University of Sussex compensates students for Union strikes

University of Sussex has created an online form to compensate students affected by UCU strikes. Elisabetta Pulcini reports

Elisabetta Pulcini
6th February 2020
University of Sussex has set up an online form for the monetary compensation of students affected by the 2019 University and College Union (UCU) strike. According to the university, every student is entitled up to £100.

Sussex students will need to fill in an online form detailing the “distress and inconvenience” caused by the strike. The move was praised by Jim Dickinson, associate editor of the Wonkhe higher education policy website, who, when speaking to The Guardian, saw this as a welcome sign of an increased focus on “the individual rights of students to get what it is they were promised”.

However, a petition by Sussex students, signed by 2,808 people, claimed that each student will lose a minimum of £380, and that “all students should receive the full amount of compensation automatically”. This raised questions on the nature of the decision.

The Courier spoke to Edwina Laycock, Sussex student and creator of the petition, who commented on the motivations behind the University’s move. 

Laycock said: "I feel like the University are doing this to avoid legal action - as it might be impossible to sue if we accept the money". Moreover, she stated that the money provided "is a pitiful amount considering the distress we were under, as well as the amount of lectures we missed out on". 

She is critical of the online form, stating: "We also had to give a great deal of information and rate our distress all for a paltry claim. They should automatically give everyone £100 as they haven't provided what they promised to provide - stress should be irrelevant".

Newcastle University has provided a number of online forms to let students voice their concerns, where they have been disproportionately impacted by the strike. However, unlike University of Sussex, the possible compensation options are still unclear. The forms provide little guidance on the range of possible outcomes. 

The Newcastle University Student Services website states that the outcome of the sumbitted form will be considered either “individually or on a cohort basis” and either “at the end of the semester or the academic year”, as considered “appropriate”. The lack of certainty in the compensation might be in reference that not all students were materially affected by the strike. For example, the university places emphasis that to be eligible for compensation, the strike must have “significantly disrupted your studies”.

It is unclear what Newcastle University will do to remedy the impact on the students. In 2017, Newcastle University Student Union was able to achieve a number of victories, redirecting the money saved from the strikes towards providing free graduation gowns, extra funding for mental health and counselling service, and discounts on on-campus food and drinks.

The UCU strike ran for eight days, from the 25 November to 4 December, and affected thousands of university students across the UK. The widespread support from the students has been demonstrated towards the staff. Universities' responses remain under scrutiny.

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AUTHOR: Elisabetta Pulcini
Film Editor 19/20 and Law (LLB) graduate. An Italian passionate about journalism and the law: always up for a debate. @ElisabettaPul

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