The University College Union (UCU), which represents University staff members across the nation, has begun a 14-day period of strikes on February 20. Members across 74 UK Universities are joining in to address poor contract conditions, lack of pension schemes and a gender pay gap for both academic and non-academic staff.
While many students across the country have supported UCU members in the strikes, concerns were raised on how they may affect the academic progression of some students. With many lecturers not attending both classes and meetings, as well as not responding to emails, a significant number of students will be affected. According to a leaked email by SU president of Cardiff University, Jackie Yip, some students may not even be able to complete their degree in due time:
“Confidentially, further strike action will now mean some of my students will have missed so much content that they will not be able to graduate this year, even if there are mitigating actions put in place. We have not told students this as we do not want to cause panic and, behind closed doors, I am doing everything I can to protect my students. I am sure this may be the case in some of your Unions”
Some students at Newcastle University have responded with a counter campaign to the UCU strikes. The group Students Against Strikes (SAS) have held up a poster citing the concern that some students “will not be able to graduate”, which was raised in the leaked email.
However, SU president Yip has told Wales Online that the email was blown out of proportion:
“The email shared was never meant for public distribution and it is unhelpful to consider in isolation of the broader and complex situation. We do not know the full impact the strikes will have on students across all programmes. Yes, the university is having to plan for all outcomes, but they have confirmed it is their priority to ensure students can graduate - so we really hope that will be the case.”
The UCU has issued a statement emphasising that the “blame for strikes lays squarely at the door of university heads”: “students were being held to ransom by vice-chancellors who were not even prepared to discuss the issues at the heart of the two disputes.”