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UCU warn of academic exodus from University of Stirling

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As the University of Stirling braces itself to be plunged into 4 four weeks of strikes at the end of this month, I sat down to discuss the effects of the strikes on students, staff and the institution.

Dr Derek Hodge, teaching fellow and press officer for the university’s branch of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU), was eager to assure students that this mass action was necessary.

Dr Hodge said: ‘any form of action we can take that is effective also causes student problems.’

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The UK wide strikes will be the longest of their kind ever seen. image credit Brig Newspaper

The strikes cover most of the second half of the semester and if completed will allow just 16 teaching days after reading week. Whilst to many this may seem excessive Dr Hodge warned that: ‘the consequences of [staff] not taking action will be even greater for students in the long run.’

The strike has been caused by an ongoing dispute over pensions. Staffs pensions are organised on a national level and a movement to a new scheme is set to have a dramatically negative effect on staff and possibly students.

According to Dr Hodge staff are set to lose up to £10,000 per year on the new scheme: ‘for early career people, the effect will be horrendous. Someone who starts a career in their early 30s and retires at 67 will lose in the new scheme upwards of £200,000.’

Some newer institutions are covered by a different pension scheme, Dr Hodge worries that there will be a ‘real incentive’ for staff to work elsewhere. This could lead to Stirling failing to attract leading academics resulting in a degraded academic experience for students.

Dr Hodge was adamant that this could be ‘avoided very easily.’ The negotiations are being conducted nationally and it is Universities UK who have ‘unilaterally walked away from negotiations.’

Dr Hodge was careful not to point any fingers at individuals but did have some scathing comments about those at the top of the tree: ‘Older academics [are] willing to pull up the drawbridge behind them.’

These older academics may be those in a position like Principal and Vice-Chancellor Gerry McCormac who Dr Hodge said ‘certainly has a good enough pension.’

The Principal has not personally commented on the strikes but in a statement from the University of Stirling, it was said that: ‘in the event of strike action, the University’s priority would be to minimise disruption to students.’

Staff voted with one of the highest turnouts across the country in favour of strike action. With 13 days to go until the start of the national strike and 20 until Stirling’s strike there may still be time to avert the action. It seems however that there is a long way to go to this happening.

 

featured image credit Wales Online

2 Comments

  1. […] By Finlay Allmond on February 16, 2018 • ( Leave a comment ) As Stirling students prepare for reading week universities are bracing themselves for the start of 14 days of strike action beginning on Monday. The University of Stirling is beginning its strike days a week later and today the Stirling Student’s Union has come out in support of those who plan to take action. You can see the full statement issued by Union President Astrid Smallenbroek below. “The University of Stirling Students’ Union recognises the intention of the Universities and College Union (UCU) to undertake strike action from 26th February 2018, in respect of proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). The period of industrial action is expected to last for a total of 14 days, across the dates below: Monday 26th February – Wednesday 28th February Monday 5th March – Thursday 8th March Monday 12th March – Friday 16th March Monday 19th March – Tuesday 20th March We recognise that this is not a decision that UCU members have taken lightly and that previous attempts to avoid strike action have been unsuccessful. In line with Union policy, as decided by our members, the Students’ Union will be offering its full support to the UCU during the upcoming industrial action. However, the Students’ Union will continue to work with both parties, during the period of disruption, to ensure the strike’s direct impact on students is minimised as far as possible. Whilst we anticipate that the action will have a direct impact on the day to day teaching activity of the University, we expect that students will continue to be able to access University services such as the library, catering and student support services throughout the period of disruption. We have been assured that students will be informed, in advance through Canvas and the Student Portal, of any cancellations of classes. Further guidance and information on the likely impact of the strike will be released by the Union shortly. We recognise this action will cause significant concern for a number of students, should you have any particular concerns or questions about this action, we’d encourage you to email us at advocacy.union@stir.ac.uk.” You can read the interview I conducted with UCU Press Secretary for Stirling University here. […]

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