UCU and UUK “please pack it in!”

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The Times reports this week will see more than a million students across 74 universities  hit by a 14-day strike by lecturers the third in less than two years.

Despite the intervention of the Joint Expert Panel, a tri-partite group set up to get “productive discussions” the main cause of the strike remains pensions. Lecturers will be standing on picket lines , not teaching those who pay to be taught.

My view is simple, the Joint Expert Panel was set up to prevent further disruption, please don’t disrupt further.

Meanwhile students are getting appalling value for their money. This case study is taken from the Times and shows how students are being deprived of teaching in the months leading up to their year end exams.

As a politics student I get an average 11 hours of teaching a week for just 21 weeks a year…..

The strike means I will then lose 34 hours of teaching this term, which equates to £1,295 in tuition fees and almost 28% of all hours this term.

In between my first seminar of 2020 and the last of the academic year on May 14 there are six weeks when I will get no teaching at all — because of a combination of strikes and holidays.

The universities affected

In total, the UCU says 43 universities are taking industrial action over both pensions and pay and conditions: Aston University, Bangor University, Cardiff University, University of Durham, Heriot-Watt University, Loughborough University, Newcastle University, Open University, University of Aberdeen, University of Bath, University of Dundee, University of Leeds, University of Manchester, University of Sheffield, University of Nottingham, University of Stirling, University College London, University of Birmingham, University of Bradford, University of Bristol, University of Cambridge, University of Edinburgh, University of Exeter, University of Essex, University of Glasgow, University of Lancaster, University of Leicester, City University, Goldsmiths College, Queen Mary University of London, Royal Holloway, University of Reading, University of Southampton, University of St Andrews, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of Strathclyde, University of Wales, University of Warwick, University of York, University of Liverpool, University of Sussex, University of Ulster and Queen’s University Belfast.

Staff at a further 14 institutions are striking over pay and conditions dispute only: Bishop Grosseteste University, Bournemouth University, Edge Hill University, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow School of Art, Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, St Mary’s University College, Belfast, Roehampton University, Sheffield Hallam University, University of Brighton, University of Kent and University of Oxford.

And three universities are walking out over a dispute over pensions alone: Scottish Association of Marine Science, University of East Anglia and Institute for Development Studies.

A shameful situation

It is shameful that neither the UCU (the lecturers union) or the UUK (the employer’s trade association) can find sufficient common ground and shameful that the pawns in their game of chess are the students whose pay for tuition and trust their tutors and colleges to deliver it.

I know some lecturers who read this blog and feel caught between an increasingly politicised union and the entrenched position of employers and scheme. They are uncomfortable speaking out for fear of disloyalty and so deliver teaching surreptitiously to their students. This was not why they became teachers/

I know students who are similarly concerned to actively voice their anger but who are increasingly frustrated by the inability of seemingly bright people to sort out their differences. They are bemused as to why they have to be again and again and again , the victims of a dispute they have no part in.

The issues surrounding the funding of the University Superannuation Scheme are well rehearsed. “Entrenched” is the word to describe the two sides’ positions. This is a great war of wills and the generals are not the ones paying the price.

It is time for both sides to pack it in and put trust in the JEP. The tactics  of the Joint Expert Panel are to set up a Strategic Discussion Forum  and a Valuation Methodology Forum charged with finding a short and  long-term solution to the problems with the scheme.

While the headline issue may be pay, no conversation goes far without touching on pensions as – for teachers – pensions are deferred pay.

So long as the JEP sits, it should be respected as a tri-partite moderator , bringing together the views of the scheme, the teachers and the employers and seeking a resolution that allows students to study.

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About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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