tell the University in advance if they will be on strike. If your lecture is on, we understand that you may need to attend these classes so that you are not marked absent. Activities that are taking place will be monitored as normal and if you do not turn up to a class this would count as non-attendance in the eyes of the University. Whilst you may wish to act in solidarity with the UCU on this issue, we understand this is a difficult choice to make and you may need to attend your classes where they are still on.
If you cannot turn up due to illness or other circumstances you should submit a notification of absence as usual.
The University have released some FAQs for both undergraduate and postgraduate students, you can find these here. If you have any more questions you can email email@example.com.
Yes, we are not part of the UCU and therefore not involved in this strike. We will remain open and be a welcoming place for students throughout the strike. All trading services we operate will run as usual. We will be a neutral space on campus for those students who wish to act in solidarity with striking UCU members.
The University should ensure you still meet the learning outcomes for all of your courses and you are supported in your education throughout the strikes. The University have stated ‘we want you to get the best possible learning and teaching during the strike and we will be doing our best to provide resources and support so that you don’t miss out.’ Because lecturers don’t have to tell universities when they are going on strike it is hard for the University to know when teaching might be cancelled. They have stated that they will ‘work hard to let you know as soon as possible and to offer alternative resources, so you don’t miss out’, more information can be found here.
All the usual support areas (such as the Library, Careers, Student Advisory and Wellbeing (including Disability & Dyslexia Support, Financial Wellbeing and Counselling) will be open as normal. If you have an appointment with any of these services you should attend it. If you don’t feel comfortable crossing the picket line to access these services please get in touch with them via email or over the phone.
As the University have asked that you still attend any presentation or in-class test you have during the striking period, you should continue to prepare for your presentation and be prepared to give it. If you have an in-class assessment such as a test or presentation you should assume they are going ahead as normal, unless you’re formally notified by your Head of School or your School office.
Any assignments due in during the strike action will be treated as normal unless you are informed otherwise. Please submit by the stated deadline and use the required submission process as normal. If you have any questions regarding an assignment please speak to your School Helpdesk Officer.
Where necessary, the University will adjust the assessment of course work and exam papers and will profile marks for each course unit at the exam board to ensure students are not disadvantaged or penalised as a result of the strike action. If you have an exam in third term and there are questions that you have not covered, the university will take that into account during marking. No student should be impacted by the strikes.
No, only members of the UCU can go on strike. Whilst you may choose not to attend any classes you may have and act in solidarity with striking staff, you will be marked absent from any class that you miss if you do go on strike. This a difficult situation and in this case, we understand that you may need to attend these classes so that you are not marked absent. Students can go and support striking staff on the picket lines.
Picketing is protected by a Code of Practice that restricts the number of people in pickets to six plus a full-time trade union official. We would expect staff who are picketing to conduct themselves in a peaceful and non-threatening manner. Anyone who feels threatened or intimidated for any reason should contact Security on 01784 443063.
If you are an international student on a Tier 4 visa you will not be deemed to have missed a contact point if that contact point was denied to you due to the strike. If any classes or contact points are missed because of the strike it is recorded as an authorised absence. If you have any concerns, contact the International Student Support Office at InternationalAdvice@royalholloway.ac.uk.
If you would like to make a complaint or discuss any concerns you have further, you are able to use these avenues;
Advice over a specific issue:
There are drop-ins being run by a senior University member of staff where a Sabbatical Officer will also be in attendance to support students. These are being held:
Alternatively, there are drop-ins for each school which can be found here or students can go to their School Office and ask questions.
If you have used the above options and do not feel you have received a satisfactory outcome you can make a complaint in relation to the UCU strikes;
If you would like to make a formal complaint, please get in touch with our Advice Centre which can help you fill in the form and provide further guidance. A response to a formal complaint will likely be a long process and will only be possible once the strikes have ended and the University are able to ascertain whether the learning outcomes of your course have been met. Once an outcome of a complaint is received, you can discuss next measures with the Advice Centre which may include elevating to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (‘the OIA’)
Fees are not based on a per lecture or per tutorial basis, and they include the full range of services and support available. The University have said that you should still be able to meet the learning outcomes of your course and be prepared for assessments and examinations in the third term. If you feel these learning outcomes have not been met, please use the avenues listed under the above question.
Throughout the strike, services such as the Library, Careers, Disability & Dyslexia Support, Student Advisory and Wellbeing, Counselling, GP Surgery, etc. will remain open.
When strike action was held in 2018 the College established an Industrial Action Hardship Fund to reimburse students for expenses incurred for things like travel, parking, childcare, etc. that were necessary to enable students to attend classes, and then the class didn’t take place because of the strike action. To access this fund, please keep your receipts for any cost incurred during the strike action. More information is available here.
Any money withheld will be held in a fund, the University is consulting with us as the Students' Union on how best to use this money for the benefit of students. One way the fund is currently being used is to refund students who have incurred expenses to attend classes that were then cancelled due to strike action.
The University have stated that; ‘To seek to minimise the impact of the action we have explained to staff that it is expected that, on working days, activities will be delivered that will enable you to meet the learning outcomes of your course and which will ensure you are prepared for assessments and examinations in the third term. We have also asked academic staff to give priority to these activities.’
In order to provide additional revision time and the opportunity for schools and departments to offer additional exam preparation activities, the University have taken the decision to move the start date of final year undergraduate examinations from Tuesday 28 April to Monday 4 May. There is no change to the start date of examinations for first and second year undergraduates or postgraduates, these will begin on Tuesday 28 April. The examination period will end by Friday 29 May as planned.
The University have taken the decision to move the start date of final year undergraduate examinations from Tuesday 28 April to Monday 4 May. There is no change to the start date of examinations for first and second year undergraduates or postgraduates, these will begin on Tuesday 28 April. The examination period will end by Friday 29 May as planned.
You don’t need to submit Extenuating Circumstances in relation to the strike/ industrial action if you think the strike action has negatively impacted your performance in coursework or examinations.
As the University have acknowledged that the strike action was a situation deemed to be beyond your control and they have put measures in place to ensure that any impact strike action may have on your performance is taken into account. This will include mitigation in the marking of assessment and then checking overall mark profiles for any clear inconsistencies in performance and may include making adjustments as appropriate so that your grades do not suffer.
The wellbeing of students is important and if you think that the strike action has made an existing condition worse, (and you have evidence of this), it may be appropriate to submit Extenuating Circumstances. If this is the case, please discuss this with the Student Wellbeing team, your School Helpdesk or the Student Services Centre.
No Royal Holloway student will be disadvantaged in their assessment or exam outcomes as a direct result of this industrial action.
If you would like any advice, please contact our Advice Centre at the SU on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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