UCU industrial action - FAQs for students

Last updated on 23rd April at 10.45am

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 info@lboro.ac.uk

At Loughborough we are very proud of our student experience, which is a function of both the dedication of our staff across both our campuses, the contributions made by the Students’ Union and the achievements of our students.

Unfortunately, some teaching at Loughborough during 2019/20 was affected as a result of national strike action called by the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) which affected 74 universities across the UK. The action took place on the following dates:

Semester two, week three - Thursday 20th & Friday 21st February 2020
Semester two, week four - Monday 24th, Tuesday 25th and *Friday 28th February 2020
Semester two, week five - Monday 2nd, Tuesday 3rd, Wednesday 4th and Thursday 5th March 2020
Semester two, week six - Monday 9th, Tuesday 10th, Wednesday 11th, Thursday 12th and Friday 13th March 2020

* This date differs from the core dates. This variation was been agreed at national UCU level.

The University campuses in Loughborough and London were open as normal. In accordance with previous experience, the impact of the strike action varied considerably across the University, with some Schools or Departments being affected more than others. Our priority remains to ensure that appropriate steps are taken so that students are not disadvantaged through the assessment process. We continue to make best efforts to ensure that alternative resources are provided where possible to cover any lost learning opportunities.

Any impact on student performance resulting from strike action will be taken into account in addition to impact from the coronavirus pandemic.

The University is a member of UCEA, the national Universities and Colleges Employers Association, who have made available significant positive proposals on key issues in UCU’s dispute – contractual arrangements, workload / mental health and gender pay gaps / ethnicity pay – which have been developed following several months of talks with UCU. Further details can be found on the UCEA website.

Why did some of the staff take strike action?

The details are complex. There are two separate national legal disputes, one on pensions and one on pay and working conditions. The dispute concerning pensions relates to the sustainability of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). This is the national pension scheme that the majority of academic and academic related staff join when they start a career in higher education. Both universities, as employers, and staff as employees pay contributions into the scheme. In summary, the dispute is concerned with the level and ratio of the contributions that are required to ensure the scheme will be sustainable into the future and the pension benefits which employees will receive on retirement. The dispute on pay and working conditions is concerned with issues to do with levels of pay, equality, the use of different types of casual contracts, and workloads.

 

Was the University open on strike days?

Yes. The University campuses in Loughborough and London remained opened as normal with places such as the Library, learning spaces including computer laboratories, and sports facilities available for student use as usual. The impact of the strike action varied considerably across the University, with some Schools or Departments affected more than others. The majority of teaching sessions across the University went ahead as normal but regrettably students in some specific subject areas were impacted to a greater extent.

Will teaching sessions be rescheduled if they were cancelled?

Some teaching sessions were rescheduled or learning materials have been provided through alternative routes such as via Learn. Best efforts continue to ensure that alternative resources are provided where possible to cover any lost learning opportunities from the strike action. Staff will be asked to ensure modules for 2020/21 take into account any impact on pre-requisite modules. All teaching has now moved on line for the remainder of 2019/20 as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

We will ensure that no student is disadvantaged in their assessments as a result of the strike action in addition to the steps we are taking to take account of the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.

 

Will I get my work back within the normal turnaround time?

We have made 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 do our best to keep you informed if we think that this is going to be the case.

Will I be assessed on topics that were not covered because of the strike action?

No. Staff have been advised 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 prior to the assessment, whilst ensuring that the overall learning outcomes of the module/degree programme are met. We will 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 already 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 closely 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. The actions above will be taken for affected modules in addition to the steps we are taking to address the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.

I am a finalist. Will my degree classification be affected?

We have no planned changes to how your degree will be classified as a result of the industrial action alone as any issues should be addressed at the module level. 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. Industrial action will be taken into account for affected students as well as the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.

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 vary across different subjects and therefore it is likely that some students may be more affected than others. In some Schools, students will be 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.

Will my attendance record be affected by the strike action?

No. If any of your teaching sessions were cancelled during the period of industrial action, we did not operate our normal Attendance Policy.

Students who are holders of Tier 4 visas will not be penalised because of strike action (or the coronavirus pandemic).

 

Will I need to complete a Mitigating Circumstances form?

For most students, there should be no need to complete a Mitigating Circumstances form because of the strike action (or the Coronavirus pandemic). We have gathered detailed information on how the strike action 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 (eg genuinely exceptional, serious or acute medical, family, personal, or other problems or events beyond your control) which have affected your studies then you should complete the Mitigating Circumstances form in the normal way. Similarly, if you feel that your work has been disproportionately affected by industrial action because of your own individual circumstances, then you should complete a Mitigating Circumstances form.

Will I receive financial compensation for any teaching sessions missed?

The impact of the industrial action was highly variable across the University, with many Schools and Departments affected only to a limited degree and indeed some students not impacted at all. Whilst we fully understand that some students, particularly those who may have missed a significant number of scheduled teaching sessions in the period of the industrial action, may feel the University should offer them a tuition fee refund, our priority has been to be mitigate the impact of any sessions which were missed in line with our commitments under the regulatory framework of the Office for Students.

We have gathered detailed information on the impact of the industrial action on every single module, and where applicable, for individual students. We are aware that many lecturing staff will make efforts to provide material which may not be formally taught during the industrial action. We will endeavour to ensure that opportunities are available for students to access any content missed and that the learning outcomes of the degree programmes have been met.

We have developed a set of principles around mitigating the impact on assessment in advance of Programme Boards to ensure that affected students are not disadvantaged in respect of the marks they are awarded. These principles were implemented for Semester 1 modules prior to the publication of the provisional Semester 1 marks in week 3 of Semester 2 (17-19 February 2020). They will be fully implemented for year-long and Semester 2 modules in advance of the release of results at the end of the academic year.

Staff who took part in industrial action are not entitled to pay from the University for strike days and we are committed to ensuring that funds saved as a consequence of any industrial action which impacted upon students is re-prioritised to benefit students in a range of ways. No decisions have been made yet concerning the use of funds from industrial action in the current academic year, 2019-2020, but those subject areas most affected are likely to receive the greatest share of these funds. We will consult with a wide range of student representatives to identify the most appropriate mechanisms and activities for the use of these funds, including those who have been most impacted by any industrial action.

When there was an extended period of industrial action two years ago in the academic year 2017-18, following consultations with the Students’ Union and student representatives, funds were used for various activities costing different amounts including:

Providing additional funds to be used to support initiatives addressing student mental health and wellbeing;

Providing additional monies into the Student Hardship fund which supports students experiencing genuine financial difficulty;

Providing 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;

Providing funds for new initiatives to support and train education volunteers to enhance the academic student experience for all students.

In addition, we negotiated with the University’s academic dress suppliers that mortar boards will be available for all undergraduates at future graduation ceremonies included at no additional cost in the gown hire, which was something a number of students requested.

If you consider that the teaching on your modules has been significantly affected by the industrial action, and this has not been mitigated appropriately through the provision of additional learning material, the University will consider your situation on a case by case basis. Please refer to the last of the FAQs about making a complaint.

Where can I get more support if I am particularly worried by the impact of the strike?

If you have any concerns about the impact of the strike on your well-being, we would encourage you to take advantage of the University’s Student Services, including the Wellbeing Advisers, who can offer wellbeing and other support if you are feeling anxious. You can also contact LSU Advice, a confidential independent advice service in Loughborough Students’ Union. Concerns about any impact on your studies should be directed to your School in the first instance.

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, providing details of the modules and specific teaching sessions which were impacted;

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.

Your complaint will be considered under the formal complaints procedure and should be addressed to the Academic Registrar in the first instance via the student complaints email address (studentcomplaints@lboro.ac.uk).

 Complaints regarding the industrial action in Semester 1 can be submitted now and will be given immediate consideration. Complaints in relation to the industrial action in Semester 2 will only be considered after the Semester 2 results have been released to students. All complaints related to industrial action in 2019/20 should be submitted no later than Wednesday 2 September 2020.


 

To find out more about the issues you may like to see the news pages of the groups involved:

 

We are grateful for input and support from a number of Loughborough students in developing and updating this FAQ page.