Students demand compensation worth millions of pounds after university strikes

University of Manchester students are also planning to withhold tuition fee payments in a protest over lost lectures and classes

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Tuesday 24 April 2018 16:40 BST
Students play steel drums as lecturers strike outside SOAS, University of London

More than 1,000 students have joined a class action lawsuit to claim compensation for disruption caused by university strikes – and institutions could have to pay out millions of pounds.

The group claim, which could cost each university around £10m, comes after staff from 65 universities walked out in February and March in opposition to changes to their pensions.

Asserson, a law firm, set up a website to help students claim back fees after they lost teaching time. The company has had 1,150 students sign up – which is enough for a group litigation order.

Shimon Goldwater, a senior solicitor at the firm, said it is likely that if a case is brought it would be “a set of 10 to 20 universities that we would be suing”.

Mr Goldwater added that they could consider appealing to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA), an independent body set up to review student complaints, as a first step.

He added: “Over 20,000 undergraduates attend each large UK university. Paying approximately £500 compensation each to 20,000 students would cost £10m.”

The University and College Union called off further industrial action earlier this month after members accepted new proposals put forward by further education body Universities UK (UUK), but not before 14 days of teaching were lost to strikes across the 65 campuses.

A Q&A for students on the pensions dispute, published by UUK after the agreement was reached, advises students who believe they were affected by the industrial action to go through their university's complaints procedure as a first step, and if a resolution is not reached they can take their claim to the OIA, or other ombudsman services.

The UUK was contacted for comment.

Lawyers working on the case claim universities saved millions of pounds by withholding salaries from staff who were on strike. Although some institutions have suggested money could be spent on general services, many students say they are entitled to direct financial compensation.

But some students at the University of Manchester are planning to withhold their tuition fee payments for this term until an agreement can be reached regarding compensation.

In February Sam Gyimah, the universities minister, said students should be compensated. Last month King’s College London confirmed it had set up a fund to pay compensation to students.

Tens of thousands of students have already signed petitions demanding refunds for lost teaching time.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in