university strike
UCU has labelled the university strike as a “fight for the future of higher education”. Source: Geoff Robins/AFP

Over a million students on 68 UK university campuses would be affected by a 10-day university strike starting Feb. 14, 2022, announced University and College Union (UCU). This follows university staff disputes over pensions, pay and working conditions.

UCU said the university strikes are a “fight for the future of higher education”, adding that staff are at a “breaking point” after a decade of cuts to pensions, falling pay and worsening working conditions. Over 50,000 university staff are expected to walk out, said UCU. UCU represents university staff. 

“In pensions, proposals from employers mean staff face a 35% cut to their guaranteed retirement income. The pay and working conditions dispute is over a 20% real term pay cut over the past 12 years, unmanageable workloads, pay inequality and the use of exploitative and insecure contracts, which are rife across the sector,” said UCU. 

Week one of the strikes — which lasts five days — will focus on the USS pension dispute; week two focuses on both the pension and the pay and working conditions dispute; the final three days of the university strike will focus on the pay and working conditions dispute.

Further industrial action in the offing include rolling regional and UK wide action in pay and working conditions, and for a UK-wide marking and assessment boycott.

To resolve the pay and working conditions dispute, UCU said it is demanding a £2,500 pay increase for all staff, as well as action to tackle unmanageable workloads, pay inequality and the use of insecure and exploitative contracts.

“It is a damning indictment of the way our universities are managed that staff are being left with no option but to walk out again,” said UCU general secretary Jo Grady.

“For a sector that is worth tens of billions of pounds and enjoys record levels of student growth it is beyond disgraceful that in return staff get vicious pension cuts, falling pay and are pushed to breaking point under deteriorating working conditions.”

Grady said staff need a proper pay rise, action to tackle insecure contracts, unsafe workloads and pay inequality, and for devastating pension cuts to be revoked. “Any disruption that occurs will be the clearest indication yet that university bosses don’t value their staff,” she said.

In December, staff at 58 UK universities took part in a three-day university strike following disputes over Universities Superannuation Scheme pensions.