Previous announcements from the University in relation to the UCU Industrial Action.
Message from Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal & Vice-Chancellor (21 June 2018)
As a result of the industrial action, the University has some additional resource resulting from salary costs which were not incurred. I have always been clear that that resource should be spent entirely on the student experience, with a focus on those of you who have been particularly affected by the industrial action.
We have decided, in conjunction with the Students’ Association, to use that resource to increase investment in and expand our student hardship funds for both UK and international students; and to establish a new Student opportunity fund.
Student Hardship Funds
We are increasing investment in the Student Discretionary and Hardship Funds, which provide support for students who face unexpected financial difficulty. This additional investment will meet existing unmet demand and ensure that support continues to be available to students in financial need. In addition, while we already offer free graduations to all our students, we are broadening the remit of the student hardship funds to cover hardship claims in relation to graduation gown hire.
Student Opportunity Fund
We are establishing a new Student Opportunity Fund. If you are an undergraduate or postgraduate taught student who has lost over 10% of your scheduled teaching in Semester Two you will be eligible to apply for a grant of up to £250, to support future learning opportunities, whether those are in Edinburgh or elsewhere. For example you might wish to attend a conference or workshop, or take a short course in an area of interest. The fund will open today and will remain open for up to 12 months for all impacted students including those of you who will have graduated by the time of application. Full details of how to apply for these funds are available online at the link below:
I very much recognise that the period of industrial action was a challenging and disruptive time for many of you. The University has already put in place significant mitigating steps to ensure – while maintaining academic standards – that impacted students are not disadvantaged in exams or progressing to the next year. I hope that these additional measures outlined above will provide a further way of supporting your learning in the future, they are open to all students - from Scotland, the rest of the UK and beyond.
My best wishes to you all,
Professor Peter Mathieson
Principal and Vice-Chancellor
University of Edinburgh
Message from Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal & Vice-Chancellor (16 April 2018)
Dear students and colleagues,
You will probably have heard that University and College Union (UCU) members voted on Friday to accept the new Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension proposal put forward after further negotiations with Universities UK.
This means that UCU have stated that the further round of planned industrial action has been suspended and have asked their members to work normally.
While this is an important and welcome step forward, there is a significant amount of work to be done now to build a shared understanding, through the proposed expert group, of the way forward. We will be ready to contribute to that in any way that will help move this to a positive conclusion.
This has been a challenging time for all of us in our University community. I have been grateful for the work that colleagues have put into seeking to minimise the impact of the industrial action on our students’ learning experience over the past few weeks. We will continue to give this the highest priority.
We are updating our guidance for Boards of Examiners who consider student course and programme results, so that they can take the impact of any disruption to any courses into account when deciding results. There is already guidance for students on our website which includes information on assessment and feedback, examinations, special circumstances, graduations and progression. We will continue to update these Frequently Asked Questions on the Student Administration pages.
The value that students and staff place on the traditional strength of collegial spirit at the University of Edinburgh has been very evident since my arrival. Let’s all work together to cherish that for the future.
Message from Tom Ward, Director of Academic Services (3 April 2018)
As Semester 2 draws to a close, I wish to remind you that it is your responsibility to tell your School about any special circumstances which may adversely affect your performance in an examination or in assessed coursework, if you wish to have these considered. It is not necessary to notify your School of any impact resulting from industrial action, or snow (please see below).
What are special circumstances?
Examples of special circumstances include, but are not limited to:
- physical illness or injury;
- mental ill-health or similar illness;
- bereavement or serious illness of a person with whom you have a close relationship;
- a long-term relationship breakdown, such as a marriage.
Examples of circumstances that are unlikely to be accepted include:
- pressure of academic work;
- employment commitments;
- a short-term, self-certificated illness, such as a common cold.
I realise that you may find it difficult or embarrassing to share some information of this kind with the University. I assure you that the University will respect the confidential nature of your request and will ensure that information is shared only with those members of staff who need to be made aware of your circumstances.
Submitting a special circumstances request
If you have been affected by special circumstances, you should submit information in writing. This should be done through your Personal Tutor or Student Support Team as soon as possible and, in any event, no more than a week after your final assessment of the semester. You are strongly encouraged to contact your Personal Tutor or Student Support Team if you need advice on these matters, even if you are unsure about whether the issues affecting your studies amount to special circumstances.
You should submit information about special circumstances directly to your School.
Impact of industrial action; University closure due to snow
I realise that many of you may have experienced some disruption to your teaching or assessment due to the current industrial action, or the closure of the University due to snow. 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.
Director of Academic Services
Message from Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal & Vice-Chancellor (23 March 2018)
I wrote to you at the end of last week to update you on the current position in relation to the industrial dispute.
I am very aware that some of you 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. It is only right that the University should reimburse such additional expenses incurred. We will announce a simple process shortly to enable you to evidence these costs and receive individual reimbursement.
I recognise that many of you have asked us to consider tuition fee refunds and we have not yet been able to give you and your fellow students a simple answer on this. The reality is that we do not yet know the full extent to which the implications of cancelled lectures and classes can be mitigated. We are focusing on mitigation as an absolute priority. For those of you who will be studying with us next year, that offers a further opportunity to make up for the implications of any lost teaching time, if necessary. We are, therefore, particularly prioritising our mitigation on those of you who are going to be graduating this year.
In that context, I welcome the fact that the UCU have agreed a joint statement with us yesterday which agrees that that they will give priority to the student learning experience over the next few weeks and months.
Message from Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal & Vice-Chancellor (16 March 2018)
I am committed to updating you as often as possible regarding developments in relation to the ongoing USS pension dispute.
I will write to you next week, when the first phase of strikes is over, with further details about the ways in which your University will respond to the effects that the industrial action has had on your education.
In the meantime, I thought it might be useful to share with you the latest communication I have sent to staff, updating them on my latest understanding of the situation.
With best regards,
Message from Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal & Vice-Chancellor (8 March 2018)
I have received many emails from students and staff in my first month in post on the current pension dispute between the University and College Union and Universities UK. You may have seen that negotiations have recently resumed and I am pleased that there has been an agreement to involve the advisory, conciliation and arbitration service ACAS in the next stages. No single university can negotiate a solution to a national dispute which is the subject of a collective bargaining agreement accepted at the outset by both parties. However, we can try to influence behind the scenes and I have been actively doing that. On Monday I met with a substantial proportion of the professoriat and also wrote to the Chief Executive of Universities UK, Alistair Jarvis. A copy of the letter can be found at: https://www.ed.ac.uk/news/students/2018/principal-s-letter-to-uuk
I would also like to take this opportunity to provide some reassurance to those who are worried about assessment of their work. We have issued very detailed guidance to Schools on what to do in these circumstances - in particular, ensuringthat coursework and exams set over the rest of the academic year do not test you on content that has been missed due to the industrial action. We have issued guidance on dissertations, reminding Schools of their powers to extend dissertation deadlines where it is necessary to do so. We are also providing Boards of Examiners with specific guidance on how to take account of any disruption to teaching and assessment processes - including dissertations - when considering final marks.
I am aware of a number of requests for refunds. Our efforts to date have been focussed on mitigating the impact of the action on students. We now have an emerging picture of what activities are being affected but we do not yet know the likely extent of further action or, conversely, the impact of the mitigating steps that different schools are putting in place to support students. We need this fuller picture before being able to consider any requests for refunds for cancelled classes.
Finally, a note to confirm that it is standard practice to withhold pay from staff who are on strike. Any money that the University ‘saves’ in this way will be used to reinvest in the student experience at Edinburgh.
I hope that this information is useful to you.
With best regards,
Message from Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal & Vice-Chancellor (28th February 2018)
I am writing with three purposes:
1. First and foremost to warmly welcome the fact that negotiations took place yesterday between UUK and UCU, that both parties adopted a conciliatory approach and that further talks are planned including the involvement of ACAS. You can read their statements on the UCU and UUK websites. This all bodes very well for further progress and I am pleased that the UUK meetings on Thursday and Friday last week, of which I was part, have already been followed by such positive moves.
2. Second to update you all on the situation here in Edinburgh. We have been continuing our efforts to respond to the many questions, particularly from students who are understandably concerned about the ongoing situation, but also from various staff groups, both UCU members and not. I am sure all parties will be reassured by point 1 above and will join me in hoping for a speedy resolution of the underlying issue.
3. Third to emphasise that there has been a great deal of activity behind the scenes and I, and others, at the University are working hard to identify ways in which this dispute might be resolved, and future disputes avoided. Our aim is to balance the needs of our students and our staff (current and future) while ensuring the University is able to run as smoothly as possible. We will update you regularly when there is anything substantive to communicate.
With best regards, and please stay safe in the snow,
Message from Mr Gavin Douglas, Deputy Secretary Student Experience (14th February 2018)
Following the Principal's email last week about proposed industrial action, I am writing to update you on the measures that the University is taking to minimise disruption to your learning and teaching.
As the Principal said, on the days of proposed strike action (26-28 February; 5-8 March; 12-16 March; and 19-20 March) the University will remain open, although we will be functioning with fewer staff.
We have just posted a series of Frequently Asked Questions for Students on our website which seek to answer many of the issues that I know are of concern to you. These include information on teaching, assessment, library services, exams and support services. You can access these via the link below.
Over the coming weeks, we will continue to work with colleagues across the University to refine contingency plans for your learning and teaching. We will keep you fully up to date on these developments, by updating these FAQs regularly, through email, through the website and through our Student News social media channels, Facebook and Twitter.
Message from Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal & Vice-Chancellor (7th February 2018)
I have heard direct from a number of you that you are concerned about how proposed industrial action is going to affect your studies over the next few months.
I take these concerns very seriously. One of my priorities in my first few weeks in my new role as your Principal will be to work with my colleagues to ensure we do our very best to minimise the impact on your learning and teaching.
I fully recognise that our staff do have deep concerns about potential changes to the UK sector-wide pension scheme; and respect that those who are members of the University and College Union do have the statutory right to take industrial action.
On the days of proposed strike action (26-28 February; 5-8 March; 12-16 March; and 19-20 March) we can expect to be functioning with fewer staff and so there may well be some disruption to some of you. Not all University staff are members of the University and College Union and so the impact of the planned action will vary from one part of the University to the other. The University will not close during the strike action and staff who are not members of the University and College Union will continue to work as normal. In some areas of the University it is therefore likely that the impact of the industrial action will be minimal. However in other areas, it is possible that teaching activity – lectures, tutorials, seminars, lab work, assessments – will be affected.
As the root cause of the industrial action concerns a sector-wide pensions scheme, negotiations have been taking place at UK level between Universities UK, who represent the employers, and the University and College Union. We will continue to work closely with the other UK Universities to seek to find a negotiated settlement to this dispute. I know how important pension arrangements are for staff as part of overall remuneration and want to see an outcome which delivers a pensions package which staff see as attractive and which remains affordable and sustainable both for individuals and universities.
The University will keep you updated by email and online, and there is a web page that will be regularly updated with further information and Frequently Asked Questions at https://www.ed.ac.uk/student-administration/heaction
We expect to issue a further update next week.
30th January 2018
The University of Edinburgh has been notified of the proposed strike action by University and College Union (UCU), which will involve a number of strike days over a four week period. This is a national dispute which centres on proposals to amend the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension scheme.
The University is currently developing more detailed plans to minimise the impact of any action on students, whilst maintaining academic standards, and we will update these pages as soon as more information on these plans is available.
It has been confirmed that the strike days at the University of Edinburgh will take place on:
Week One: Monday 26, Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 February 2018
Week Two: Monday 5, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 March 2018
Week Three: Monday 12, Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Thursday 15 and Friday 16 March 2018
Week Four: Monday 19 and Tuesday 20 March 2018
However as not all staff will be involved in this action, the impact on students is also likely to vary across different courses.
For background on the issues from Universities UK, representing all Universities as employers, see http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/news/Pages/Proposal-agreed-to-reform-USS-Pensions.aspx
For background on this action from the staff union involved, see https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/9242/UCU-announces-14-strike-dates-at-61-universities-in-pensions-row