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.
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.
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:
|Birkbeck, University of London||25th – 29th September 2023|
|Bournemouth University||25th – 29th September 2023|
|University of Brighton||Indefinite strike action over local redundancies|
|Brunel University||25th – 29th September 2023|
|Buckinghamshire New University||25th – 29th September 2023|
|University of Dundee||25th – 26th September 2023|
|Durham University||26th September 2023|
|Edge Hill University||25th – 29th September 2023|
|University of Edinburgh||25th – 29th September 2023|
|University of Glasgow||27th September 2023|
|University of Gloucestershire||25th – 26th September 2023|
|University of Greenwich||25th – 29th September 2023|
|Harper Adams University||25th – 29th September 2023|
|Heriot-Watt University||25th – 29th September 2023|
|Keele University||25th – 29th September 2023|
|Kingston University||25th – 29th September 2023|
|University of Leeds||25th – 29th September 2023|
|Liverpool John Moores University||25th – 29th September 2023|
|Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine||25th – 29th September 2023|
|University of Liverpool||25th – 29th September 2023|
|London Metropolitan University||25th – 26th September 2023|
|University of Manchester||25th – 29th September 2023|
|Open University||25th – 29th September 2023|
|Oxford Brookes University||27th September 2023|
|University of Oxford||25th – 29th September 2023|
|Plymouth Marjon University||25th – 29th September 2023|
|University of Plymouth||25th September 2023|
|Queen Mary, University of London||25th – 29th September 2023|
|Royal Academy of Music||25th – 29th September 2023|
|Royal Agricultural University||25th – 29th September 2023|
|Royal College of Art||25th – 29th September 2023|
|Royal College of Music||25th – 29th September 2023|
|Royal Holloway, University of London||25th – 29th September 2023|
|University of Salford||25th – 29th September 2023|
|University of Sheffield||25th – 29th September 2023|
|University of South Wales||25th – 29th September 2023|
|Stranmillis University College||25th – 29th September 2023|
|University of Strathclyde||26th – 28th September 2023|
|University of Sussex||In negotiation|
|Trinity Laban||28th September 2023|
|Ulster University||25th – 29th September 2023|
|University for the Creative Arts (UCA)||25th – 29th September 2023|
|University College Birmingham||25th – 29th September 2023|
|University of the Arts London (UAL)||25th – 29th September 2023|
|University of West England||25th – 26th September 2023|
|University of Westminster||25th – 26th September 2023|
|Writtle University College||25th – 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.
How to claim compensation over the UCU strikes
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.
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.
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.