2019 UK University Strikes Explained Simply

Some people around campus are over the moon about the fact that there are strikes, it will be like another reading week they think! Others are outraged that with all of the tuition fees that they are paying that they will be missing out on learning and possibly even a first class degree. Others have nothing to say about it at all simply because they do not have enough knowledge of it. If you are a fresher or studying in the UK for the first time, or haven't been keeping up with university affairs, then you may not have much understanding of the strikes which started today and intend on lasting for 8 days. In this article I aim to get you up to speed on this whole situation, by answering some questions which you will find useful.

  • Who are the UCU?

The University and College Union (UCU) is a trade union in the UK which represents at least 120,000 working as lecturers, academics, researchers, administrators, librarians and so on. In other words, the UCU represents almost everyone which contributes to the possibility as well as the success of you earning your university degree.


  • Why did the UCU decide to strike?

The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) is the main pension scheme for staff at universities and higher education institutions in the UK. New changes to the USS means that the average USS is predicted to lose out on average £240,000 for their retirement despite having to pay £40,000 more. 79% of UCU members supported strike action due to these changes to the USS. In the last 10 years UCU members has decreased fallen by about 20%. Subsequently, 74% of UCU members supported strike action related to their pay, workloads and contract durations.


  • Is UCL Striking? How will I know if my lecturer is?

Basically, all of the UCU members which are staff at UCL are striking. Whereas, staff which are not members of UCU will not be striking. You will know whether your lecturer is striking or not if they have already emailed you about it or told you. If they have not said anything about it then it is probably best to go to your lectures and seminars for that module and assume that your lecturer is not striking.


  • Will the strike last for all 9 days?

In the past, such as in 2018 the UCU strike did not last for the entire intended duration. This was due to the fact that the strike had been called off early as there had been some developments in the negotiations made between UCU and Universities UK (UUK). I predict that the strike will not last for all of the 9 days and that some kind of positive negotiation will happen before that or a resolution. However, this is just a mere prediction, I cannot speak about the future with full certainty.


  • Will the lectures and seminars I miss due to the strike be scheduled for another time?

The answer to this is no! Some lecturers have changed the content of modules due to the strike actions, so that the material missed out due to the strike will be taught once the strike is over. However, this simply means that material which was originally intended to be taught later on in the course will no longer be taught.


  • Will my attendance go down for missing any lectures and seminars?

During the days in which the strike is on your attendance will not be registered. Even if some of your seminar and lecturers are going on you do not have to attend if you choose not to, this also will not be penalised. The reason for this is you can choose not to cross the picket line, which in other words means you choose not to go to university during this time to support the UCU members.


  • Will I get refunded for the seminars and lectures I miss during the strike?

In the past, students do not typically get any kind of compensation or some of the fees back due to the disruption caused by UCU strikes. These are questions which can be addressed at the UCL President and Provost. So Michael Arthur, he can be contacted at [email protected]. I would reccomend using your university email address to contact him. 


You should now be up to speed with the reasons behind the strikes going on across UK universities, as well as have the answers about some of the worried you had about  what this means for you as a student. Here is some more information about it if you are curious to find out a bit more from UCL themselves.