We’ve compiled answers to the most frequently asked questions from students about the UCU industrial action.
How will the industrial action impact me?
How the industrial action impacts you will depend on many factors, including your course of study, year of study, and whether your lecturers have chosen to take part in the industrial action. I’d encourage you to speak to those around you to understand how this will affect you. You can contact your school office, course convenors and student reps - they should be able to answer some of your questions.
You might already know if your lecturers are planning to take part in the industrial action. They might have already informed you, either in lecturers or via email, and many lecturers will be happy to discuss the industrial action and the reasons why it is going ahead. Please note, though, that your lecturers do not have to tell you whether they will be taking part in the industrial action or not. You can always send them an email or go to their office hour, and ask them what they think, but remember that you can’t demand an answer.
How the industrial action affects you will also depend on whether you are part of or hope to soon be part of the USS pension scheme. If the UCU’s projections for pension changes are correct, those most detrimentally affected by these changes will be starting academics - many of which are currently PGT, PGR and AT students. If you are a PG student worried about the future of your pensions, we encourage you to get in contact with the University’s HR or UCU Sussex. PG students can also contact the Students’ Union’s own PG Education Officer, Sarah McIntosh, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
International students worried about how this industrial strike will affect them can contact the International Support Unit at Sussex, get in contact with their academic advisor or send an email to the Student Union Officers at email@example.com.
Will I be compensated? If so, how?
Because of the significant disruption of teaching that 4 weeks of industrial action will cause, many UG students are wondering if they will be compensated. Students are paying significant amounts to study at Universities in the UK, expecting to be taught x weeks over the course of the year. As striking lecturers will not be paid for days they chose to partake in the strike, students are wondering what will happen with the money docked from striking lecturers’ pay.
Across the country, students have started petitions asking that their Universities pay a certain sum back for each contact hour lost. However, a recent piece from HE Research has outlined that the legal possibility for students to be compensated for time lost is not as straightforward as many students think. There is also a petition going around the University of Sussex asking that money docked from lecturers pay due to the strike is ring fenced in a hardship fund for students. The University has, however, said that they are unlikely to have resources to set up such a fund because of the considerable pressure put on them due to the length of the strike.
Any students interested in starting a campaign to refund students due to the industrial strike can organise for their cause. You can start a petition, find other students with the same aim and contact a Student Union Officer for support and advice. You can also get in contact with the students organising the petition to ring fence funds here.
Will my deadlines change? What will happen to my final marks?
We are working really hard to make sure no student is disadvantaged in their assessments and exams due to the industrial action, as it is a priority and worry for many of our students. If you have any specific deadlines or assessments that you think will be significantly impacted due to the industrial action, we encourage you to contact your Student Rep, Head of School and Student Union Officers.
Will there be material for me to study?
This, again, depends on your course and level of study. The Students’ Union has encouraged the UCU to speak to their members about uploading resources on Study Direct so that students can continue to study over the course of the industrial action. However, lecturers are under no obligation to do this. We encourage you to contact your course convenor, student rep or head of school with questions about this.
We also realise the possibility for own studies depends on what courses your studying; many humanities students will be able to study at home to a greater extent than many science students will. Contact your student reps and head of school if you have any questions about how your labs, or other tutor-led study sessions, might be affected by the industrial action.
Can I come to campus on strike days?
Whether or not you come to campus on strike days is up to you. Many students will chose not to come to campus so as to not cross picket lines on campus. A picket line is where workers and union reps, ‘picketers’ or ‘pickets’, stand outside a workplace to tell other people why they are striking. Walking past these pickets to get onto campus will be seen by some students and lecturers as not supporting their cause or action, but if you chose or have to get to campus they are not allowed to keep you from doing that.
Many striking staff members will of course also understand that there are reasons why students and staff go to campus on strike days, and will most likely be friendly to anyone who does. The Students’ Union will remain open over the industrial strike, as will most professional services, buildings and outlets on campus.
When will I know if my lectures are cancelled?
This will depend on your lecturers and course convenors. Lecturers partaking in the industrial action do not have to let their students know that their lectures or seminars are canceled, although many are choosing to inform their students in advance. The Students’ Union Officers are concerned about the impact this may have on students, especially in terms of cost for commuting for those living far away, and are encouraging the UCU to be as transparent as possible with our students about the industrial action. Please note that students will not be penalised for not attending lectures canceled due to strike.
Should I show up to lectures that aren’t cancelled?
This, just as always, is up to you. During the strike, the University's normal attendance arrangements will remain in place. Under these procedures, School Offices would get in touch with students once a certain level of unauthorised absence is reached. The School would want to discuss with students how unauthorised absence is affecting academic progress and put in place support measures to help students get back on track.
How can I lobby for change? Who can I lobby?
There is a variety of ways you can lobby for change in this situation. You can contact the VC and let him know of your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org, and email your Student Union officers at email@example.com. You can also organise with other students, start petitions, write open letters, and campaign for change. You can turn to the Student Union if you would like any support or help in this.
Who do I contact with my worries?
We encourage you to contact your closest University and Student Union representative or staff. Your school office, academic advisor or course convenor is a good place to start, or your Student Rep or Student Union Officers.
If you would like more information about what the industrial action is about, ways to support the industrial action, or how to contact the University with complaints, we encourage you to read our longer FAQ here.