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Predictions for the Autumn term: rain, 'Freshers' Week excesses', and more strikes on campus…

Will there be more strikes at UK universities this autumn wonders consumer solicitor Sarah Moore.

Student campus
Sarah Moore specialises in product liability and claims for groups of people who have suffered an injury because of unsafe products. She has written a number of articles on topics such as drug regulation, cigarette packaging and food safety.
A ‘level’ results are now in and the next generation of University  ‘Freshers’ are currently preparing to move out of home and onto campus. 

More seasoned students may recall (fondly or otherwise) their own ‘Freshers’ week’ excesses that are perhaps as predictable as autumn rain and the annual headline that ‘A levels are getting easier’.

What has been less predictable, until now at least, is the recurrence of strike action on campus. 

For students who suffered disruption to their lectures and access to University facilities earlier in the year, warnings from UCU that more strike action may take place during the Autumn term is likely to greeted with dismay.

However UCU have warned that an ongoing pay dispute concerning the salaries (not pensions this time) of academic staff  must be resolved over the summer ‘if colleges want to avoid strike action in the autumn’. Dates and details have yet to be confirmed, but reports confirm that strike action is possible

As for the proposed cuts to lecturers’ pensions, the issue at the centre of the February/March 2018 strikes, students should bear in mind that whilst lecturers did of course return to work after 2 weeks of strike action – the substantive issues at the centre of the dispute have yet to be resolved: : In March 2018, both parties, UUK on behalf of the Universities (i.e. the government) and UCU, on behalf of the lecturers, agreed to the convening of a Joint Expert Panel (JEP) to deliver a report on the valuation of the pension fund so that any further discussion on pension changes was based on a body of expert evidence: Whilst the JEP is in session UUK agreed to preserve pension rights ‘until at least April 2019’ thereby getting academics off the picket lines and back in to lecture theatres: Crucially however, that agreement was only temporary and, at best, has a sell-by date of April 2019 – when UUK must either agree to a further extension of lecturers’ existing pension rights or seek to negotiate what are likely to be highly contentious changes. On that basis, UCU may well ballot members again in the coming months to canvas views on further action. If it does, we are very likely to see more picket lines on campus this academic year.

With that in mind, enjoy Freshers’ week, enjoy the rain and look out for further information concerning strike action.

We will be following the ongoing negotiations UCU/UUK closely as students return to campus in the Autumn. Further updates will follow.

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