‘More and more pointless’: Lancs Students’ opinions on the latest round of strikes

‘You’d have thought they would maybe resort to new methods’

A new round of staff strikes have been announced across 68 universities in the UK, including Lancaster, which will last five days between Monday 14th and Friday 18th of February, two further days of action on Monday 21st and Tuesday 22nd, and three final days from Monday 28th and Wednesday 2nd of March.

Not all staff can be expected to strike, but a significant proportion will take to picket lines on campus over the three week period to protest working conditions and pension security.

We asked students to give their thoughts on the latest round of strike action.

‘It negatively impacts students’

One student, who wished to remain anonymous, expressed their dismay at the fact that strikes would be taking place. “It negatively impacts students” they explained, continuing that we pay high prices for our degrees only for “lecturers to just not bother turning up”. In retrospect to the frequency of strikes over the years, they mused that “you’d have thought they would maybe resort to new methods, considering striking has gotten them nowhere”.

‘Devaluing student education’

Another student who wishes to remain anonymous expressed their support for the demands that staff are making as justification for strike action, but given the lack of success in gaining concessions from management, believes strike action is “knowingly devaluing student education without probability of the desired outcome.” Having personally lost two months of their degree to strike action before, they feel that further strikes are either “selfish or irrational”.

‘A third of the entire history department is on any form of permanent contract’

One student explained what they had been told by their lecturer; that only “a third of the entire history department is on any form of permanent contract, and are basically on zero hour.” Such work insecurity is a major priority of the Union of Colleges and Universities who has organised the strike action. “They are expected to mark a 2500 word essay every twenty minutes, not including breaks”, which the student believes has a very negative impact on the quality of marking that staff are able to do.

“Often they do not know whether they will even have a job until two weeks before each term starts”. They concluded that a pension is a far away dream to many of the striking staff.

‘The strikes are becoming more and more pointless’

A final anonymous student offered a sentiment that many students find themselves wondering: is the university bothered or motivated by the strikes, or do they only impact students? “I think the strikes are becoming more and more pointless” despite “full understanding the issues that staff are facing and the need for change”.

“The university already has current students money – I very much get the feeling that they don’t particularly take notice of whether our studies are disrupted or not since they don’t have to compensate us for lost learning”.

They did offer an alternative strategy to the strikers: “striking or protesting on open days, which would cause a scene and threaten the university’s future intakes”.

‘I get to take some lectures off’

However, George, a Masters student studying statistics, gave a very different perspective. He said: “I love the strikes, since they basically happen every year and I get to take some lectures off. It’s especially great when the ones that are cancelled and my awkwardly timed ones.”

His point, that strikes can potentially provide a reprieve from work for students, is very rarely discussed, with the focus instead going toward the damage that strikes may cause to student learning.

‘Our primary concern is to mitigate  the effect of the strikes’

When asked for comment on the students’ responses, the university said:

“We are deeply sorry that some students have experienced disruption and absolutely understand the frustration at the impact of this national industrial action on your studies at various stages during your programme.

“At this stage we are unable to predict the impact the new strike dates will have on different modules and programmes, as not all staff are members of the staff union and not all members may choose to strike – this means the impact of the strike is likely to vary in different parts of the University.

“We will collect detailed information to give an accurate picture about the actual level of impact on students. Our primary concern in the meantime is to mitigate the effect of the strikes wherever possible and minimise any disruption to you.

“Departments will be notifying students on how they can obtain help and advice during the industrial action but, in the meantime,  if you have any queries of concerns specific to your programme please approach a member of your department such as your Programme Director or Supervisor.

“We will continue to keep students updated on the situation and you can find more details about industrial action here.”

The university also replied with a follow up email, stating:

“Lancaster University does not use zero hours contracts. In History, there are some PGR students and other staff on temporary engagement contracts, all of which have hours and duties clearly specified.

“We are extremely grateful to all of our temporary teaching staff who do a tremendous job for our students and do not accept that any member of staff ‘skims’ through student work.

“We have highly professional staff who are strongly committed to their students. We also have rigorous quality control measures both internally and using external examiners.

“Any student who has any concerns can raise them via their student rep for discussion at the History staff/student consultative committee.”

To read the University’s information regarding the strikes, click here

For more information from the UCU regarding the motivation for strike action, click here