UCU industrial action - FAQ for students
Last updated on 20th March at 4.30pm
We will provide answers to the most common enquiries from students by adding to the information in the ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ on this web page. If you have any questions that are not addressed here, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
At Loughborough we are very proud of our student experience, which is a function of both the dedication of our staff across campus, the contributions made by the Students’ Union and the achievements of our students.
We are therefore doing everything we can to ensure that there is no impact on your marks or degree qualifications and that any impact on your studies from the strike action is minimised and, where necessary, taken into account, as appropriate, in any assessment.
The University is working closely with the Students’ Union to monitor developments and we will provide further updates as appropriate. In the meantime, you should continue to attend your teaching sessions and submit any coursework as normal.
It was announced on 13th March that the University and College Union (UCU) had rejected the proposals jointly agreed at ACAS on 12th March between UCU and Universities UK. Further information will be made available on this site as soon as it is available.
The Pro Vice-Chancellor (Teaching), Professor Rachel Thomson, is working closely with the LSU Executive Officer (Education), Anna Holt, to ensure that any actions we take are fair and reasonable for all students. Rachel and Anna have held a number of Q&A sessions to answer any student concerns on an individual basis. We will let you have details of any further planned sessions in due course.
Why are some of the staff taking strike action?
You have probably picked up news of a dispute that is likely to affect many universities in the UK, starting with two days of industrial action on Thursday 22nd and Friday 23rd February. Additional strike dates have been announced in the subsequent three weeks on the following dates:
- Monday 26th to Wednesday 28th February inclusive
- Monday 5th to Thursday 8th March inclusive
- Monday 12th to Friday 16th March inclusive
The details are complex. In short, it is about the sustainability of the University Superannuation Scheme (USS). This is the national pension scheme that the majority of academic and academically related staff join when they start a career in higher education. Universities, as employers, pay a contribution into the scheme of 18% of salary and there is no proposal to reduce this amount. However, proposals have been put forward to change pension benefits to address future potential deficits. The Defined Contribution scheme that would replace the Defined Benefit scheme would potentially be significantly less generous.
Despite every effort to avoid an impact arising from the dispute on the two Loughborough campuses, some disruption is occurring. This is because the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) have decided to implement local action (in our case at Loughborough University and Loughborough University London) although this is a national dispute in which the Vice-Chancellor has publicly supported University staff and their concerns. We still hope that continued industrial action might be avoided by further negotiations.
Will the University be open on strike days?
The University campuses in Loughborough and London will remain open as normal with places such as the Library, learning spaces including computer laboratories, and sports facilities available for your use as usual. You should be able to go into all buildings as you normally do.
It might be possible for you to carry out project work in a laboratory if you need to, but you must ensure that you take local advice to ensure that there is an appropriate level of support available from a health and safety perspective. If you require any further advice, please contact the School Operations Manager.
How will I know if my lecture, seminar, laboratory or other teaching session is on?
We are hoping that any staff who will not be attending their scheduled sessions will inform you in advance as a courtesy. We anticipate that the impact of the strike action will vary across the University, with some Schools or Departments affected more than others. We expect that many teaching sessions in some Schools will go ahead as normal. However, a number of sessions in other Schools might be cancelled. Please note that staff who are taking part in the strike by law do not need to tell the University in advance and therefore you may not find out until the day the session is due to take place.
Members of staff are likely to inform you either directly by email or through the Learn page for the module so please do look out for the latest information. If you are not informed that a session has been cancelled, then you should attend and register as normal.
Will teaching sessions be rescheduled if they are cancelled?
We don’t know yet because it is too early to say what the impact will be because of strike action by staff. We expect some Schools and Departments will be more affected than others because not all staff are members of UCU and, in addition, not all members will choose to strike.
We will, however, be seeking to ensure that no student will be disadvantaged because of this action and we will try to rearrange as many cancelled events as possible in order to limit, as far as practical, the impact on your studies.
Will my coursework hand-in deadlines or online class tests be altered?
You should assume that any deadlines which have been set remain in place and work to the deadline accordingly. If there is an assessment deadline on a strike day, you should submit your work in the normal way. Once any impact of strike action becomes clearer, we may deem it appropriate to give you a longer time to complete the work if you have not covered enough material in the teaching sessions. However, we will be looking at all possible options across particular degree programmes to avoid storing up coursework deadlines until the end of the semester.
If you have an online class test scheduled on a strike day, you should complete the test as normal unless otherwise advised.
Will I get my work back within the normal turnaround time?
We will make every effort to ensure that coursework is returned as normal. However, it is possible that some pieces of work may be subject to a delay and we will keep you informed if we think that this is going to be the case.
Will I be assessed on topics which were not covered because of the strike action?
We are advising staff that they should seek to set assessments (e.g. exams, coursework or other assignments) which students have the best possible opportunity to complete based on the material taught, whilst ensuring that the overall learning outcomes of the module/degree programme are met. We will take steps in advance as part of our exam preparation protocols to ensure that examinations set on any modules which have been affected by strike action cover topics which you have been taught. We will also have additional checks in place after the examinations to ensure that no students' marks have been affected.
Will my marks be affected?
We hope not, however, we do have provision in our regulations to increase any of a student's component marks or to substitute an alternative component mark derived from appropriate sources. We will monitor any impact from strike action on specific modules and ensure that appropriate action is taken to ensure that students are not disadvantaged.
I am a finalist. Will my degree classification be affected?
We have no planned changes to how your degree will be classified, however, we do have provision in our regulations to increase any of a student's component marks or to substitute an alternative component mark derived from appropriate sources. We will monitor any impact from strike action on specific modules and ensure that appropriate action is taken to ensure that students are not disadvantaged. We do not currently believe that graduations will be delayed, and we are working hard to ensure that this will not be the case.
Can I still email my lecturers / personal academic tutors / dissertation or project supervisors / other teaching staff?
Yes – you can contact staff as you would normally do. It is possible that there may be a short delay in you receiving a response, especially if your enquiry comes on one of the nominated strike days. If you have an academic issue that requires assistance prior to the next non-strike day, then please contact your Department/School and they will be able to advise you.
I am worried that my dissertation/project work will be affected. What can I do?
We understand your concerns and would like to reassure you that we will take into account any instances of reduced supervision as a result of the strike action. Supervision arrangements, credit weighting and hand-in deadlines are variable across different subjects and therefore it is likely that some students may be more affected than others.
You should contact your supervisor by email about your project/dissertation if you require advice about any aspect. You should also keep a note of the supervisory meetings you have had and any response to your requests. The Vice-Chancellor has encouraged staff taking part in the industrial action who are involved in the supervision of final year dissertations/projects to prioritise student supervision on non-strike days because we recognise students’ concerns and wish to do whatever we can to support you.
If you feel that your work has been disproportionately affected, then you should complete a Mitigating Circumstances form as below.
You should plan for the hand-in date to remain as currently, however, we will continue to monitor the situation and may push back some deadlines in specific cases once the situation becomes clearer.
Will my attendance record be affected by the strike action?
No. Missing a teaching session which has been cancelled because of strike action will not affect your attendance record. If you have been informed in advance that a session is cancelled, there is no need to check-in to the attendance monitoring system although the system remains active. Data from sessions affected by strike action will be discounted. Students who are holders of Tier 4 visas will not be penalised because of strike action, although it is important that unless you are told that a session has been cancelled you continue to attend as normal.
Will I need to complete a Mitigating Circumstances form?
You should not need to complete a Mitigating Circumstances (formerly Impaired Performance) form because of the strike action. The University will be considering how the strike action has impacted each module and, if we consider it appropriate, we will take steps to counter this. We will work closely with Loughborough Students’ Union to ensure that any actions taken are fair and reasonable.
However, if you have specific individual circumstances which have affected your studies then you should complete the Mitigating Circumstances form in the normal way.
Will there be any changes to the academic year or the examination period as a result of any lost teaching time?
We do not currently anticipate that this will be necessary. We plan to take any mitigating action such that the published term dates and the dates of the examination period remain unaltered, although if strike action is prolonged we will keep this under review.
Will I receive financial compensation for any teaching sessions?
We aren’t able to say at the moment. There are a number of factors we will need to take into consideration, such as the duration of the strike action and its impact – we are aware that this is variable across campus, with some Schools and Departments affected more than others.
STaff who decide to take part in industrial action are not entitled to pay from the University for strike days. Any funds saved as a consequence of strike action will be re-prioritised in their entirety to activities that directly benefit students. We will discuss with Loughborough Students’ Union what that might be. We have not ruled out compensation for individual students who have suffered unacceptable levels of disruption but we need to continue to gather accurate information covering the whole period of the industrial action, taking into account classes and activities that are being rearranged, before we reach a decision. We will communicate our decision as soon as it is possible to do so because we recognise that not knowing is frustrating for you.
We are doing everything we can to mitigate against any impact on your studies from the possible strike action, and in particular to ensure that the learning outcomes of your degree programmes are met.
Where can I get more support if I am particularly worried by the strike?
If you have any concerns about your studies, we would encourage you to take advantage of the University’s Student Services, who can offer mental health support if you are feeling anxious. We expect Student Services to be operating largely as normal. You can also contact Student Voice, a confidential advice service in Loughborough Students’ Union.
If I want to make a complaint as a result of the strike action, what should I do?
You should follow the University’s normal procedures for making a complaint.
To find out more about the issues you may like to see the news pages of the groups involved:
- Universities UK (UUK) - an organisation that represents higher education employers
- University and College Union (UCU) - a trade union that represents some university staff
- Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) - the scheme that is being discussed.
We are grateful for input and support from a number of Loughborough students in developing and updating this FAQ page.