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‘Get in, get your money extracted, get degree, go on’: A postdoc’s view on strikes

‘If the staff are being badly treated and poorly paid then the student experience is going to deteriorate’

Since Thursday 20th February the UCU have begun 14 days of strike action across February and March. They plan to escalate each week, culminating with a week long walk out from Monday 9th to Friday 13th March.

Obviously, much of the media coverage has been centred greatly around the dedication and determination of university lecturers and the slashing of their pensions. However, it is important not to overlook the perspective of postdoc PhD students, whose research and studies have also been greatly affected by the marketisation of education.

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Pension fight

We went along to watch the protests in action and spoke to Erik Jellyman, a postdoc researcher in Physics. As a postdoc Jellyman does not have a USS pension. While commending the pension fight for its validity and criticising the UK's position on it as "ridiculous", for him the main issues are those of "vicarity, casualisation and pay".

'Massively overworked'

He describes the position as a postdoc as one of being "massively overworked and hugely underpaid for what it is we actually do, especially when you compare equivalent qualifications in the private sector".

He goes on to argue that "it is ridiculous that a prestigious university underpays and overworks such such massively over-qualified staff as much as this".

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Staff and students

As much as he is aware that he won't necessarily get as much pay as the senior staff he highlights that "the staff and the student experience are completely intertwined.

"If the staff are being badly treated and poorly paid then the student experience is going to deteriorate, because they're going to have unmotivated staff who are overworked, the marking is going to slide, lectures are going to slide and your'e going to be in overcrowded lecture halls".

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"Ultimately you're just being put through this mill of 'get in, get your money extracted from you, get your degree and then you go on'".

From being at the protests and seeing who are most affected by decisions out of their control, it is clear now more than ever that students should be supporting the strikes as much they can, not just for the benefit of the lecturers but to ensure the stability of their own student experience.