UCU industrial action - FAQs for students

Last updated on 5th December 2019 at 4.20pm

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.

We have been made aware that the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) have announced 8 days of strikes at 60 universities across the UK, including Loughborough, starting on Monday 25th November until Wednesday 4th December 2019. Union members may also take 'action short of a strike', which may involve things like working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues and potentially refusing to reschedule lectures lost to strike action.

We intend to do everything we can, working closely with the Students’ Union and UCU, to ensure that there is no impact on your marks or degree qualifications and that any impact on your studies from any industrial action before Christmas is minimised and, where necessary, taken into account, as appropriate, in any assessment.

Why might 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.

 

Will the University be open on strike days?

Yes. 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 is likely that the impact of the strike action will vary across the University, with some Schools or Departments affected more than others. We currently anticipate that many teaching sessions across the University will go ahead as normal, based on previous experience.

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 your School Operations Manager.

How will I know if my lecture, seminar, laboratory or other teaching session is on?

Staff who will not be attending their scheduled sessions have been asked to 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 will go ahead as normal. 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 if the session goes ahead.

 

Will teaching sessions be rescheduled if they are cancelled?

We don’t know yet because it is too early to anticipate the impact of the strike action. We will keep you informed. 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. We will also make best efforts to ensure that alternative resources are provided where possible to cover any lost learning opportunities as a result of missed teaching sessions which are not able to be rearranged.

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 and a small number of class tests may need to be rescheduled. However, we will be looking at all possible options across particular degree programmes to try to avoid storing up coursework deadlines until the end of the semester and we will do our best to give you as much notice as possible.

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 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?

We will advise 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 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 will gather 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 a doctoral research student. How might I be affected?

We currently anticipate, based on previous experience, that any impact on doctoral research students is likely to be small. It is possible that a meeting with your supervisors may not go ahead, but we would anticipate that they would let you know about this as a courtesy in advance.

If you are involved in delivery of teaching then it is possible that the teaching session will not go ahead and therefore you should check with the member of staff with whom you work on the module.

Please note that the Annual Research Conference on 26th November will be going ahead, as will the forthcoming Doctoral College induction.

If you have any concerns, then please get in touch initially with the research student administrator in your School, the Academic Registry or the Doctoral College, in addition to the University-wide support available as detailed below.

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 delay in you receiving a response, especially if your enquiry is sent early in the strike period and your lecturer is on strike. If you have an academic issue which requires urgent attention during the strike period and you are not sure if the member of staff is available, then please also contact your Department/School student administration team 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. 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 there are any teaching sessions which are cancelled during the period of industrial action, we will not operate our normal Attendance Policy. Please make sure to attend your lectures if you have not been told that the lecture is cancelled. 

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 form because of the strike action. We will gather 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 (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 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 missed?

It is likely that the impact of any industrial action will be 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 miss 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 will 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 will gather detailed information on any potential 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 once any potential industrial action has finished.

We have developed a set of principles around mitigating the academic impact in advance of Programme Boards to ensure that affected students are not disadvantaged. These principles will be implemented for Semester 1 modules in preparation for 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 modules when we get to the final assessment period of the academic year.

Staff who took part in industrial action will not be 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 would be re-prioritised to benefit students in a range of ways. We will consult with student representatives to identify the most appropriate mechanisms and activities for the use of these funds. When there was a period of industrial action two years ago, the funds were used for various activities including:

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 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.

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, 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.

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.

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).


 

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.