The University and College Union (UCU) represents over 110,000 academics, lecturers, trainers, instructors, researchers, managers, administrators, computer staff, librarians and postgraduates in universities, colleges, prisons, adult education and training organisations across the UK.
The current dispute regards the future of the pensions scheme available to academics and lecturers who are part of the UCU. Changes to the scheme that have been proposed may result in academics losing approximately £10,000 per annum from their pensions, and after many unsuccessful negotiation attempts, academics are striking. Of the UCU members who voted on what action to take 91.9% of them voted to support strike action.
You can read the UCU strike announcement here
KCLSU Officers position
We, the elected officer team of KCLSU, stand in solidarity with the UCU and support their right to strike. We believe staff satisfaction is directly proportional to student satisfaction and that fairly treated staff are the cornerstone of the university experience. We encourage our students to stand with our staff members to show our solidarity with them over this pensions dispute.
Moreover, a campaign petition was put through the KCLSU campaign process to support the strikes, which got the required amount of signatures from students, therefore support for UCU strike action also gained further democratic legitimacy within KCLSU.
Here is the link to the full statement about the officer team position on the strikes.
When are the strikes are happening?
The national strike dates are the following:
- Week one - Thursday 22 and Friday 23 February (two days)
- Week two - Monday 26, Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 February (three days)
- Week three - Monday 5, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 March (four days)
- Week four - Monday 12, Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Thursday 15 and Friday 16 March (five days)
However, due to our academic calendar, the dates differ slightly for KCL. Strike action on KCL will instead begin on the 26th of February, and there were be a walk out for two days on Monday 19th and Tuesday 20th March.
- KCL Only - Monday 19th, Tuesday 20th (two days)
Where will the picket lines be?
The picket lines - boundaries established by workers on strike, especially at the entrance to the place of work, which others are asked not to cross - are located at the following KCL sites:
• Strand building (main entrance)
• Virginia Woolf Building (both entrances)
• Bush House (main entrance)
• Waterloo (TBC)
• Guy’s campus (TBC)
• Denmark Hill (TBC)
• Maughan Library (staff will leaflet students)
Please keep in mind these may be subject to change.
How will it affect me?
Assessment Deadlines, Coursework, Exams and Mitigating Circumstances
Coursework deadlines should be extended if you can show that you will be/ have been prevented from submitting an assessment or sitting an exam within the given timeframe. This also applies if you can demonstrate if the strike has had/ will have a significant impact on your performance in an assessment. If these situations apply to you, you will need to submit a mitigating circumstances form (MCF) to your department - you can find out more information on submitting a Mitigating Circumstance Form in the advice section of our website.
The University has also given further information in three specific situations:
- If your lectures/tutorials are cancelled due to the strike and this significantly impacts on your performance in an assessment, the University has agreed that you will not need to provide independent evidence with your MCF. You simply need to state on the form that they were cancelled and how this has this impacted on your assessment.
- If you are unable to attend your lectures/tutorials because you feel unable to cross the picket lines due to the impact on your mental health, and the failure to attend those lectures/tutorials significantly impacts on your performance in an assessment, you will need to provide evidence from a medical professional of how you were impacted along with your MCF.
- If you choose not to attend lectures/tutorials due to supporting the strike and this significantly impacts on your performance in an assessment, or you miss an assessment due to not wanting to cross picket lines to support the strike, then an MCF form will NOT be accepted. The University has indicated, however, that any consequences from missed assessments will be proportionate i.e. if you miss an assessment it’s likely that you will get the opportunity to resit.
Furthermore, the standard 4-week period of feedback turnaround time will likely be longer.
This is the current position as we understand it from the University. We will update our website regularly with any new information to help keep you informed. If you’re unsure of what to do about assessments please contact KCLSU Advice (Advice email@example.com) who will be happy to help with your queries.
Can I get compensation?
King's has stated that if students feel strongly that their learning has been impacted by the strikes, they will look into compensating on an individual basis. Therefore, we would encourage you to directly contact the University if this is something you are concerned about. If you are still not happy with King’s response you could consider the following:
Make a Complaint
You may wish to make a complaint to the University if you are not happy that you have not been able to attend lectures or receive the tuition you need.
Take Legal Action
You may wish to consider whether taking legal action against the University for breach of contract. You would need to consult a solicitor if you wish to take this action. Solicitors charge for their services so it is always best to check their costs before going to see them.
Where can I go to study during this period?
Other University of London libraries may be open, as you should have access to them as a KCL student. However, if they are also picketed, then we would encourage you to use other options such as:
- Your local library in your borough
- Online resources
- The British Library
- The Barbican Library (The Barbican Centre)
- The Poetry Library (Southbank Centre)
- The National Art Library (V&A Museum)
- Tate Library (Tate Britain)
- You can also join one of the many teach-outs that are being organised by striking lecturers.
Again, please do not hesitate to reach out to KCLSU Advice at firstname.lastname@example.org for any academic or welfare related help and support.
What can I do to help
- With all of the above in mind, it is important to remember that this isn’t only an issue affecting academics, this has horrendous effects on education and students as a whole. We urge students to stand in solidarity with their lecturers and make sure you have conversations with your peers and try to understand the issues!</h3
- The most important thing you can do to help is to not cross the picket lines. Maximum disruption means the likelihood of the strike ending at an earlier date increases. This is due to the fact that if more people strike, as well as protest beside their lecturers, the more impactful the disruption will be, with the issue over pensions more likely to be resolved.
- Attend the striking days and protest alongside your teachers.
- Show your support for striking staff by sending them encouraging emails and messages of solidarity.
- Attend the “Teach-Outs” that are occurring near the picket lines, where staff, students and activists will be hosting classes not only on the strikes but on the wider conversation of the marketisation of higher education. We will continue to update you as more ‘teach-outs’ are confirmed - keep a lookout on our social media accounts! (Twitter - @kclsu, Facebook page - @KCLSU)
- Send emails to the King's senior management to pressurise them to influence the national negotiations over the pensions dispute, as well as express support for their striking staff. The Vice Chancellors in several other UK universities undergoing strike action have done so, and KCL should be amongst them.
- From this week, any students wanting to get more involved in the KCLSU supported ‘Support the UCU lecturers strike campaign’ are able to access banner and placard making materials specifically for the campaign. There is a bag of materials behind the Strand desk and a box of materials in the cupboards in staff office 2 at Guy's. These should be booked out by emailing the relevant hubs desk (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org) or email@example.com.
- If you would like to find out more about the work UCU is doing for support staff on casualised and part-time contracts you can also check out https://www.ucu.org.uk/fightingfund