If you’re a university student, chances are you are currently being affected by the University and College Union’s strikes taking place across the country.
According to UCU, there are fourteen days’ worth of walk-outs spread out across the next month. The first day of striking took place on Thursday 22nd February.
The strikes will culminate in a five day walk-out ending on the 16th March.
On a turnout of 58%, 88% of union members backed strike action. The strikes are taking place in response to changes to pension systems, which are said to result in typical lecturers being about “£10,000 a year worse off” once they finish working than compared to the current arrangement, according to UCU.
The union’s general secretary Sally Hunt said:
"Staff who have delivered the international excellence universities boast of are understandably angry at efforts to slash their pensions. They feel let down by vice-chancellors who seem to care more about defending their own pay and perks than the rights of their staff.
'Strike action on this scale has not been seen before on UK campuses, but universities need to know the full scale of the disruption they will be hit with if they refuse to sort this mess out."
A newly released YouGov poll commissioned by UCU suggests that students on the whole are in support of the strikers. YouGov found that 61% said they support the industrial action while just 20% said they did not support university staff. A further 20% said they did not know.
Furthermore, in a blow to university management up and down the country, 50% of students surveyed said that university employers were to blame for the strike while just 2% blamed university staff. However, 20% said both sides were equally to blame.
Lastly, on the specific nature of the changes to staff’s pension arrangements, 62% of students surveyed said they opposed the proposals "to remove the right for university staff to have a defined benefit pension based on how much a person earns when they retire and replace it with a defined-contribution pension — whose pay-out depends on the stock market performance of the underlying investments.”
The full results of the YouGov/UCU survey can be accessed here.