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Student News

How to claim compensation over the UCU lecturer strikes

Missing out on uni because of the UCU strikes? If your classes have been 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, many students will be painfully aware of the cost of each class they miss during the UCU strikes.

If you're thinking about formally complaining about the strikes, you'll likely be joined by a fair amount of others making similar complaints. In 2018, the OIA received the most student complaints they'd had in four years – 50 of which were related to last year's industrial action.

So, for anyone unhappy about the impact of the strikes on their studies, here's how to complain and potentially get compensation.

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

Why are university lecturers striking?

Tweet about UCU strike

Credit: @theinsightedge – Twitter

The strikes are happening from 25th November to 4th December, affecting 60 universities across the UK. At these unis, staff are mostly striking over deteriorating working conditions, pay cuts and increased costs on pensions.

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

A spokesperson for the UCU said they've been "overwhelmed" by the support from students, adding:

That support on the picket lines was a source of inspiration during last year’s strikes and we are so grateful for [students'] backing again this time around.

Nobody wants to be on strike, but universities’ refusal to deal with the issues or even talk to us about pay have left staff with no alternative.

We hope they will now listen to staff, students and shadow education secretary Angela Rayner who are all telling them to get back round the negotiating table with a better offer.

Despite last year's complaints, the UCU are not ruling out more strikes next year:

We have made it clear that if [universities] refuse then we could be looking at more strikes affecting more universities in the new year.

Which universities are affected by the UCU strikes?

Is your uni affected? UCU strikes are taking place in these 60 universities from 25th November 2019:

UniversityDispute
University of AberdeenUSS pensions
Aston UniversityPay, conditions and USS pensions
Bangor UniversityPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of BathPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of BirminghamPay, conditions and USS pensions
Bishop Grosseteste UniversityPay and conditions
Bournemouth UniversityPay and conditions
University of BradfordPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of BrightonPay and conditions
University of BristolPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of CambridgePay, conditions and USS pensions
Cardiff UniversityPay, conditions and USS pensions
City UniversityPay, conditions and USS pensions
Courtauld Institute of ArtPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of DundeePay, conditions and USS pensions
University of DurhamPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of East AngliaUSS pensions
Edge Hill UniversityPay and conditions
University of EdinburghPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of EssexPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of ExeterPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of GlasgowPay, conditions and USS pensions
Glasgow Caledonian UniversityPay and conditions
Glasgow School of ArtPay and conditions
Goldsmiths CollegePay, conditions and USS pensions
Heriot-Watt UniversityPay, conditions and USS pensions
Institute for Development StudiesUSS pensions
University of KentPay and conditions
University of LancasterPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of LeedsPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of LeicesterPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of LiverpoolPay, conditions and USS pensions
Liverpool Hope UniversityPay and conditions
Liverpool Institute of Performing ArtsPay and conditions
Loughborough UniversityPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of ManchesterPay, conditions and USS pensions
Newcastle UniversityPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of NottinghamPay, conditions and USS pensions
Open UniversityPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of OxfordPay and conditions
Queen Margaret University, EdinburghPay and conditions
Queen Mary University of LondonPay, conditions and USS pensions
Queen's University BelfastPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of ReadingPay, conditions and USS pensions
Roehampton UniversityPay and conditions
Royal HollowayPay, conditions and USS pensions
Scottish Association of Marine ScienceUSS pensions
University of SheffieldPay, conditions and USS pensions
Sheffield Hallam UniversityPay and conditions
University of SouthamptonPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of St AndrewsPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of StirlingPay, conditions and USS pensions
St Mary's University College, BelfastPay and conditions
University of StrathclydePay, conditions and USS pensions
University of SussexPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of UlsterPay, conditions and USS pensions
University College LondonPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of WalesPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of WarwickPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of YorkPay, conditions and USS pensions
Find out how one grad got £61K over a university complaint.

How to claim compensation over the UCU strikes

Lecturers striking 2018

Credit: Sasa Wick – 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 form of compensation, without you needing to take the complaint any further.

The UCU spokesperson advised:

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.

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

For more in-depth advice on how to complain and get compensation from your uni, check out our guide.

Student complaint watchdogs

Young serious man on phone at desk

Credit: GaudiLab – Shutterstock

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).

As long as you have a strong enough case, you could 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 strikes.

This was because, when the student initially complained about their lost contact hours due to the UCU strikes, their uni had referenced a 'force majeure' clause in response to the complaint. This clause basically means that, if they face issues outside of their control, they aren'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.

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. Good luck!

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

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