As Universities prepare for a strike, teachers try to limit the damage

save our pensions

This morning I’m publishing two blogs, one from Mike Otsuka which looks at tomorrow’s strike by University Staff from an economic perspective, mine looking at the human aspects of the strike. .

Here are two emails from teachers in the past couple of days/

Dear all,

I am very sorry that most of you will experience some disruption from strike action over the coming weeks. The department has issued several communications to students, so please refer to these for the official position.

I would like to give some advice on how you can personally avoid being too affected:

1. Still do the reading and supervision work as usual.
2. If your supervision is cancelled, meet in the supervision group as you would have done anyway and spend an hour discussing the topic. Go prepared with questions, comments and insights. (You can even mark one another’s essays using the marking criteria, which can be a very good learning technique).
3. Try not to worry too much. The people who teach you are fully aware of the unevenness of teaching provision, and that this will impact upon student learning.
4. If you have friends who will have a supervision, when your own has been cancelled, ask them to meet with you to go over the material together.

This is unfortunately a moment to draw on that special self-sufficiency and collaborative learning which you have already developed very well.

Very best wishes to you all,

and also

Dear All,

We are encouraging all staff to share information with you about what
strike action will mean for specific field trips, lectures and
supervisions. I can’t guarantee that everyone will do so, but I hope the
majority will, and at least take away some of the uncertainty. I have
listed out my own schedule below (those of you affected should know this
already, but just to confirm).

I would suggest that those of you who are affected think about taking
the positive opportunity to read more, form discussion groups, try out
timed or standard essays. Perhaps second and third years could help
first and second years through papers and ideas … ?

Thank you for your patience, and in many cases, your support, which is
hugely appreciated. We all want this to come to a very rapid conclusion.

With best wishes


These letters remind me that teachers put the care of their students first. No doubt there will be people who will go in with both feet in tackling the strike, making broad brush generalisations about “entitlement” and “privilege”.  They should read these letters.

What is happening at British Universities is shameful. University is pitted against University, hard-liners against progressives, the USS is trying to keep out of the dispute but is dragged into the politics of pensions. The Union (UCU) seems to have no single voice while the employers range from Warwick’s VC   – seeking a solution,  , to a couple of elite institutions seeking to immunise themselves from the cost of failure elsewhere.

What is clearly needed is less machismo and more emotional intelligence. I don’t know these teachers, but I suspect that if they were in charge of negotiations, things would be a little less fraught!


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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2 Responses to As Universities prepare for a strike, teachers try to limit the damage

  1. ReservoirDon who wishes to remain anonymous. says:

    I don’t know whether you are inside or outside Oxbridge, or what you do. I’ve only read this and a couple of other related posts on your blog today. But as someone who is on the governing body of an Oxbridge college, I don’t recognise any of the implications you appear (by my reading) to be making about likely Oxbridge college motives. I don’t personally know any colleagues who (or colleges as a whole which) believe the USS pension changes are a good idea or based on anything other than overly pessimistic risk analyses and a poor understanding of how one would de-risk things, even if one wanted to. [ I accept, though, that it’s always possible I just don’t know enough people or a wide enough cross section of university staff. I don’t hang out with Vice Chancellors every day! ] Yes, as employers Oxbridge colleges are worried about the one-man-standing aspect of the scheme — but that doesn’t want to make us poison the system (shoot ourselves in the head as individuals) by voting for bad changes! The proposed USS changes damage staff in Oxbridge colleges as much as they damage staff throughout every university in the UK. I’m apologise if I read a negative subtext to some of your posts that you don’t intend to convey — if none is intended then that’s fine. But if you think there is (or might be) some irrational conspiracy of Oxbridge colleges hell bent on making life bad for their own academic staff together with everyone else — well — that’s a million miles from what I’ve seen with my own eyes among the people I meet day to day, week on week, in my working life.

  2. henry tapper says:

    I am a positive person, I have seen a strike averted by unions and employers negotiating a solution, and I have someone at one of the Oxbridge colleges. I went to Selwyn Cambridge and have nothing but good things to say about the people who taught me.

    It seems to me that the strike that is happening today (Feb 22nd) and on subsequent days, is unnecessary. I call on those who can negotiate to get round the table and see what the Royal Mail and their union did.

    There is a lot of intelligence out there – a lot of emotional intelligence, by the look of the mails I posted. Can we please see some of it applied to get to a negotiated pension settlement.

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