Opinion: What I think of the strikes as a first-year Newcastle student

As a student, strikes can be challenging and confusing, especially as a fresher

In November, the UCU announced a three day strike spread over two weeks across 150 UK universities. On Thursday 24th November, Friday 25th and Wednesday 30th, these strikes saw nationwide disruption to seminars and lectures for students in a bid for lecturers to protest for better pay and benefits/conditions within their contracts. The current climate with the rising inflation has prompted teachers to demand higher pay after they were offered a three percent pay rise earlier this year yet inflation in the economy went up by 11.8 percent.

Unfortunately, this has a ripple effect on the students since, without lectures and seminars, many students can feel they are missing out on important contact hours that could support their studies. This adds stress and pressure to students’ academic life. Staff aren’t required to tell students – even some refusing to provide replacement materials.  This is particularly concerning for those in their third and/or final years who have been at university during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As a first-year myself, this is the first instance of strikes in an educational setting affecting me personally. I have been lucky enough to be informed by my lecturers and seminar leaders that on the strike days (24th & 30th) I will not have my usual seminars/lectures. And them providing materials have helped me finish my assessments due while the strikes are on-going. But obviously I think besides all of the support, it’s undeniable that the strikes will have a sustained effect overall.

The strikes have also led to myself and others to question what is the point of paying for a £9,000 degree if we are being disrupted and not able to use the universities’ teaching resources and contact hours to form discussion and get support. Even though, the cause is understandable, as a believer of workers’ rights, this does clearly lead to question what is acceptable enough for us students to withstand and be resilient towards. As I have mentioned prior, lectures have been cancelled for me, with one in-person lecture which I need to support my assessment topic has been affected. However, I cannot act like this has massively impacted upon my assessment’s outcome compared to other people who haven’t even been given replacement resources to help with their assessments.

The sentiment and cause of the strikes have my full support but however it’s certain that as a student, it will affect us academically. But certain lecturers and module leaders have been supportive in this case, to provide materials that can be used in absence of no lectures and seminars. But one thing that can hopefully change is that these strikes and protests pave the way for a better pay/benefit system and supportive conditions for university lecturers and teaching staff, not just in Newcastle but, across the country. They are overworked and underpaid for the unique knowledge, experience and wisdom they provide.

Want to write stories like this? Join the team, no experience required. DM us via @TheTabNewcastle on Instagram or The Tab Newcastle on Facebook.

Related articles recommended by this author: