UoN students have been through 35 days of strikes, we deserve a refund

Finalists really haven’t received what they signed up for

This February and March, UoN will see a further ten days of industrial action by the University and College Union (UCU). Yet again, these strikes will disturb the teaching and learning of students.

For final year students, the action has caused a lot of frustration and worry. As we enter a crucial time in the final leg of our studies, missing out on lectures and seminars could impact our final results.

But the university has said it is unlikely that anyone will get financial compensation. Why?

Strikes in 2022

The university claims that they are “making every effort to minimise the impact of industrial action” and state that our fees do not just go towards tuition. In particular, they point out that the university will remain open and that they are ensuring facilities such as the libraries are still able to be used.

Despite these facilities remaining open, it can be argued that a large part of what we pay for is the teaching we are meant to receive. Because of strikes, much of this teaching has been lost and its quality worsened.

Third years have not gone a single year without strike disruption. First year was impacted by action in November 2019. Second year saw strikes, too, and now we are here. For the class of 2022, strikes now total up to 35 days of lost teaching, according to announcements from 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 on UoN’s website.

Strikes in the 2019-2020 academic year

Our university experience has been far from what we expected. The additional effect of Covid-19, too, has negatively impacted so many aspects of university life. Therefore, many students justifiably feel as though the £9,250 tuition fee is too much considering the circumstances we have experienced. We feel as though there should be a form of compensation, despite the realistic awareness that anything of the sort is highly unlikely.

The demands of the UCU are all important issues which I feel many students will agree need addressing. Its aims, as stated on its website, are to address the gender, ethnic, and disability pay gap, end contract casualisation and job insecurity, tackle the rising workloads driving its members to “breaking point”, increase to all spine points on the national pay scale of £2,500 and protect staffs’ guaranteed pension. These are all clearly issues that need to be resolved.

However, I feel the hardships of students have been largely overlooked over the last few years. We too have to work harder than before in terms of adapting our learning situations as well as struggling with the difficulties the pandemic has caused. In these strikes, it seems we are being overlooked again.

Strikes in 2021

In an ideal world, all these issues would have already been addressed. We would be back in lecture halls, where the lecturers say they would rather be, with disputes solved. But that is not the case, and through a further ten days of strikes, our education is being further impacted.

For final years, the educational side of the university experience we anticipated has definitely not lived up to expectations. Hopefully, these strikes cause the reactions they require and learning can continue without further disruption.

We might not get a refund, but we sure do deserve it.

Strikers marching through campus in 2022

A University of Nottingham spokesperson said: “We are sorry for any disruption caused to students during the current period of industrial action by members of the University and College Union, and will account for this by rescheduling sessions, providing resources through Moodle, extending deadlines where helpful and ensuring that assessments reflect the learning that has taken place.

“Without reforms to the pension scheme, staff would face increases in how much they pay into the pension of 12 per cent in April and a further 17 per cent in October 2022 – an extra £858 in pension costs over the first twelve months for someone earning £40,000 – with contributions set to rise further every six months until 2025.

“We work within national-level pay arrangements but at Nottingham we also make additional pay increments which mean that a significant proportion of our staff received pay increases in August of between 3.5 per cent and 4.5 per cent. Currently, we invest more than half of our cost base in staff pay which is consistently higher than the Russell Group average.

“We have also been reducing our gender and ethnicity pay gaps, with a task group dedicated to reducing these further. For colleagues employed on casual contracts, we intend next year to replace these with formal contracts for Graduate Teaching Assistants, and are already piloting their use in a school this year.”

The UoN UCU have been approached for comment but are yet to provide a response.