‘I want my money back’: Newcastle students share their opinions on ongoing UCU strikes

‘You can get so much more out of doing the Open University for a third of the price’


UCU strikes are taking place this and next week at universities all across the country in what’s set to be the biggest ever university strike. Over 70,000 university staff at 150 universities are set to strike for three days over attacks on pay, working conditions and pensions. The specific dates in November affected by strikes are Thursday 24th, Friday 25th and Wednesday 30th.

The National Union of Students (NUS) has backed the strikes, which could impact 2.5 million students – but not all students are in full support. Both Newcastle and Northumbria Universities are taking part in the strikes, with current students having had three or four consecutive academic years disrupted.

Some Newcastle students are advocating strikes, with some even planning to join the picket lines; others have quite simply had enough. Here’s what they had to say:

‘It’s unfair that students are affected when they bring money into the university’

One student, who preferred to remain anonymous, stressed their frustration on the impact it has on students’ studies, mentioning how strikes directly and negatively impact students who are paying hefty fees toward the university.

‘It’s difficult to respect the universities and feel like I’m getting what I pay for when strikes are happening again’

Rosie Walker, a Newcastle University marketing student, said that while she doesn’t inherently disagree with the strikes, the frequency and extent of the disruption has left her questioning whether her studies are really even worth the fees.

Rosie said: “I completely understand the need for strikes and having the right to strike but it’s difficult to respect the universities and feel like I’m getting what I pay for when strikes are happening again.

“I spent so much time last year teaching myself the material and that’s not what £9k a year should be getting me really. If anyone asks me now if university is worth it – for the social side, yes, but academically, not at all. You can get so much more out of doing the Open University for a third of the price”.

Rosie went on to raise the issue of compensation for students disrupted by strike action: “I feel like we should be getting some kind of compensation fee wise because they’re not providing the ‘product'”.

Already having suffered a great deal of disruption from online learning since the pandemic, a lot of students’ annoyance is focused around the financial aspect of strikes.

Melissa, another student at Newcastle University, had something similar to say. She said: “I understand why they’re doing it but its a bit annoying because we pay so much”.

‘Strikes are something all students should support’

Another student had a different take. Asking to remain anonymous, they argued that students should be in support for university strikes, saying “Don’t hate lecturers, hate uni”.

‘The lecturers deserve as fair a uni experience as us’

Anna Holland, an english literature and creative writing student Newcastle University, added that she believes lecturers deserve a fair experience as employees as students do. She went on to add “Absolutely support them!”.

‘I don’t support most lecturers anymore’

One Northumbria student, who preferred to stay anonymous, said that the abundance of strikes throughout their studies has resulted in them no longer supporting lecturers in their decision to strike. They said: “I’m so unimpressed with Northumbria over the last two years. I don’t support most lecturers anymore”.

While the universities encourage lecturers to communicate with students on whether they will be striking, they cannot enforce this and many university staff choose not to do so.

Some lecturers at Newcastle University have reassured students that they understand that cancelled teaching or materials and delays in emails and responses to students may cause anxiety and concern, but that the strikes are necessary.

Many students agreed that the strikes this month have not been received well, with some saying that strike action is “doing my head in”, and “a piss take to be honest”, while others simply said it’s a “time to do nothing”.

Northumbria student, Ollie Carratu, said: “The education system is flawed in our country”, while another said “I want my money back”.

When contacted for comment, a Newcastle University spokesperson said:

All funds accrued as a result of salary savings from industrial action will be used for the benefit of students.

We continue to work with UCU to find agreement on local issues while working with our national bodies to find a resolution to the dispute around Pay and Pensions.

“In the meantime, our priority is to work with the Students’ Union and our colleagues to mitigate the impact of this action and avoid further disruption and anxiety for students and colleagues alike.”

A spokesperson for Northumbria University said: “This action is part of a national dispute involving 150 universities across the UK. It is worth noting that not all academic staff at Northumbria are members of UCU and not all UCU members take part in industrial action.

“The University is fully open during the strike action and the vast majority of teaching has gone ahead as scheduled. Our priority remains providing our students with the best possible learning experience, and no student will be disadvantaged because of the strike action.

“The University has made a constructive and generous local offer over pay at the same time as participating in national negotiations and continues to hold discussions with our recognised trade unions to address the cost of living pressures faced by our colleagues.”

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