UCU Industrial Action
Guidance for students on the upcoming strike action and how it might affect you.
If you have a query about the industrial action that isn't answered on this page, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Industrial action dates
In October 2019, members of the University of Edinburgh branch of University and Colleges Union (UCU) took part in two separate ballots which resulted in votes in favour of strike action and action short of a strike. This action is in support of UCU’s disputes regarding the joint unions’ 2019/20 pay claim and the increase in member contributions to the Universities Superannuation Scheme.
On 3rd February, UCU announced further strike action due to take place in February and March 2020. UCU has asked members to take part in 14 strike days over the course of three weeks:
- Week 1: Monday 24 – Thursday 27 February (four days)
- Week 2: Monday 2 – Friday 6 March (five days)
- Week 3: Monday 9 – Friday 13 March (five days)
As well as these strike days, union members will also continue 'action short of a strike'.
You can read the Universities UK response to the industrial action at: http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk
You can read more about the UCU position at University and College Union.
Joint University of Edinburgh and UCU Edinburgh statements
Teaching and studies
During the industrial action, you should work on the basis that your studies will continue as normal, unless you are told otherwise. This means that you should aim to attend scheduled teaching, complete and submit assessments by the relevant deadlines, and continue to plan for any examinations.
If any of your scheduled teaching time is cancelled, you should use available course resources (for example, resources on Learn, course reading lists) to continue your learning for your courses. You should work on the basis that subsequent scheduled teaching activities will go ahead as normal, unless you are told to the contrary by your School Office / Teaching Organisation.
While the University, in line with its terms and conditions (section 14.3), will not be offering tuition fee refunds for cancelled classes or teaching time, it is offering a range of support to students who have been affected by the strike. These include the mitigating steps the University has put in place to ensure – while maintaining academic standards – that students are not disadvantaged in exams, dissertations or in progressing to the next year.
Some students will have incurred additional expenses directly as a result of the industrial action. For example, some students on part-time, blended or professional development programmes have borne the cost of travel, childcare and/or accommodation to attend a teaching event which was then subsequently cancelled because of the strike action. The University will reimburse such additional expenses incurred. To claim, please email your evidence including the expenses incurred and the date and class that was cancelled to email@example.com to receive individual reimbursement. Reimbursement will not commence until the industrial action ends. Please note this is not applicable to expenses you may have incurred over and above your normal day to day living costs such as rent etc.
Some classes may be affected by the strike and we understand that this will cause disruption and possibly distress. We will be establishing an Opportunity Fund to support your learning and, if your classes are impacted, you will be able to apply for a payment from this fund in recognition of significant disruption – any payments are likely to be capped at around £250 per student. We will be publishing more details shortly, but please be aware that we won’t be able to take applications to the fund until the strike is over and we have gathered the data on which classes were impacted.
During the industrial action, the University will remain open and many academic and support activities continue to operate as normal, although we may be functioning with fewer staff.
Where teaching staff are taking part in the strike action, there may be disruption to teaching operations (e.g. lectures, seminars, tutorials, laboratory sessions and fieldwork), and provision of feedback. Other staff within professional services at your School may also be UCU members and so may be unavailable during the strike action. Please be aware that not all staff are members of UCU.
While we do not yet know the likely extent of further action, we will continue to ensure that the impact on students is minimised while at the same time maintaining high academic standards.
From the start of the action, Schools will work to ensure the impact on your studies is minimised, but some scheduled teaching may need to be cancelled. Your School will continue to aim to inform you in advance of any teaching which may be cancelled and seek to provide alternatives if possible. In some cases, however, this information may not be available to Schools in advance as staff are not required to inform us they are participating in the action.
Where you have been set coursework, you should work towards submitting this on time, as usual, and work on the assumption that normal penalties will continue to apply to late or non-submission of coursework. This includes deadlines falling on planned strike days.
For some courses, attendance and participation in classes contributes to the overall assessment for the course, and some students will have other assessment activities such as presentations scheduled during the period of industrial action. You are expected to attend these classes if they are running.
Where your scheduled teaching and assessment events are going ahead as planned, you are expected to attend as usual. While the University recognises that some students may choose not to cross a picket line to attend teaching and assessment events, we will be unlikely to be able to offer alternate teaching and assessment events for these students.
Where an assessment is due to be submitted on a strike day and students are required physically to hand in that assessment, Schools will allow late submission (on the next non-strike day) for students unwilling to cross a picket line. This does not apply if submission can be made electronically.
In the event of you being unable to contact your personal tutor, supervisor, programme director or student support team please email firstname.lastname@example.org and your enquiry and/or support need will be addressed.
If you are a Visiting Student in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, the College's Visiting Student Office will be able to provide you with support. The visiting student office can be contacted by email email@example.com or by telephoning 0131 6511700.
The industrial action is unlikely to have any impact on your studies at your host institution. However, if you require support from your Exchange Coordinator or Personal Tutor at the University of Edinburgh and they are participating in the industrial action, there may be a delay in their response. If this is the case, we advise that you get in touch with your contact in the Study and Work Away Service.
We do not anticipate disruption to library or support services during the industrial action. You will be able to continue to access these as needed.
Assessment, exams and feedback
For compulsory questions: Schools will take steps to ensure that all compulsory questions accurately reflect the content delivered during the teaching semester.
For optional questions: Every effort is being made to ensure exam papers accurately reflect the content delivered during the teaching semester, although this may not be possible in every instance. Students should answer the questions they feel most able and prepared to address. If any exam paper contains a question on material not delivered due to strike action this will be brought to the attention of the exam board in order that it can take these circumstances into consideration.
We understand that many of you may experience some disruption to your teaching or assessment due to industrial action. Please be assured that Boards of Examiners who consider your course and programme results will be given detailed information about the impact of any disruption to each of your courses, so that they can take this into account when deciding your results.
Please be assured that Boards of Examiners who consider your course and programme results will be given detailed information about the impact of any disruption to each of your courses, so that they can take this into account when deciding your results.
You do not need to use the special circumstances process to make them aware of these issues, unless you have experienced a unique impact from the industrial action, for example due to a combination of your personal circumstances, and the action. If you do have unique personal circumstances of which you wish to make the Board aware, you should follow the Special Circumstances Procedure.
If your Course Organiser or another member of academic staff has not responded to your request for a coursework extension, you should contact your School Teaching Office or equivalent. You should submit your work as soon as you are able to do so.
Schools will continue to meet published deadlines for return of feedback to students wherever possible. However, the industrial action may mean that some feedback is returned later than expected. The University has however asked all Schools to prioritise teaching and assessment activities over other work where possible, in order to minimise any delays.
Postgraduate Research students
You should work on the basis that the viva (oral examination) or annual progression review meeting will go ahead as planned, and submit your thesis on schedule. However, you are encouraged to contact your supervisor or your School’s Graduate School to confirm that your viva or progression review is going ahead as planned.
As long as you continue to attend all contact and engagement points wherever possible, your visa status will be unaffected by the industrial action. In the event that the industrial action leads to some of your engagement points being cancelled, your School may put alternative engagement points in place.
This is a national dispute, as pay and matters relating to the USS pension scheme are negotiated by UK-wide bodies on behalf of Universities across the sector. The University has also been addressing a number of additional points raised by the Unions. We have already reached agreement with UCU on a number of actions to improve the working conditions and security of Guaranteed Hours teaching staff and are committed to working with UNISON and Unite to do so in other areas of the University. We’ve already started work – with all three unions – to look at how we can improve the experience of staff on fixed-term contracts. In line with our pre-existing partnership approach, we will commit to work with all three trade unions to discuss and address concerns relating to workload and mental health, and to understand the University’s gender and BAME workforce distribution and associated pay gaps.