Image may contain: School, Room, Indoors, Classroom

The upcoming lecturers strike could last for five months, endangering final exams

Plans have been put in place to escalate the strikes

The upcoming strike by academic staff could continue for until June, three months longer than was originally planned, meaning final-year exams could be cancelled.

Plans to escalate the strikes were announced yesterday by the General Secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), Sally Hunt.

Strikes are currently only scheduled to take place for four weeks until mid-March but this could be tripled by a further three months of industrial action.

Hunt said that at present there are little signs of movement in favour of the UCU, resulting in another series of strikes being planned for April, May and June. This would coincide with universities' summer exam timetable, meaning exams could be cancelled.

The decision regarding the extension of the strike dates will be finalised at a meeting on March 2nd. If this is approved, it will mean a total of five months of paid university teaching time will be affected, including the cancellation of final-year exams.

Lydia Riding, a final year student at Warwick University was "riled" by the disruption this would cause to her degree. She told The Tab: "They are using students' emotions as a playing piece and it's not fair.

"It's just ridiculous that some professors are claiming this is a strike ‘for the students’. No it's not! You try telling that to stressed out final years whose degrees are hanging in the balance and who have worked themselves so hard for it to potentially not have any reward."

The proposed extension of the strike is likely to cause severe disruption to student's across the country, especially final years. If it does go ahead and final year exams are cancelled, the universities are currently uncertain as to how final degree grades will be calculated.

Options available to the university are limited. Non-striking staff could be asked to take on extra lectures, PhD students may be asked to do more teaching and temporary staff may be brought in. Students may even be able to defer their final exams, although this is unlikely to be an option for the majority.

Petitions have been set up to reimburse students for contact hours due to be missed at universities including York, Liverpool, and King's.

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute and member of Manchester University's governing board, said: “We have never had industrial action on this scale in the new funding regime, where students are considered to be consumers and consumer law applies.

"A university that, for example, is forced to cancel final exams and awards degrees on the basis of other work could be challenged by students who excel at exams if they fail to get a good degree. Universities are very vulnerable. They will end up erring on the side of generosity."

This comes after the news that the Universities Minister, Sam Gymiamh, said that students should get compensation if their education is disrupted. But it is up to the individual institutions to decide whether to pay compensation to its students.