Members of the University and College Union (UCU) have voted to take strike action in February and March 2018. This is in response to proposals to change the benefit structure of USS, the pension scheme for academic and professional staff at more than 300 UK higher education institutions. You can read more about the background to these proposed changes on the websites of UUK (the umbrella body for UK universities, which has been negotiating these pension changes on behalf of employers) and UCU.
The University is committed to minimising disruption to students and to the many members of staff who do not wish to participate in industrial action. We will be monitoring the situation closely and exploring ways to provide additional support to students during the period of industrial action if necessary.
We will update this page as further information becomes available.
When are the strike days?
There were 14 days of strikes between 22 February and 16 March 2018. We are anticipating a further 14 days of strikes over the coming months, but these have not been confirmed. Further details will be published as soon as they are known.
What is action short of a strike?
The UCU has a mandate for action short of strike (ASOS) from 22 February until 19 June at the latest. ASOS can take a number of forms (such as not covering for colleagues or not rescheduling lectures) which may or may not impact on the teaching and related functions available to students. Keeping the impact of ASOS on students to a minimum is at the forefront of the University's contingency planning.
How many members of staff at Cambridge will be taking part?
Staff are not required to notify the University of their intention to take part in industrial action so we cannot give a precise number of those taking part. Of 784 UCU members entitled to vote in the ballot on industrial action at Cambridge, 403 voted for strike action and 429 voted for action short of a strike. There are more than 1,600 academic staff at Cambridge, as well as research and College staff who also deliver teaching.
Should I turn up to lectures and other teaching on strike days?
Yes. Assume that all your scheduled teaching is happening as normal unless you have been notified otherwise.
Am I likely to have to cross a picket line?
Some University of Cambridge sites are likely to be picketed by union members on strike days. We are aware from local UCU communications that picket lines are planned for the Downing, New Museums, West Cambridge and Sidgwick sites (both the Sidgwick Avenue and West Road entrances), and at the Old Schools. There may be further pickets planned of which the University is not aware. You cannot be prevented from crossing a picket line.
How do I know if my teaching will be affected?
We will do our best to notify you in advance of any significant disruption of which we are aware. Please bear in mind that, as staff are not required to notify us of their intention to strike, Faculty and Departmental staff may not be able to tell you in advance how your teaching will be affected.
Are College supervisions affected?
Supervisions organised within and between Colleges should not be affected. You should contact your College if you are unsure whether such a supervision is taking place or not. Undergraduate supervisions are normally College organised and should not be the subject of strike action. Supervisions that have been organised by Faculties and Departments may be affected. Please contact your supervisor if you are not sure and let the Faculty or Department know of any disruption to your supervision so that they can consider appropriate contingency measures.
Are examinations affected?
Some examinations are scheduled to take place during the strike period. These will go ahead as normal. The University in any event has long-standing means of mitigating the impact of disruption (whether as a result of strike action or otherwise) on the content, conduct and marking of exams.
How is the University dealing with the resignation of external examiners?
External examiners are a key part of the University’s quality assurance procedures. The University has issued guidance to Faculties and departments advising that, where external examiners have resigned, alternatives should be sought or, if these are unavailable, alternative means of moderation should be used in so far as possible. The University does not believe that external examiner resignations will delay students' results in certain papers.
Are libraries affected?
The main University Library will remain open and we will make every effort to ensure that all other libraries remain open. However, the full impact of the strikes cannot be known in advance, and it is possible that some libraries will be affected. Staff and students of the University who have difficulties in accessing faculty and departmental libraries may use alternative libraries. We recommend Spacefinder for help in locating them. Electronic resources – ebooks, ejournals and databases – remain available as usual, both on and off campus.
Will cancelled teaching be rescheduled?
At the moment we cannot be sure which sessions will be cancelled throughout the strike period or whether we will be able to reschedule any sessions that are cancelled.
Will I get compensation for the teaching I have missed?
Through the contingency planning and other mitigating actions (such as rescheduling teaching) that it is undertaking, the University aims to ensure that the adverse impact on students is kept to a minimum. The University is not yet in a position to consider the question of any entitlement to fee refunds or compensation until the industrial action has concluded, rescheduled teaching has taken place and the results of examinations in Easter Term have been finalised. Until then, it will not be possible to assess the overall impact on students.
What will the University do with any funds accruing as a result of deducted pay?
Pay deductions from striking staff will be used to support student hardship.
Who do I contact if I have questions or concerns?
If you have questions about teaching in your Faculty or Department, you can contact the course convener or the Chair of the Faculty or the Head of Department. For more general questions that are not already covered by information on this page, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. We will either: a) pass your enquiry to the appropriate person for reply, b) reply individually, or c) update this FAQ page with an appropriate response.
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