Industrial Action: Message from PVC Learning and Teaching, 16 March

Dear Student,

I am writing to all students to provide an update regarding the industrial action. You may have heard that the UUK and UCU negotiating teams reached agreement on a potential way forward which was announced on Monday night, subject to ratification by members. Unfortunately, the proposal to end the strike was rejected by the majority of UCU branches. The strike action will therefore continue for the rest of this week, and the UCU has stated that it will announce further strike action shortly.

The University has issued a joint statement with the Students' Union calling on UUK and UCU to use their current negotiations to find a fair solution to bring their dispute to a swift end. However, this is a national issue which can only be resolved at a national level.

Talking to staff and students over the past three weeks, I am very aware of the considerable uncertainty and frustration caused by the dispute. I am also very aware of the concerns of students in terms of the teaching missed and forthcoming assessment.

As I have said before, we have been working with the Students' Union to find ways to limit or mitigate the impact of strike action on students. Once colleagues currently on strike are back at work on Monday, we have asked that they prioritise making materials such as key readings, recorded lectures, Powerpoint presentations and links to online resources available to students (if they have not already done so) to cover the content missed. We have also encouraged departments and colleagues within them to organise meetings with students, to listen and identify ways in which they can best support them in the present circumstances. Having spoken to many colleagues who are currently on strike, I have no doubt about their commitment to supporting students and I am sure they will make every effort to do so once this week's action has finished. As I have said in previous emails, staff whether on strike or not, care passionately about education, the University and their students.

From Monday we will also be working in conjunction with Heads of Department to identify classes that have been missed due to strike action and to identify those programmes that have been most affected. We will then be talking to colleagues on those programmes to explore the most effective ways to support students over the coming weeks.

We are also looking closely at assessment matters to ensure that the assessments and outcomes are appropriate and fair, but with no reduction in the high standards of learning outcomes that we always expect. I would emphasise that it is still too soon to know whether it would be appropriate to use individual mitigating circumstances or to identify "structural" mitigating circumstances. Mitigating circumstances are generally applied when something happens to a student immediately before or during an assessment, rather than to pre-empt the work that should go into preparing to take degree assessments.

As I have said before, I would urge you to continue with your academic work, attend all scheduled classes, and prepare for assessments as normal. If you are especially worried about a particular assessment, please write to your Director Studies or to the Head of Department. You can also turn to the Academic Skills Centre for generalised help with assignments. If you feel your well-being is being affected, please make use of the wide-range of support networks we have available to you, including the Students' Union, Student Services, and personal tutors.

At the present time, the University is not considering any form of reduction in fees or compensation. Tuition fees relate to your student experiences a whole, including the other services and facilities that you receive as a student, and not to individual teaching sessions. The Regulations for Students 2017/18 (section 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. However, we will continue to monitor the situation.

Our main problem in terms of finding solutions to the concerns raised by the effects of the industrial action so far, is that we do not know for how long the dispute will last. We had hoped that it would end this week and we would be able to resume normal activities. However, despite the efforts of all those involved, it would appear that industrial action will continue, although the exact dates have not yet been announced.

I am sorry that I cannot be any more precise at this stage. Please rest assured that I will keep you informed of any developments as much as I can, and would also direct you to our webpage which contains FAQs and links to previous emails I have sent to students. This is an issue that is not unique to the University of Bath so we will be looking across the sector for further ways to support students and ensure that we mitigate the adverse effects of the industrial action as much as we can. We will also continue to work with the Students' Union to identify ways of supporting students through a very challenging period.

Best wishes,

Professor Peter Lambert
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning and Teaching)

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