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University strikes: Hundreds sign petition demanding refund from Sheffield Uni

‘Start treating staff with respect’

Hundreds have signed a petition demanding that the University of Sheffield refunds students over teaching lost to the lecturer strikes.

The petition, which has amassed almost 400 signatures in two days, backs the striking staff but judges it "only fair" that each student affected should receive £490 compensation.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) are walking out at 60 universities nationwide, including the Uni of Sheffield and Hallam, in a dispute over pay and pensions.

The strike, set to continue until 4 December, is hitting one million students nationally as lectures and seminars are cancelled, and deadlines plunged into uncertainty.

Set up by philosophy student Isabel Jezierska, the petition says the "severe" impact to essays and exam preparations is "depriving" students of the chance to succeed.

"As students, we support our lecturers who choose to take industrial action to protect their – and our – futures and interests," it says.

"However, we feel that the University of Sheffield should compensate us for the fact that we are missing time from our education as a result of the University's attitudes towards its staff.

"Based on £9,250 a year tuition fee, with the strike lasting for the full eight days, a student is set to lose around £490. And so, this student should be compensated £490."

The petition also accuses the Russell Group institution of helping cause the strike by "refusing to treat staff with respect" over high workloads, casual contracts and gendered pay – issues at the heart of the national UCU row. It tells bosses to do "everything within their power to stop the paralysation of academia".

During the controversial 2018 UCU strikes, which took place on 14 days over the course of a month, a petition demanding £300 compensation from the Uni of Sheffield was signed more than 7,500 times.

Read more: Why are lecturers in Sheffield striking? Here's everything you need to know

This time the institution has attempted to effectively rule out compensation claims, stating on its strike FAQ webpage that it is "not obliged to compensate students" where disruption has been minimised.

Many university bosses have defended themselves against reimbursement calls by saying tuition fees are paid as a lump sum, fueling library, computing and wellbeing services and not just teaching.

The University of Sheffield told The Tab Sheffield that vice-chancellor Koen Lamberts wrote to sector body Universities UK and the UCU yesterday, and that money saved from staff salaries would help "mitigate" impact and provide "additional student support activities".

A spokesperson for the institution added: "We understand that many staff at universities across the UK have concerns around pay and pensions and we are working in partnership with trade union colleagues to see what more can be done locally and to use our influence to try to shape the national debate.

"We're committed to ensuring minimal disruption to our students during this action and all reasonable attempts will be made to make contingencies for students to continue their studies without detriment to their learning opportunities and assessment outcomes."

Read more: Sheffield Uni and Hallam lecturer strikes

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