Education news

Student leaders support staff as university strikes begin

Students joined staff at the UCU strike. Picture by Hugh Russell

STUDENTS are experiencing disruption after university staff began eight days of strike action over pay, conditions and pensions.

Up to 43,000 members of the University and College Union (UCU) at 60 institutions across the UK are taking part in walk-outs.

The union said it will affect about one million students.

Those going on strike include lecturers, student support services staff, admissions tutors, librarians, technicians and administrators.

Staff at Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University are taking part.

University leaders said they will try to lessen the impact of the action and insist they want to work with the UCU to reach an agreement.

Picket lines are being mounted at campuses, protests held and other forms of industrial action launched, including not covering for absent colleagues and refusing to reschedule lectures.

The NUS-USI student body said it supported the protest.

President Robert Murtagh said there was a need to end "the marketisation of higher education, which is increasingly placing a financial burden on students and staff".

"The student movement stands in solidarity with staff at our universities, who are exercising their right to strike for better conditions," he said.

"Lecturers and support staff have faced attacks on their pensions, pay and working conditions in recent years. Ensuring a better deal for them will be crucial in giving students the best experience possible.

"Students and staff are being shouldered with the financial burden in our increasingly marketised higher education system, whether that be through tuition fees or pension cuts. Together, NUS-USI and UCU are calling for increased public investment in our universities to deliver a fairer deal for students and staff."

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said further industrial action could follow in the new year if agreements are not reached.

"We have told members they need to be prepared to take eight days of action and they are prepared to take eight days of action," she said.

"It is sad for university staff to be back here, they don't take strike action lightly - they don't get paid and they don't get to do the jobs they love."

The strikes will take place all this week, and again for three days from December 2.

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