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‘I don’t think the strikes will work’: Sussex VC Adam Tickell talks to The Tab Sussex about upcoming UCU action

Good luck trying to get money back for your missed hours

Adam Tickell told us in an interview today that he doesn't think the upcoming UCU strikes will work.

Speaking to The Tab Sussex, the Vice-Chancellor also told us that he may have even taken part in the strikes if was he younger, but Adam was unsure if he would take part in them presently.

Speaking ahead of the planned strikes that will begin on February 22, Mr Tickell explained that refunds for missed hours would be much more complicated than students may think, and would not recognise the figures that were made by them.

We sat down with Adam to talk about the upcoming strikes and what they mean to students.

Will students be refunded for their missed hours?

Mr Tickell told The Tab Sussex that no one knows the true cost of the strike and so to figure out a set price for any reimbursement would be very complicated.

"We don't know what the effect of the industrial action will be. The union have said they will strike for 14 days but I think it is a big ask.

"We don't know what the cost will be, it will be very expensive for us, we will be putting in extra support for mental health.

"Calculations like that are unrecognisable… if we go down that line then it will not work like that".

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If refunds were ever to be pursued, and what we gathered was that they would not, it would not work out as simply as counting up contact hours then dividing the fees you pay. Fees contribute to much more than just teaching, such as maintaining the library, which costs millions each year to run.

Adam instead advised against these calculations "I'm worried the strike will cause frictions, so I encourage students not to add up the costs themselves".

So if you're looking to be refunded, it isn't going to be as easy as figuring out how much your contact hours are worth and sending an invoice. You guys will probably not get refunded.

Do you think it is fair for students to pay the price of the strikes?

"If you have a victimless strike, then it is a pointless strike" Adam told us, "so it is really intended to put pressure on me and other Vice-Chancellors to change our opinion".

Adam told us that there has, however, been some support from students at Sussex for the strikes, mainly from the English school at the university.

"However, I think that if the strikes continue that sympathy will start to evaporate

"The university is much more comfortable in its own skin, I'm worried that these strikes will change the community" ,making reference to previous issues of protest at Sussex such as the Sussex Six.

Lecturers have been telling students to write directly to you and to ask for refunds, do you think they (the lecturers) are right to do so?

When we spoke to lecturers about the strikes many told us that they have told their students to write to Adam asking for refunds and to put pressure on him. As he said previously, Adam reiterated that students should understand the complexity of tuition costs, and steer from calculating their own costs.

"I think if staff encourage students to take this approach it will be unproductive" Tickell tells us.

Adam then went on to say that he is in a difficult position in which the university will either have to decrease in size and research funding or provide the pension plans for faculty members.

The Vice Chancellor says that there is simply not enough money for the current pension plan – which comes under review every three years – to maintain the educational output of the university. There is a structural deficit for the current pension scheme Adam says which is why the changes have been proposed.

Adam does not think that tuition fees should be used for pensions and instead should be used for education.

Will your pensions be affected and, if you were still a lecturer, would you strike?

"Well I am one of the few people who are not part of the USS (the current pension scheme".

The current pension scheme has a maximum amount that anyone can pay in during their lifetimes. Since Adam is one of the few who have reached this top contribution, he only pays into the USS to pay off any deficits.

Adam was part of a teaching union when he was younger and was a departmental representative. We asked if he was still part of that union or the UCU if he would strike today.

"The younger me may have taken part in the strikes, I don't know about the current me".

The Vice-Chancellor then went on to tell us that the situation with UCU is much more complicated than many people think and that he probably wouldn't strike or take industrial action because of the way they are handling things.

Adam Tickell told us that he was very sympathetic to the feelings of the lecturers, but ultimately said that the strikes will not achieve anything.

"I would be amazed if more strikes would be announced after the set dates".

Students have set up a petition for striking lecturer wages to be put into a hardship fund, do you think this would be effective?

Sussex students have set up a petition calling for the university to put the money they would typically spend on lecturer wages to be put into the hardship fund – a fund dedicated to providing students with financial support should they meet certain criteria.

"Everything is still under review" Mr Tickell explained, he said that the university is set to lose a lot of money and funds will have to be considered.

Adam deflected our question by telling us that he does wish to mitigate the effects of the strikes.