Students hit by lecturers' strike

College and university lecturers mounted picket lines today as they staged a one-day strike in protest at funding cuts.

Thousands of students were affected by widespread disruption due to protests by members of the University and College Union (UCU) over "massive" cuts which they say would lead to job losses.

Union members at 11 further education colleges and two universities in London, plus Sussex University, took part in the action, which included a march and rally in Westminster.

They are protesting against funding cuts for higher education which the UCU says are nearing £1 billion, on top of the £340 million further education must make in the next academic year.

It is the biggest outbreak of industrial action to hit colleges and universities in more than two years.

Pete Green, UCU representative at Westminster Kingsway College, said they had seen picket lines at all four of the college's sites, with the vast majority of union members taking part in the action.

"I would say the mood was extremely positive and very determined and prepared for further action if necessary, regardless of what party wins the election," he said.

"We are sending a message to whoever wins the election that we will not stand for this."

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: "All the tough talk about cuts has moved on and it is no longer just figures on paper.

"People are losing their jobs and access to education is disappearing. We believe in the power of education to make a real difference to people's lives and do not think we should be slashing funding at a time when more people than ever need access to education.

"UCU members are still on the side of education and we will be fighting to save jobs and defend education."

The London universities taking part are Westminster University and King's College London, which is seeing its second action this year.

The colleges are Barnet College; City and Islington College; College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London; College of North West London; Greenwich Community College; Hackney Community College; Lambeth College; Lewisham College; Richmond upon Thames College; Tower Hamlets College and Westminster Kingsway College.

A planned strike at University College London (UCL) was called off yesterday following progress in negotiations over spending.