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National strike action at UK universities - update April 2023

An update from the UCU on their strike action and how it may affect you

20th April 2023

We previously advised you that staff who are members of the University and College Union (UCU) have been asked to take part in industrial action as part of two separate disputes over pay and pensions. This is national action and is affecting a large number of universities in the UK.

The University and College Union (UCU) has extended its intention to take industrial action until September 2023 and this includes Action Short of a Strike (ASOS) involving a marking and assessment boycott, beginning on Thursday 20 April.

This means that some staff at Solent University who are UCU members will be asked to support this action. However, all other staff are expected to work normally, and we’ll be doing all we can to minimise any impact on your learning.

At the third and final negotiation meeting on 25 January, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) made a final pay offer for 2023-24 of a minimum pay rise of 5%, rising to 8% for staff working at the lower spinal points. This is the highest uplift offered in two decades and recognises the current cost pressures faced by both employees and employers.

Please take a look at the Q&As below to find out more.

In the meantime, please watch out for communications from us about the strike action.

Why is the industrial action happening?

Industrial action is taking place at 150 UK universities and relates to two separate disputes, one in respect of the pay award 2022/23 and conditions, and one in respect of the pay award and the USS pension scheme.

Solent University is impacted due to a dispute over the 2022/23 pay award only.

What is Solent's position?

As a university we are very aware of the financial pressures facing staff, and have recently put a range of measures in place to support all colleagues.

We were also pleased to support the 2022/23 pay round, which included a:

  • pay increase of 3% for employees on spinal point 20 and above, and
  • pay increase of between 3.1% and 9% on a sliding scale for employees on spinal points 3 to 19.

It is important to note that matters relating to pay awards are discussed on a national level and can only be resolved through national negotiations.

What is action short of a strike?

Action short of a strike (ASOS) is defined as other industrial action that is not a strike. UCU has advised that the action short of a strike in this period will consist of its members:

  • working to contract,
  • not covering for absent colleagues,
  • not rescheduling teaching sessions due to strike action,
  • not sharing materials relating to lectures or classes cancelled as a result of any strike action,
  • not undertaking any voluntary activities.

What will the industrial action mean for me and my course?

Your wellbeing and education is, as always, our top priority at Solent, and we appreciate you may have concerns about possible disruption to your learning.

The majority of staff will be working as normal during the period of industrial action, but some areas of the University are likely to experience higher levels of industrial action than others.

We are working with colleagues across the University to minimise the impact of any action on your teaching and assessment.

What if my teaching does not take place?

Most teaching and assessment sessions, including examinations, will go ahead as planned. You should assume that this will be the case unless you are specifically advised by your module tutor or by the University that a teaching activity will not take place.

We have asked staff members to advise us if they intend to take part in industrial action so that we can minimise the impact on you.

We are committed to maintaining the quality of your learning experience throughout the industrial action. Where teaching sessions do not take place, we will ask staff to rearrange teaching or provide you with alternative learning materials or support after the period of strike action. Some staff may choose not to do so. If this is the case, we will be aware of this and will take further steps to make sure that you are not disadvantaged as a result.

What is a marking and assessment boycott?

UCU define a marking and assessment boycott as the stopping of “all marking and assessment processes that contribute to summative assessment decisions for students/learners, whether final (i.e. graduation/completion) or interim (i.e. progression decisions).”

While we expect that many staff will continue to work normally, we also acknowledge that some will be exercising their legal right to take industrial action.

Will the boycott affect me?

It depends on your course; many of our students will experience little or no disruption.

For those who are impacted, our focus is on minimising the disruption to studies. Measures are currently being put in place to prioritise progression to the next level of your studies or graduation this summer.

What about attending exams or submitting assessments?

You should attend exams and submit your assessment as planned.

I'm an international student - will the strike action affect my visa status?

No. There will be no impact on your student visa as we will continue to monitor your attendance as normal.

You should attend timetabled activities as normal unless you are specifically advised by your module tutor or by the University that a teaching activity will not take place.

If any classes or contact points are missed because of the strike it will be recorded as authorised absence.

Who should I contact to find out more?

You can talk to your course leader about plans for your learning or, if that isn’t possible, please speak to the Student Hub.

What if I want to complain about the impact of the strike on my studies?

We’ll be doing everything we can to ensure the strike action doesn’t seriously impact your studies and expect most teaching to go ahead as planned, but we know that any disruption is unsettling. If you’re worried, please speak to your course leader or contact the Student Hub.

Following their return to work, we will be asking any staff member who takes strike action to support you with the required learning opportunities so that you can achieve the intended learning outcomes for your modules and course.

If after this, you remain dissatisfied and wish to make a formal complaint you can also talk to the Student Hub to find out how to do this. We take all complaints very seriously and will get in touch with you as soon as possible to see how we can resolve them.