Exclusive: Russell Group universities saved £11m during this year’s lecturer strikes

The lecturers’ union says this is ‘outrageous’

The UK’s top universities saved millions of pounds in withheld pay while lecturers were on strike this year.

A Tab investigation can reveal that Russell Group universities saved at least £10,918,754.37 in the 2021/22 academic year.

University and College Union (UCU) boss Jo Grady told The Tab: “It is outrageous that universities are hoarding millions of pounds in unpaid wages.”

The University of Leeds saved the most money during the strikes, racking up just less than £1.3m in withheld pay. A spokesperson for the uni said all the money saved was put into a student hardship fund.

King’s College London, UCL, LSE and the University of Edinburgh all said they were investing any withheld pay into student support funds.

While all 24 Russell Group universities responded to Freedom of Information requests sent by The Tab, some institutions said they didn’t face strike periods, while others were unable to provide the data.

A spokesperson for the University of Glasgow said the uni doesn’t currently hold information on withheld pay, adding: “The university is not aware of any other public authority that could respond to your request.”

A spokesperson for the University of Birmingham said they couldn’t respond fully to the FOI request as it would take too long to find out the exact figure.

Staff at over 140 universities have been on strike this year for a maximum of 18 days. Lecturers are walking out over what they deem to be unfair pay and pension conditions.

UCU, the union representing university staff, claims the pay gap between men and women in the sector stands at 15.1 per cent, while the gap between black and white staff pay is around 17 per cent.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “It is outrageous that universities are hoarding millions of pounds in unpaid wages off the back of recent industrial action that vice-chancellors pushed staff into.

“Staff do not take strike action lightly, but are sick of falling pay, cuts to pensions, unsafe workloads and the rampant use of insecure contracts.

“Universities can more than afford to meet the demands of staff who are struggling in the midst of devastating cost of living crisis and employers must do more, or will face further action later in the year.”

A Russell Group spokesperson said: “Russell Group universities that faced industrial action worked hard to minimise the disruption to students and other staff.

“Withheld pay was reinvested directly to support students – including hardship funds, learning assistance and other measures to mitigate the impact of industrial action on students’ learning.”

 There were no staff strikes at the University of Cardiff, University of Exeter, University of Warwick, University of Oxford and University of  Southhampton. 

Featured image: WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• Over 20,000 people turned up to London’s Trans Pride 2022 and the pictures are iconic

• More than one in ten students are forced to use food banks

• These Tory MPs could replace Boris as PM- here are all their rancid opinions