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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 2019 and 2020, the OIA (the official body for student complaints – more info about them below) received record numbers of complaints, and among them were complaints related to industrial action.

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?

Tweet about UCU lecturer strike

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.

At the affected universities, staff are striking over USS pensions, working conditions and issues regarding pay.

When are the UCU strikes?

There were strikes at 58 universities in the UK between 1st – 3rd December 2021.

On top of the planned strikes, UCU has also said that there will be industrial action short of a strike at 64 universities. This will involve university staff working strictly to their contract and refusing any additional duties. It started on 1st December 2021 and will continue for up to five months.

Which universities are affected by the strikes?

These are the 58 universities where lecturers were on strike between 1st and 3rd December 2021:

UniversityDispute
Aston UniversityPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of BathUSS pensions
Birkbeck, University of LondonPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of BirminghamPay, conditions and USS pensions
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
University of ChesterPay and conditions
Courtauld Institute of ArtPay and conditions
University of DundeePay, conditions and USS pensions
Durham UniversityPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of EdinburghPay, conditions and USS pensions
Edinburgh Napier UniversityPay and conditions
University of EssexPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of GlasgowPay, conditions and USS pensions
Glasgow School of ArtPay and conditions
Goldsmiths, University of LondonPay, conditions and USS pensions
Greenwich UniversityPay and conditions
Heriot-Watt UniversityPay, conditions and USS pensions
Imperial College LondonUSS pensions
Institute of Development StudiesUSS pensions
Keele UniversityPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of KentPay, conditions and USS pensions
King's College LondonPay, conditions and USS pensions
Kingston UniversityPay and conditions
University of LancasterPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of LeedsPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of LeicesterPay and conditions
University of LiverpoolPay, conditions and USS pensions
Liverpool Hope UniversityPay and conditions
London School of EconomicsPay, conditions and USS pensions
London School of Hygiene and Tropical MedicinePay, conditions and USS pensions
Loughborough UniversityPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of ManchesterPay and conditions
Manchester Metropolitan UniversityPay and conditions
University of NorthamptonPay and conditions
University of NottinghamPay, conditions and USS pensions
Open UniversityPay, conditions and USS pensions
Queen Margaret UniversityPay and conditions
Queens University BelfastPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of ReadingUSS pensions
Roehampton UniversityPay and conditions
Royal College of ArtPay and conditions
Royal Holloway, University of LondonPay, conditions and USS pensions
Royal Northern College of MusicPay and conditions
University of SalfordPay and conditions
University of SheffieldPay, conditions and USS pensions
Sheffield Hallam UniversityPay and conditions
SOAS, University of LondonPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of St AndrewsPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of StirlingPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of SussexPay, conditions and USS pensions
UAL (University of the Arts London)Pay and conditions
UCLan (University of Central Lancashire)Pay and conditions
UCL (University College London)Pay and conditions
University of UlsterPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of YorkPay, conditions and USS pensions

Additional universities affected by action short of a strike

On top of the 58 universities listed in the table above, staff at these six universities have a mandate to take action short of a strike:

  • Bishop Grosseteste University
  • Bournemouth University
  • Leeds Trinity University
  • Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts
  • St Mary's University College Belfast
  • University of Winchester.
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 form of 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 student money expert, said:

In 2018, 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 a good example of a university that's previously paid students compensation over the strikes. In 2020, they offered final-year undergraduate and postgraduate students £50 as a "goodwill gesture".

And, according to The Independent, King's College London 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 says that University College London (UCL) 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. But, 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).

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 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 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.

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

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