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Student News

How to claim compensation over the UCU lecturer strikes

Missing out on university because of the UCU strikes? If your classes are disrupted, you could be entitled to a decent amount of compensation.

UCU strikes and woman looking annoyed

Credit: Ajit Wick, Cookie Studio – Shutterstock

After spending eye-watering amounts of money on tuition fees and living costs, many students will be painfully aware of the cost of each class they have missed during the various UCU strikes.

If you're thinking about formally complaining about the strikes, you could well be joined by many others doing the same.

In 2022, the OIA (the official body for student complaints – more info about them below) received record numbers of complaints. And, in the OIA Annual Report 2022, the disruption to studies from industrial action was mentioned among the themes in their casework.

If you're unhappy about the impact of the strikes on your studies, here's how to complain and potentially get compensation.

Find out how to check if you've been repaying your Student Loan too early and how to claim a refund.

Why are university lecturers striking?

The industrial action is being led by the University and College Union (UCU). Although a lot of the people striking are academics and lecturers, UCU members also include administrators, computer staff, librarians, postgrads and more.

There have previously been strikes over the USS pensions dispute, but the strikes in September 2023 are just about pay and working conditions.

When are the UCU strikes?

In September 2023, there are plans for there to be strikes at over 45 universities in the UK.

Most of the strike action will be held between Monday 25th September and Friday 29th September. However, in some cases, the strikes are on different or additional days.

If you haven't already, read our in-depth guide to getting compensation from your university.

Which universities are affected by the strikes?

These are the universities where staff are going on strike:

UniversityStrike dates
Birkbeck, University of London25th – 29th September 2023
Bournemouth University25th – 29th September 2023
University of BrightonIndefinite strike action over local redundancies
Brunel University25th – 29th September 2023
Buckinghamshire New University25th – 29th September 2023
University of Dundee25th – 26th September 2023
Durham University26th September 2023
Edge Hill University25th – 29th September 2023
University of Edinburgh25th – 29th September 2023
University of Glasgow27th September 2023
University of Gloucestershire25th – 26th September 2023
University of Greenwich25th – 29th September 2023
Harper Adams University25th – 29th September 2023
Heriot-Watt University25th – 29th September 2023
Keele University25th – 29th September 2023
Kingston University25th – 29th September 2023
University of Leeds25th – 29th September 2023
Liverpool John Moores University25th – 29th September 2023
Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine25th – 29th September 2023
University of Liverpool25th – 29th September 2023
London Metropolitan University25th – 26th September 2023
University of Manchester25th – 29th September 2023
Open University25th – 29th September 2023
Oxford Brookes University27th September 2023
University of Oxford25th – 29th September 2023
Plymouth Marjon University25th – 29th September 2023
University of Plymouth25th September 2023
Queen Mary, University of London25th – 29th September 2023
Royal Academy of Music25th – 29th September 2023
Royal Agricultural University25th – 29th September 2023
Royal College of Art25th – 29th September 2023
Royal College of Music25th – 29th September 2023
Royal Holloway, University of London25th – 29th September 2023
University of Salford25th – 29th September 2023
University of Sheffield25th – 29th September 2023
University of South Wales25th – 29th September 2023
Stranmillis University College25th – 29th September 2023
University of Strathclyde26th – 28th September 2023
University of SussexIn negotiation
Trinity Laban28th September 2023
Ulster University25th – 29th September 2023
University for the Creative Arts (UCA)25th – 29th September 2023
University College Birmingham25th – 29th September 2023
University of the Arts London (UAL)25th – 29th September 2023
University of West England25th – 26th September 2023
University of Westminster25th – 26th September 2023
Writtle University College25th – 29th September 2023

This table is correct at the time of writing, based on the information on UCU's website.

There had previously been more universities that were due to face strike action in September 2023, but it was called off at a lot of places.

Find out how one graduate got £61K over a university complaint.

How to claim compensation over the UCU strikes

Confused woman

Credit: fizkes – Shutterstock

If you decide to complain about the UCU strikes, your first step should be to approach your uni. They may be able to offer you some help or compensation, without you needing to take the complaint any further.

In 2019, a UCU spokesperson said:

Students should [...] be demanding that universities put the huge sums of money they will save from not paying staff during the strike into student-facing activities.

And Jake Butler, Save the Student's money expert, said:

In 2018, for example, 575,000 teaching hours were lost to strikes, hitting students hard in lost fees, disruption to grades, and stress.

Given the £9,250 a year fees and amount of pressure there is on students to perform well at university, it's more than reasonable to make a claim.

The University of Kent is one example of a uni that's paid students compensation over the strikes. They've previously offered up to £75 as a goodwill gesture to students who were impacted by the industrial action.

And, according to a report by The Independent in 2020, King's College London had refunded a total of over £640,000 to more than 500 students, with the amounts paid to individuals ranging from £122 to £4,500.

In comparison, the same report said that University College London (UCL) had only paid out around £6,000 between eight students after they'd complained.

If your university refuses to offer you compensation (or offers you less than you think is fair), you have the option of taking the complaint further. The organisation you'd approach next would depend on whereabouts in the UK you're studying.

Wondering what the strikes are really costing you? Find out how much your degree costs per hour with our calculator.

Ombudsmen for student complaints

If you're in England or Wales and you want to take your complaint beyond the university, you could approach the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA).

In Scotland, you can take complaints to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO).

And, in Northern Ireland, it's the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO).

If the ombudsman thinks your complaint is justified, they will then advise your university on what they should do next (i.e. whether or not they should offer students compensation and how much).

It's not guaranteed, but if you have a strong enough case, you could potentially be entitled to a pretty sizeable payout. For example, in 2018, the OIA advised one university to give an international student £1,283.75 over the industrial action.

This was because, when the student initially complained about their lost contact hours due to the industrial action, their uni had referenced a 'force majeure' clause in response to the complaint. This clause basically means that, if they faced issues outside of their control, they weren't obliged to carry out their contractual promises.

But, as the student hadn't been aware of this clause beforehand, the OIA referenced the consumer protection legislation as a reason the student could be entitled to compensation.

The OIA has published useful information about what to do if you're affected by industrial action at uni.

To sum up: if you think you should get compensation over the UCU strikes, approach your uni first to see what they can offer you. Then, consider taking the complaint further if you're unhappy with their response.

Want more tips on how to complain and get results? Our dedicated guide will help.

Laura Brown

WRITTEN BY Laura Brown

Laura Brown, Head of Editorial at Save the Student, is an award-winning writer with expertise in student money. She project manages influential national student surveys and has presented findings to MPs in Westminster. As an expert on student issues, Laura has been quoted by the BBC, the Guardian, Metro and more.
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