University strikes: Institutions brace for student compensation claims as tens of thousands of staff walk out

More than 43,000 members of staff to strike over pay and pensions

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Thursday 21 November 2019 17:46
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Universities across the UK are bracing themselves for a slew of compensation claims from students when a walkout by tens of thousands of staff begins on Monday.

Anyone affected by missed lectures and seminars will be able to file complaints and apply for compensation, university employers have said.

More than 43,000 members of the University and College Union (UCU) are set to take part in strike action at 60 universities across the UK from Monday in a dispute over pay, pensions and conditions.

University employers claim that many academics will cross the picket line and provide lectures during the eight strike days, but have acknowledged the need to minimise disruption for those taking the courses.

Students, who have to pay up to £9,250 a year in tuition fees, have already begun demanding refunds for next week's strikes.

Carol Costello, spokesperson for the employers, said: “We appreciate that this is an upsetting time for students and each university is making its independent arrangements to ensure that students are not affected by this industrial action.”

But she added: “A student would, if they felt that the university hadn’t made appropriate arrangements, need to put in a request to their university for compensation.

“Each university has to consider that independently and they would look at whether or not there had been any breach in the contractual relationship between themselves and the student in respect of any partial or full compensation that is required.”

Helen Fairfoul, chief executive at the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), said: “Institutions would all expect to have clear signposted places that students go to if they do have a complaint to make.”

Last year, universities were brought to a standstill by unprecedented strikes over pensions, and some institutions were forced to pay compensation to students over lost teaching hours.

Earlier this week, the UCU's general secretary, Jo Grady, warned that a second wave of strikes could be held in the new year, causing disruption to January exams, if the disputes remain unresolved.

The union has accused universities of being “all spin and no substance” in their response to the disputes.

Ms Grady said: “Students should be asking serious questions of their vice-chancellors and putting pressure on them to get their representatives back to the negotiating table with serious offers that address all the issues at stake.”

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