University of Bath

Industrial action: FAQs for students

Information on the industrial action planned to take place on campus during February and March 2018.

What the strike is about

At the heart of the current dispute has been a disagreement about whether or not the USS pension scheme as it stands is sustainable and affordable for the future. Universities UK (the representative organisation for the UK’s universities) and the Pensions Regulator are of the view that the current scheme is unsustainable and therefore there is a need for significant reform.

On the other hand, the UCU is more sceptical about the level of risks long-term and seeks to defend the current pension provision for academic and senior professional services staff.

Dates the strike is taking place

Week 1

  • 2 days from Thursday 22 February 2018 to Friday 23 February 2018

Week 2

  • 3 days from Monday 26 February 2018 to Wednesday 28 February 2018

Week 3

  • 4 days from Monday 5 March 2018 to Thursday 8 March 2018

Week 4

  • 5 days from Monday 12 March 2018 to Friday 16 March 2018

UCU have also asked colleagues to take ‘action short of a strike’ from the 22nd February. It will terminate no later than 19 June 2018.

Action short of strike

Action short of a strike involves the University and College Union (UCU) members working to contract. This means they fulfil their contractual obligations (including teaching, marking and assessment) but don’t undertake voluntary duties, cover for absent colleagues or reschedule lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action.

We have asked staff who are working to contract in this way to prioritise student wellbeing support activities (including personal tutoring) and the preparation and delivery of teaching, coursework assessment, marking and feedback activities. UCU state that action short of a strike will commence on 22 February. It will terminate no later than 19 June 2018.

The University will be open

The University will be open as usual. We also currently expect all services (e.g. the Library, cafes, the Students’ Union, the Sports Training Village, Student Services) to be open as usual.

What the University is doing to minimise disruption

We are doing everything we can to minimise the disruption of the strike on staff, students and external visitors. We are working closely with academic and professional services departments to put into place contingency plans to try and ensure that services to our students and staff are not adversely affected. This includes:

  • asking all University and College Union (UCU) members to tell us in advance if they intend to participate in strike action so we can identify which teaching sessions or support services might be affected. Note there is no legal obligation for staff to inform us of their intent to strike in advance.
  • asking teaching staff who are on strike to give students access to materials (Moodle, recorded lectures, online resources, reading lists etc) that cover the content missed through strike action
  • making all reasonable efforts to put into place actions or plans which will limit or mitigate the impact of the industrial action on students and other service users.
  • asking non-striking staff to cover the duties of striking staff as long as this could be expected within their normal role or job description. It is not legal to bring in external agency staff to cover for strike action

Open days

Any open days will go ahead as planned.

Crossing picket lines

We are expecting that there will be a polite picketing presence at all entrances to the campus on strike days, including the Virgil Building. It is your decision whether you wish to cross the picket line.

You will not be prevented from entering buildings, and there is an expectation that you will attend teaching and assessment activities as normal unless you hear that these have been cancelled or rescheduled.

Staff on the picket line might ask you not to cross, but you should certainly not feel intimidated since this is not the intention of anyone on the picket line. We expect all staff and students to be polite and courteous.

Turning up for lectures

Please continue with your academic work, attend scheduled classes, and prepare for any assessments as normal. We are asking all University and College Union (UCU) members to tell us in advance if they intend to participate in strike action so we can identify which teaching sessions or support services might be affected.

We will let students and colleagues know if we can identify in advance which teaching sessions will be affected.

Turning in assessments

Please continue with your academic work, attend scheduled classes, and prepare for any assessments as normal.

Impact on exams

The exact impact of the strike on exams and assessment is currently unclear, as we don’t yet know which staff will be on strike and what the impact will be. We will monitor the situation and work closely with departments to identify and implement appropriate interventions if needed and where possible.

The ballot paper does not include a marking boycott.

Pay for staff on strike

Staff who take strike action on an identified day of action will have one day’s pay (1/365th of their annual salary) deducted from their pay for each day of action.

What the University is doing to help resolve this issue

This is a national issue which we cannot resolve at a local level. We are, however, hopeful that discussions at a national level between Universities UK and the University and College Union (UCU) will provide a resolution that is acceptable to all, and we are also keen to remain engaged in ongoing dialogue at a local level.

We are working closely with the Students’ Union to try and minimise the adverse impact on our students.

How accredited courses are affected

We are aware that the strike is a source of particular concern to students on accredited courses. We are unsure as to what the exact impact on these courses will be. However, we are working closely with departments and external awarding bodies to monitor the situation and to identify appropriate interventions where possible.

Students will be kept informed as discussions progress.

Requesting compensation for missed teaching

At the present time, the University is not considering any form of reduction in fees or compensation. We are working hard to mitigate the impact of the strike on our students to try and ensure there is no reduced service to serve as grounds for compensation, and will continue to monitor the situation. Tuition fees also relate to your education as a whole, including the other services and facilities that you receive as a student, and not to individual teaching sessions.

Legally, the Regulations for Students 2017/18, item 3.8 state that neither students nor the University shall be liable for inability or delay in performing any of their obligations if caused by circumstances beyond their reasonable control. This explicitly includes industrial action.

What is happening nationally to resolve this issue

The organisations who are responsible for managing University pensions - Universities UK (UUK), Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) and the USS – have been involved in extensive discussions to try and reach a negotiated agreement.

After the USS Trustee Board – which is independent of universities – has considered the proposed changes, and before any changes are implemented, there will be a formal consultation period with members. This is expected to begin in mid-March and continue for 60 days.

The Universities Superannuation Scheme Board will consider the outcome of this consultation before finalising any changes.

Who to contact if you have questions or concerns

Depending on the question you can talk to your Director of Studies, the Students’ Union or the University.

Most of the usual sources of student support should be available including staff in school and faculty offices and staff in the Exams Office and in Student Services.

We have asked staff to prioritise student wellbeing support activities, including personal tutoring, when they are working to contract. We will be continuing to email all staff and students with key updates, and updating this site regularly.

Vice Chancellor’s pay

This is not connected to the Vice-Chancellor's pay. It is a national issue concerning national rather than institutional finances. There is no link between the University of Bath’s pension contributions and remuneration of its staff.

Affect on Visa status for international students

The strike action should not negatively impact your visa status.

The strike action may result in the cancellation of some of the expected contact points your university uses to check your attendance. Unless you are told that a specific class or contact point has been cancelled, you should attend as normal, and normal processes for attendance monitoring will apply to classes which are not cancelled.

If expected contacts such as lectures do not happen due to the strike action, then we will make appropriate alternative arrangements.

If you have any further concerns about the industrial action and the impact on your visa, please contact the Student Immigration Service.

Student who don’t want to cross a picket line

You are perfectly entitled to cross a picket line. These are likely to be peaceful and friendly.

If you choose not to cross, you will need to take personal responsibility for the teaching and learning that you will be missing.

Students do not have a lawful mandate to refuse to cross a picket line.

Rescheduling of cancelled lectures, seminars or tutorials

It is possible that some teaching will be able to be rescheduled, but we cannot guarantee that this will occur as we cannot require staff taking industrial action to complete work that they have missed due to a strike day.

Preparing for exams or other assessments

We will be doing all we can to reduce the impact of the industrial action on your studies.

Please continue with your own studies and look out for communications from your school on any alternative arrangements that will support your learning and assessment.

Strike action and extenuating circumstances

Strike action will not count as extenuating circumstances. If any courses are affected by strike action we will address this on a unit-by-unit basis, not via individual extenuating circumstances claims.

Risk to exams

At the moment we expect all assessments and exams scheduled after Easter to take place as planned.

How PhD or research degree vivas will be affected

If you have a viva that is scheduled for a strike day we will aim to email you on an individual basis to let you know whether the viva will be taking place.

You should assume that your viva will go ahead unless you hear otherwise.

Where to get support if you are feeling stressed by the strike

You can get support both from the Students’ Union Advice and Support team and Student Services. We would also advise you to contact your personal tutor and your Director of Studies to talk about your concerns.

How your department will help you cover cancelled lectures

We have asked staff to make all reasonable effort to limit or mitigate the impact of strike action on students. This includes providing material (for example focussed reading, online resources, Moodle uploads, recorded lectures) to cover the content of any classes missed through strike action.

During the strike

Please continue with your academic work, attend scheduled classes, and prepare for any assessments as normal. If your class has been cancelled due to strike action, try to read up on the material independently or by following indicative reading lists.