‘I haven’t had an undisrupted year at uni since I began’: UoN students on striking lecturers
59 per cent of Notts students say they are in support of the strikes
This week, many staff members at UoN are on strike. They seek better pay, working conditions and pensions. During the industrial action, participating teaching staff won’t hold their usual classes and lectures. Some students will see their contact hours significantly reduce whilst for others, these hours will be gone entirely.
A poll conducted by The Tab Nottingham on Instagram found that 59 per cent of 790 UoN students said they support the strikes. But what reasons are behind that number?
We spoke to UoN students to get their thoughts on the strikes and striking lecturers. Here’s what they said:
‘Vice Chancellor Shearer West is comfortably sitting on a wage of £286,000 a year, but fails to support the staff she employs’
Joel, a third year Liberal Arts student, was keen to say that “the uni management and Universities UK can end strike action by fairly compensating their staff.”
“Staff working conditions are our learning conditions, so their fight is our fight. Staff want the same thing as us – the best possible education, but this is being threatened. If we don’t challenge this now, things will only get worse,” Joel says.
“I feel as though the university has pointed the blame at lecturers and avoided taking responsibility for being a part of creating the conditions in which staff feel the need to take drastic action. The Vice Chancellor Shearer West is comfortably sitting on a wage of £286,000 a year, but fails to support the staff she employs.”
‘I don’t think it’s fair for students who pay £9,250 a year for their eduction to not receive it’
While third year student Amelia supports the goal of the strikers because “it’s not fair for lecturers to have their pensions slashed”, she also says that she doesn’t think it’s “fair for students who pay £9,250 a year for their education not to receive it” and would prefer that they use other methods.
She points out that “other unis are taking less action like only working their contracted hours,” which she believes is “less detrimental to students rather than not giving them the education in the first place.”
“I haven’t had an undisrupted year in uni since I began…so it’s just feels like my entire university education hasn’t been worth the price at all,” she says.
‘I completely understand and respect the decisions of staff members to strike although it is inconvenient’
Emily*, a fourth year International Relations student, is in support of the strikers, although she also acknowledged that the industrial action is inconvenient and disruptive to teaching.
“The last year with Covid-19 has been particularly hard for everybody including lecturers and faculty staff. I think it’s really easy to overlook lecturers but the majority of them really do go above and beyond to support students. I completely understand and respect the decisions of staff members to strike, they have suffered too in the past year and don’t need additional stress of pension cuts. Although if I’m honest, it is inconvenient and disruptive in terms of teaching,” she says.
“I know a lot of students struggled during COVID with mental health and I can imagine the same was happening amongst faculty members since a lot of them have other commitments such as families, care responsibilities and more,” she added.
‘The comments made by the Vice Chancellor in the recent email about industrial action are completely unprofessional’
Sam, a fourth year chemistry masters student, is in support of striking lecturers too.
“I believe the pension cuts are untenable and the university staff deserve better from their employer, particularly after the pandemic,” Sam said. “Strikes are a good idea as collective action by the lecturers is the only way available to fight back against the cuts.”
He added that he felt the comments made by UoN’s Vice Chancellor in her recent email sent to students about industrial action were “completely unprofessional” and “patronising to students”.
Alex, a third year student at UoN, expressed “disgust” about his entire university experience, and also took particular aim at Shearer West.
“[We’ve had] 18 months of online teaching and now lecturers are striking because they have less pay. Why are we paying full tuition when we don’t have our education to the extent to which we thought we would have?” he says. “It’s disgusting.”
A spokesperson for The University of Nottingham said: “We deeply regret any industrial action, particularly at a time when students are re-engaging with life on campus which is so important for their education and wellbeing after the turbulence of the past 18 months.
“We are already taking action on the areas under dispute. A significant proportion of University staff received combined national and local pay increases of between 3.5% and 4.5% in August. The University is already piloting a model of Graduate Teaching Assistants to end the use of so-called casual contracts and last year introduced the new Principles for Working with Teaching Affiliates, to ensure fair and equitable pay across the University.
“The USS pension has a £15 billion gap between its current funds and its promises to future pensioners. The proposals to reform it are backed up by an additional £1.3 billion support from universities and would keep it affordable for members while retaining benefits rarely seen in other schemes. Without reform, staff would face increases in how much they pay into the pension every six months until 2025.
“The University will remain open throughout the industrial action and the vast majority of teaching and learning will proceed as usual. Students should assume that lectures, seminars and classes will take place unless notified otherwise. Schools will explore options to reschedule any sessions affected by industrial action, provide learning resources, extend deadlines where helpful and ensure that assessments reflect the learning that has taken place.”
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*Fake name used to preserve anonymity.
Middle picture in featured image courtesy of @alicelauramay