The Newcastle University Senate, the body responsible for academic matters, met this week to formulate their response to continued lecturer strikes. It was formally agreed that the strike action now constitutes an emergency situation, and contingency plans are being drawn up to correspond with this emergency status.
These plans have been designed to take account of the strikes thus far, as well as the impact of potential action in the future. Since the UCU rejected the deal proposed on 13th March, a further 14 days of industrial action has been sanctioned, disrupting the assessment and examinations period between April and June.
The Vice Chancellor circulated an email to students on Friday, outlining various potential measures: “alternative ways to enable students to achieve the learning outcomes of their programmes, adjustments to submission or feedback deadlines, alternative forms of assessment where appropriate, and flexible decisions about progress to the next stage or degree classifications.”
[pullquote]The aim is to determine whether there is a general trend across the University in how academic experience is being affected, so that arrangements can be best tailored to minimise disruption[/pullquote]
In addition, it has been confirmed that “the online Personal Extenuating Circumstances (PEC) system enables you to request that these circumstances be taken into account at the end of the semester.” This system can be employed if students come across definite and specific instances where the strike action has impacted their learning or assessment.
The email stated that there will be more specific information delivered to individuals from their own academic units, primarily by the Heads of Schools or those in similar positions. Students and staff are therefore urged to check their emails, particularly in the lead up to any scheduled assessments.
NUSU Sabbatical Officers requested a number of other assurances at the Senate meeting, including consistency across the emergency procedures, and consideration of those who have missed informal meetings such as dissertation supervision.
The Students’ Union has since requested that course representatives complete Strike Mitigation forms in order to convey the student voice on the matter. The aim is to determine whether there is a general trend across the University in how academic experience is being affected, so that arrangements can be best tailored to minimise disruption.
[pullquote]In the meantime, the official advice given by the University is that students continue to work towards their assessments as usual[/pullquote]
These university-specific guidelines have been put in place alongside the developing national context. On 23rd March, UCU general secretary Sally Hunt issued an update concerning both parties involved in the dispute, proposing “a joint expert panel, comprised of actuarial and academic experts, which will agree key principles to underpin the future joint approach.”
The national student petition for fee compensation also continues, and Newcastle’s Vice Chancellor has stated: “the fee which students pay is covering all aspects of the provision to students, and is based on the delivery of the overall learning outcomes for students in any given programme. The University is not currently considering any form of reduction in fees or compensation.”
Further information regarding emergency guidelines is expected to be released over the next couple of weeks, as well as updates from UCU regarding the details of the industrial action yet to be carried out. In the meantime, the official advice given by the University is that students continue to work towards their assessments as usual.