Biggest ever university strike to hit UK higher-education institutions

Over 70,000 University staff at 150 universities are set to strike later this month, over pay, conditions, and pensions.

The University and College Union (UCU) announced that members had voted overwhelmingly to strike, as the cost-of-living crisis squeezes pay and pensions.

The industrial action, backed by the National Union of Students (NUS), will take place over three days in November. Strike days are Thursday 24th, Friday 25th, and Wednesday 30th November. Staff will also begin industrial action short of strike action from Wednesday 23rd November, which includes working to rule, refusing to make up work lost because of strike action, and refusing to cover for absent colleagues.

University staff have been offered a 3% pay rise, following over a decade of below-inflation pay awards. The 2022 inflation rate is 10%, resulting in a real terms pay cut of 7% this year alone. In addition, a third of academic staff are on some form of temporary contract. Despite the announcement of strike action, vice-chancellors are understood to not have made any improved offers.

Over 2.5m students will be affected by the industrial action, which has taken place every year since 2018, although this year’s movement marks the biggest. Many students’ lectures and other university events will be cancelled on strike days.

The Swansea University Student Union sent a letter to students earlier this week, detailing why staff members were striking. In the letter, they said that staff have “seen a real-terms fall in pay of 25% since 2009” and compared this to their own Vice-Chancellor’s pay: “our own VC earns £292,000 per year making him Wales’ highest paid public servant. We want an end to unfair pay.”

Staff at Plymouth Marjon University are striking over pay and conditions, however, it is not yet clear how this will affect students.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘Campuses across the UK are about to experience strike action on a scale never seen before. 70,000 staff will walk out and make clear they refuse to accept falling pay, cuts to pensions and insecure employment.

‘UCU members do not want to strike but are doing so to save the sector and win dignity at work. This dispute has the mass support of students because they know their learning conditions are our members’ working conditions.

‘If university vice-chancellors don’t get serious, our message is simple – this bout of strike action will be just the beginning.’