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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 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, 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 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 industrial action's 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 mostly striking over deteriorating working conditions, issues regarding pay and increased costs on pensions.

When are the next UCU strikes?

The next UCU strikes are due to happen over 14 days between 20th February – 13th March 2020, affecting 74 universities across the UK.

Here are the full strike dates:

  • Thursday 20th February
  • Friday 21st February
  • Monday 24th February
  • Tuesday 25th February
  • Wednesday 26th February
  • Monday 2nd March
  • Tuesday 3rd March
  • Wednesday 4th March
  • Thursday 5th March
  • Monday 9th March
  • Tuesday 10th March
  • Wednesday 11th March
  • Thursday 12th March
  • Friday 13th March

What have the UCU said about the strikes?

Lecturers striking 2018

Credit: Sasa Wick – Shutterstock

During the strikes in November 2019, a spokesperson for the UCU said they'd 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.

They had suggested at the time that there could be more strikes this 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 74 universities from 20th February 2020:

UniversityDispute
University of AberdeenPay, conditions and USS pensions
Aston UniversityPay, conditions and USS pensions
Bangor UniversityPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of BathPay, conditions and USS pensions
Bath Spa UniversityPay and conditions
Birkbeck CollegePay, 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
De Montfort UniversityPay and conditions
University of DundeePay, conditions and USS pensions
University of DurhamPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of East AngliaPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of East LondonPay and conditions
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
University of GreenwichPay and conditions
Heriot-Watt UniversityPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of HuddersfieldPay and conditions
Imperial College LondonUSS pensions
Institute for Development StudiesUSS pensions
King's College LondonUSS pensions
Keele UniversityUSS pensions
University of KentPay and conditions
University of LancasterPay, conditions and USS pensions
University of LeedsPay, conditions and USS pensions
Leeds Trinity UniversityPay and conditions
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, conditions and USS pensions
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 College of ArtPay 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
SOASPay, conditions and USS pensions
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
UAL London College of ArtsPay and conditions
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 WinchesterPay and conditions
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

Woman shrugging at laptop

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.

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.

And Jake Butler, Save the Student's resident 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.

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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