Should the lecturers be going on strike? Two student opinions

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ucu strike
On Wednesday, during the extreme weather, strike supporters stand at the picket line. Credit: ‘Stirling Students Support the UCU Pensions Strike’ Facebook page

With the first week of strike action at the University of Stirling complete, Amy Beveridge and Aneesa Dastgir discuss their differing opinions on the strike.

Should the lecturers be going on strike? No.

Amy Beveridge

Staff at universities across the UK are going to take industrial action over proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme pension scheme. This means my lecturers are going on strike, and I’m understandably concerned. 14 days of strikes over four weeks means a lot of missed classes and a lot of students not getting an education.

The university insists in emails to students that they are “working hard to ensure that the impact of the strike on our students is minimised”. But how could this possibly be the case? If there are no lecturers to teach classes, then these classes won’t go ahead, and students will miss out. It’s that simple.

And I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m in my final year, and since I’m only writing a dissertation this semester, I have a grand total of 3.5 contact hours. Imagine how disruptive this strike will be for those students who have regular classes, especially as the strike days tend to fall on the same days of the week.

I am also lucky in that, as a Scottish student, I don’t pay tuition fees. But for those who do, they are missing out on two weeks of teaching they have already paid for, strike or no strike. The cost of a university education is enough these days without, you know, not actually being taught. Lecturers are also not obliged to tell students or the university whether they are striking, so even making additional plans to work around the strikes may prove difficult for students.

I think when it comes to industrial action, a pragmatic approach is key. Of course I think our tutors should get fair pension rights. They do an amazing job and deserve to be supported once they retire. The possibility of them losing out on thousands of pounds of their pension is not right, and something needs to be done.

I myself have benefited from their hard work and attention for the past four years. But all striking will do will disadvantage thousands of students and give their employers a reason not to pay them for two weeks.

What lecturers need to do is find a way to take action to defend their rights that won’t hurt those whose support they need the most – their students. People power is key, and by getting students on board with their cause, they have a much stronger case than just by themselves.

But I believe striking will not do this. In fact, I think it will do quite the opposite.

Credit: Harry Williamson

Should the lecturers be going on strike? Yes.

Aneesa Dastgir

I am on the same boat as Amy in the sense I am a Scottish student, so I don’t pay tuition fees. However, I am in support of the strike, but I can understand all the opinions floating around, and people who are facing a range of options and situations when it comes to strikes. I have friends who are EU students/non-EU students and non-Scottish students, who are paying a lot of money to not get taught, with some lecturers striking, and some not, due to various reasons.

Yet, I also understand why our lecturers are striking. I’ve always appreciated the amount of time my teachers, lecturers and staff have put into my education. If it was not for my teachers, I would never have progressed to the stage I am at now.

What justifies our Vice-Chancellor’s hefty pay check? As someone tweeted, why are tuition fees getting higher and lecturers’ pensions lower? It is not fair on anyone in higher education. Education is a tool to stop inequalities, but with these pension cuts it is adding to the existing inequalities.

To support your lecturers, you can do more than just strike. Send you lecturer a message of solidarity, if striking isn’t your cup of tea. Our lecturers are working around the clock, and are expected to work longer, with their pensions being cut on top. How is this fair?

I believe in this day and age, to be heard, you need to have mass disruption. A strike is a guaranteed way to get heard.

If the UUK and our universities don’t act now to stop this strike, there is a dark and gloomy road for all involved, with more hours being lost for both students and lecturers.

UUK and UCU have agreed to take talks further with the assistance of ACAS – with strike action still going ahead as planned.

This strike is part of a bigger issue – it being our education system, which needs reforming.

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