UCU industrial action - FAQ for students
Last updated on 25th September at 11.45am
We have provided 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.
Some of our staff took part in national industrial action in relation to proposed changes to pension funds over a period of 14 days between 22nd February and 16th March.
We continue to do everything we can, working closely with the Students’ Union, to ensure that there is no impact on your marks or degree qualifications and that any impact on your studies from the strike action before Easter is minimised and, where necessary, taken into account, as appropriate, in any assessment.
Why did some of the staff take strike action?
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 occurred. This is because the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) decided to implement local action although this is a national dispute in which the Vice-Chancellor has publicly supported University staff and their concerns.
Will I be assessed on topics that were not covered because of the strike action?
We have advised staff that they should 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 put in place additional checks as part of our exam preparation protocols to ensure that examinations set on any modules which were 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 do not believe that this will be the case, 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. In particular, we will consider the module marks over the last 3 years to ensure that there are no significant changes to the distribution of marks this year. If it is deemed appropriate, we will operate our existing mark scaling policy as detailed in paragraph 12.2.7 of the Academic Quality Procedures Handbook. We will also be closely monitoring the marks profiles of individual students, as is normal practice, in the light of the information we have gathered about which modules were affected by the industrial action.
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 as described in the section above.
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. In some Schools, students have been asked to complete a form to advise us of details of their supervisory meetings which will be used to inform the marking process where appropriate.
If you feel that your work has been disproportionately affected, then you should complete a Mitigating Circumstances form as below.
Was my attendance record affected by the strike action?
No. We are aware that some teaching sessions were cancelled during the period of industrial action, and therefore we did not operate our normal Attendance Policy.
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. We have gathered detailed information as to how the strike action has impacted each module and, if we consider it appropriate, we will take steps to mitigate this as described in other sections on this page. We are working 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 I receive financial compensation for any teaching sessions missed?
The impact of industrial action was very variable across the University, with many Schools and Departments lightly affected and indeed some students not impacted at all. Whilst we fully understand that some students, particularly those who missed a significant number of scheduled teaching sessions in the period of the industrial action, may feel the University should offer them financial compensation, our priority since the industrial action was concluded back in week 6 has been to mitigate the impact of any sessions which were missed.
We have carried out significant work to gather detailed information on the impact of the industrial action on every single module which was affected, and where applicable, for individual students. We are aware that many lecturing staff have made efforts to provide material which wasn’t formally taught during the industrial action, and that significant attention has been paid in the remaining weeks of Semester 2 to ensuring that the learning outcomes of the degree programmes have been met.
We have developed a set of principles around mitigating the academic impact in advance of the forthcoming Programme Boards to ensure that affected students are not disadvantaged. These principles are now being implemented as we go through the final assessment period of the academic year. Therefore, we have decided that it is not appropriate to consider any complaints, including financial claims, until at least after the academic assessments have been concluded.
Staff who took part in industrial action were not entitled to pay from the University for strike days, and we stated that we would ensure that funds saved as a consequence of strike action which impacted upon students would be re-prioritised to benefit students in a range of ways. We have consulted with student representatives to identify the most appropriate mechanisms and activities for the use of these funds.
It has been decided that funds will be used to:
- Provide additional staff support for the Students’ Union Peer Support scheme, which provides every first year student with a mentor, and additionally supports the Peer Assisted Learning scheme;
- Provide additional funds to be used to support initiatives addressing student mental health and wellbeing;
- Provide additional monies into the Student Hardship fund which supports students experiencing genuine financial difficulty;
- Provide funds for new initiatives to support and train education volunteers to enhance the academic student experience for all students.
In addition, we have negotiated with the University’s academic dress suppliers that mortar boards will be available for all undergraduates at future graduation ceremonies included in the gown hire, which was something a number of students have requested.
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 and other support if you are feeling anxious. 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 under Ordinance XXXVIII for making a complaint, unless your concerns relate to the marks you have been awarded in which case you should instead submit an academic appeal after Programme Board decisions have been published and you have received your results for this academic year.
If you wish to make a complaint, you might like to bear in mind the following points to assist us in addressing your concerns in a timely manner:
- Please make clear in what way you believe the University has not fulfilled its responsibilities to you as a result of the industrial action;
- Please explain carefully how you think you have been adversely affected. As noted above, if your concerns relate to the marks awarded, then please follow the academic appeals process instead;
- Please explain why you feel that the mitigating actions taken by the University have not been adequate;
- Please provide an indication of the action you seek from the University.
Please note that any complaints relating to the industrial action period may not be resolved until after the Programme Boards have been held during June and early July. Any complaints which relate to the period of industrial action between Thursday 22nd February and Friday 16th March must be received no later than 8th September 2018. They will be considered under the formal complaints procedure and should be addressed to the Academic Registrar in the first instance via the student enquiries email address (email@example.com).
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.