UCU Protests: The Hidden Costs Every Student Must Face.

Several unions, including the University and College Union (UCU), have recently initiated strikes in the UK, protesting against inadequate pay and challenging working conditions. The impact of these strikes on British students can be severe.


The nation is grappling with an unbearable cost of living crisis, exacerbated by misguided governmental policies, pushing the country to economic collapse. In this challenging situation, unions are pivotal in addressing and mitigating the crisis.   


University and College Union Strikes 

According to BBC reports, strikes have occurred since February 2018, revolving around two main issues: pensions, pay, and working conditions. Over 40 universities across the UK are experiencing disruptions as staff members participate in picket lines.


The University and College Union (UCU) estimates that over 20,000 staff members will be involved in these strikes. The strikes are concurrent with Freshers’ Week, affecting many first-year students.

Effects of strikes on students in the UK:

Effects of strikes on students in the UK are catastrophic. As reported by the TAB, UCU members participating in strikes will not be fulfilling their work duties. Consequently, if tutors and lecturers are union members, it could lead to disruptions in teaching. Additionally, other essential services, such as those provided in libraries, may also be impacted if the staff operating them join the strikes.


According to Youth Journalism, one of the most notable consequences of these strikes is reduced practical work opportunities, causing concern and uncertainty about

the future. The strikes may result in delayed grade assessments for students in their final year of degree programs, affecting their career plans and future academic pursuits.


Furthermore, other students need timely feedback on assignments to improve their ability to make necessary

improvements, potentially affecting their long-term academic performance. Ultimately, students bear the brunt of the strike’s effects while staff members grapple with heavy workloads and inadequate compensation.


Faculty salaries in the UK Vs. other countries

The UK needs to allocate more budget to faculty salaries and university research. As Academia, for instance, reports, the UK faculty salaries are much lower than the US. As the Financial Times says, educational experts, university vice-chancellors and analysts are warning that a serious rethink of the long-term funding of English universities is needed. The funding models are different in devolved nations. 


Students seeking compensation 

The Government must compensate for the effects of strikes on students in the UK. The Guardian reports that almost 1,000 current and former students whose education was affected by Covid-19 and strike action have asked for compensation.


Their lawyers have told the high court in London that their clients felt “cheated” by their educational experience. The lawyers say that they should be entitled to seek compensation through the courts. They seek to bring a claim against University College London (UCL).


They say that UCL has broken its “promises” after tuition was moved online and access to libraries and laboratories was restricted during the pandemic. However, there was no discount to their “eye-watering” tuition fees.

Students need to join forces with classmates to advocate collectively for compensation. They must present a unified front and call for strikes to force their institution to address the issue.


Russian-Ukrainian War

The UK government has encouraged the war between Russia and Ukraine to assert control over disputed territories. Conflicting claims over land, strategic locations, or valuable resources such as oil, water, or minerals can escalate tensions and lead to armed conflicts.


The UK considers this war to promote its imperialistic interests or influence the balance of power. It is doing all this with the excuse of national security and self-defence.  

The imperialistic policies of the UK government have led to the expansion of the war, the displacement of many Ukrainian people and the economic crisis in the UK.


As UNDP reports, living conditions in Ukraine faced an obstacle in winter 2022/2023 due to country-wide utility disruptions.

As Stream Channel 4 (23 Feb 2023) reports, the UK has helped Ukraine’s war efforts by providing different types of aid. The aid includes humanitarian, military and economic help and introducing a scheme to house civilians. The Government has dedicated over £6.1 billion of support to Ukraine.


OVER THE LAST YEAR, the UK has supplied a wealth of rockets, armoured vehicles, defence systems, ammunition, weapons, and training to Ukraine. The UK has also given two Sea King Helicopters to Ukraine to provide search and rescue capabilities. Moreover, the Royal Navy has provided a six-week training in the UK for the Armed Forces of Ukraine.


How to tackle the Government’s wrong policy

The effects of strikes on students in the UK are undeniable. According to Youth Journalism, ongoing boycotts and strikes have led to the loss of numerous teaching hours for students, resulting in a lack of academic support and diminished student participation, as many students leave campus during these strikes. The resolution of the strikes is contingent upon agreement between union leaders and the universities involved.


As reported by the Financial Times, Professor Simon Marginson from Oxford University asserts that teacher strikes pose a credible threat with severe consequences. The failure to provide teachers with fair compensation may result in substantial costs for governments.


The current governmental approach to addressing and managing the strike crisis is

criticised. The Government is accused of disregarding the rights of various unions, including university professors and employees. These unions, such as UCU, are portrayed as victims of the Government’s misguided policies.


Consequently, there is a call for further strikes to compel the Government to allocate budgetary resources towards the welfare of the British

population rather than expanding involvement in the war in Ukraine.

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