Universities in the UK are facing increasing pressure to compensate those affected by the ongoing pensions strike, with tens of thousands of students – and now, the universities minister – backing the demand for refunds.
According to reports, over 100,000 have already signed petitions pushing for financial reimbursements for the hours of missed lectures and contact hours caused by the strike, which is meant to go on until March 16. It has been estimated that the 14-day strike will affect over a million students and lead to the loss of 575,000 teaching hours.
Lending his voice to the matter, Universities Minister Sam Gyimah last week lauded King’s College London (KCL) after it announced that students will be compensated for missed teaching during lecturer walk-outs from a fund collected from striking lecturers salaries.
“I think this is absolutely essential. It is something we are going to be pursuing,” the minister said in a statement to The Independent.
Universities should also make up for lost contact time on non-strike days, suggests Gyimah.
no one is demanding compensation from lecturers, but from the university which already charges us extortionate amounts of money. we support strikes and showing our disruption through such demands makes the strikes if anything more effective. https://t.co/UDefpJtfVS
— lil' betty (@battleborn_beth) February 22, 2018
A spokesperson for KCL said: “KCL will not accrue any financial benefit from the industrial action by University College Union and any salary savings will be ring-fenced as a fund which we can use to offset the impact of the strike on our students,” according to The Independent.
“Once the nature and scale of disruption have become clearer, we will develop a mechanism for considering cases for any further compensation that may be warranted in light of canceled classes.”
Simply put, lecturers are striking over their secure pensions being floated on the performance of the stock market. Lecturers could lose up to an estimated GB£10,000 (US$13,800) in their pension fund.
Many students are supporting their lecturers by joining picket lines and showing solidarity on social media.
But with international students paying up to GB£38,000 (US$53,700) per year for university tuition, according to Top Universities, 14 days of planned strike action is a high price to pay.
The strikes come at a crucial time in the academic calendar. Students are currently preparing for their end of year exams, a time when academic support is needed more than ever.
The Chinese embassy has told ministers it is anxious how the strike will affect Chinese students, according to The Telegraph. There are 170,000 Chinese students and academics in the UK, paying up to £20,000 (US$27,600) a year in fees.
“If this had happened in Freshers’ Week nobody would be worried, but this is at a vital time of the academic year. People are preparing for exams,” said Gyimah.
“Ultimately it is those students that are paying the salaries of the striking staff and I don’t want them to suffer any more than they need to in terms of their education.”
The PIE reported that some international students are still attempting to attend canceled classes during the strike, raising questions on whether the international community is aware of the strike action.
Universities UK and UCU have agreed to go back into pension negotiations in a bid to end the strikes.