Industrial action: FAQs for students
We would like to provide you with some information on the industrial action which is due to take place in February and March 2020.
What is the industrial action about?
The University and College Union (UCU) for academic, academic-related and senior professional services staff is planning to take industrial action due to disputes about pensions, pay and working conditions. Industrial action can take the form of a strike (a concerted stoppage of work) or ‘action short of a strike’ (restricting the activities an employee will undertake, such as refusing to do overtime). You can find more information about the UCU's position on their webpages and you can read about the position of Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) employers here.
This means some academic, academic-related and senior professional services staff members will not be working in February and March 2020. They may also be 'picketing' (a form of protest where staff members congregate) at the University. Staff will not be paid for any days they are not working. Staff have a legally protected right to strike, and have followed strict rules in order for this strike to be legal.
The Office for Students (OfS) has some guidance for any students who might be affected by industrial action, which you may find useful.
What will the University do to minimise the impact on students?
We will do everything we can to mitigate the impact of this industrial action on your learning. We are working closely with academic departments to identify and implement ways to support you - for example, some staff may upload papers, recorded lectures and links to online resources to cover the content missed. In previous industrial action some staff have also rescheduled missed lectures and/or extended coursework deadlines, though this is at their discretion.
We hope to be working closely with the Students' Union to understand students' experience during this process, and to do everything we can to support students.
We will communicate regularly with you (including frequently updating this FAQ page) to make sure you are kept informed of any developments.
How will any disruption be considered when deciding results?
We will work with departments to assess the effects of disruption on units and programmes. This will allow us to understand the potential effects on assessments. We will make carefully informed decisions, drawing on the academic judgement of staff, as to whether these effects have been resolved, giving you a fair opportunity to meet learning outcomes and demonstrate your understanding.
We would deal with any remaining uncertainty, identified through monitoring coursework and examination results, by using our normal decision-making bodies: our Boards of Examiners for Units and for Programmes, and our Boards of Studies. Using our rule-based assessment regulations, our examination boards and the Board of Studies make sure that all decisions reflect the standards achieved by our students, and that they are rigorous and fair.
At the Board of Examiners for Units, the marks for each assessment in each unit are considered carefully. Individual marks are never adjusted (except in case of error), but occasionally the marks of the entire cohort or a group of similarly affected students will be adjusted (“scaled”) up or down as appropriate where there is strong evidence to support this.
- Using scaling is an important tool, but will “be limited to circumstances where it is necessary to deal with problems—that should only occur infrequently—in the relationship between marks initially recorded and the aim to ensure ‘that the finalised marks for individual units are an accurate reflection of the standards achieved by the candidates’”.
- Scaling will be considered if there is evidence of issues with an assessment due to the effects of the industrial action that could not have been remedied in another way.
The Board of Examiners for Programmes will look carefully at the actions and recommendations of the Boards of Examiners for Units before making recommendations on individual student progression and/or award to the Board of Studies. It will consider students with valid Individual Mitigating Circumstances (IMCs) against assessment as it normally would.
In summary, please be assured that the University will take into account the effects of any industrial action when making evidence-based decisions about assessment achievement, and subsequent progression and/or award.
What will happen to the pay of striking staff?
Staff who take strike action on an identified day of action will have had one day’s pay (1/365th of their annual salary) deducted from their pay for each day of action.
Salary deductions for those who elect to take strike action will be re-invested, once any costs are taken into account, in areas which will generate real benefit for students and staff. Previously, after the strike in 2018, funds were used to support initiatives such as Mental Health First Aid Training and the SU Male Mental Health Awareness campaign as well as helping fund roles including the Mental Health PGR Role and Staff Health & Wellbeing Role.
What if I incur extra costs due to the Industrial Action?
If you have incurred costs as a direct result of recent industrial action at the university, than you can make an application to the University of Bath Hardship Fund for financial assistance.
Examples of expenditure you may be able to receive assistance with, includes: travel costs, childcare costs, the cost of study materials, subsistence expenditure (food, drinks etc.) as well as any other reasonable costs you may have incurred as a result of industrial action.
Please note, that you will be unable to claim either compensation or tuition fee refunds via the Hardship Fund.
The Hardship Fund is a discretionary sum of money provided by the University to assist students in financial difficulty, and though we will do our best to assist no guarantee of an award can be made. You can download an application form and find further information about the University of Bath Hardship Fund through Student Services webpages.
If you have any further questions, please contact Student Money Advice.
Where can I get help or advice if I'm worried?
Your Director of Studies can offer you academic advice about your specific academic circumstances. For example, you can ask your Director of Studies about:
- your results for individual assessments and units;
- the implications of your progression decision;
- supplementary / reassessment that may be required;
- your overall progress towards a degree classification; and
- academic arrangements that could be made given any individual circumstances that may have continued effects on your study, such as mental or physical health difficulties.
The University’s Wellbeing Service is available seven days a week. The Wellbeing Service offers drop-in sessions or you can get in touch by phone or email. All the services are confidential.
The Advice & Support Centre at the Students’ Union offers independent advice on your academic circumstances and options, and provides a range of other support services.
What should I do at the moment?
You should 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 of Studies or Head of Department.
You can also turn to the Academic Skills Centre for generalised help with assignments.
How will this dispute be resolved?
We know that our staff are dedicated to their jobs and delivering an excellent education and experience to our students. They don’t really want to go on strike.
The leading issues in this dispute appear to be the USS pension and pay, where there is very limited action we can take as a University. These issues are negotiated nationally on behalf of all participating Universities, and we are working with those bodies (Universities UK for pensions; the Universities and Colleges Employers Association for pay) to try and find a way to resolve these disputes. However, they are complex, and involve a wide range of Universities all with different viewpoints. We are hopeful that the national bodies, and the national Trades Unions will return to the negotiating table to try and find a way forward which is acceptable to both parties.
How do I make a complaint?
The UCU strike is ongoing, and the University is in the process of conducting an audit and collating information to assess any potential disruption to your academic experience. The University is also in the process of putting in place reasonable measures to minimise any potential disruption for students affected by the industrial action.
When this strike action is concluded and the department has had an opportunity to put in place any alternative or adjusted arrangements, if these measures have not addressed your concerns, please follow the Student Complaints Procedure.
I am studying on a Tier 4 visa – how might I be impacted?
The government have confirmed that classes cancelled due to industrial action should not be treated as an unauthorised absence. Therefore if your lecturer is on strike, this will not count as a missed key event.
The Student Immigration Service will make appropriate checks with staff regarding missed key events during this period before contacting students.
What is the University doing to resolve these issues?
Although the USS pension and pay processes are both nationally managed, the University of Bath has been able to make progress on some important issues locally including:
- Working with UCU locally regarding the use of hourly-paid (sometimes called ‘casualised’) contracts for staff who deliver substantial pieces of teaching. We are now rolling out our plan to improve employment terms across all academic Departments this semester.
- Forming a Gender Pay Gap Working Group, working with all three Trades Unions to identify a range of actions which should help address this issue over time.
- Working with UNISON to become one of the few universities who are an accredited National Living Wage employer.
Can I claim reimbursement for any missed teaching?
We will work hard to take reasonable steps to minimise any potential disruption, and to try and ensure there is no reduced service. We 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. Therefore, the University is not planning any form of reduction in fees or compensation at this time.