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How strikes are affecting students

(151 Posts)
Pigsnkids Sun 08-Apr-18 15:50:29

Young people are selecting their 2018 university choices now but may not be aware of the impact the current lecturers strike is having on the amount of tuition students are receiving, how access to facilities are restricted and how exams are being disrupted. My elder daughter, an undergraduate, received only one in three of her lectures last term, and my friend's daughter turned up to find her exams had been cancelled and would be reinstated at short notice. While the NUS is asking the students to support the lecturers, many young people are losing valuable tuition which they have paid for. Most of us have felt uneasy at the vast debts they are incurring, which it is estimated will take 30 years to pay off, and now we find they are not receiving what they have paid for and don't seem to have any consumer protection or recompense. The contracts they have signed deem the universities not liable for strike action yet negotiations have been going on for over a year. Whatever your thoughts on the pension issue - ask potential universities what they intend to do to resolve the situation and how they will ensure your child gets the education they are paying for. This is such a shame for our young people starting out on their careers. Alternatively, suggest a gap year.

OP’s posts: |
user150463 Sun 08-Apr-18 18:45:07

From an academic's viewpoint:

It's not factually correct that negotiations have been going on for a year. The issues began just before Christmas, and the first strikes started in the last week of February.

Parents can certainly ask universities but nobody will be able to tell them anything useful - even if you talk to the highest levels of the university (VCs), all they can say is that UUK and UCU need to come to an agreement.

As many academics have pointed out on these boards, three lost weeks of contact hours in three years is negligible, particularly when most of the work at university is meant to be independent learning anyhow - and many academics left structured independent learning for students on VLEs during the strike.

Finally, universities have committed to using the money withheld from staff pay for students, so it is completely untrue that students are receiving no compensation.

These strikes are about the pensions of academics being cut by 40% or so, to levels lower than those of teachers and of academics in post 92 universities. If you want world class education in the UK, there has to be a resolution found - world class academic are not going to stay if the proposed changes go ahead, when they can get much better conditions elsewhere.

SweetieBaby Sun 08-Apr-18 18:58:23

My daughter is in her first year.

Went back mid Jan after Christmas break. Had about 4 weeks tuition until the strikes started. Strikes ended middle of Marchish.

Their Easter holidays were meant to start Friday just gone, for 4 weeks, but for reasons best known only to the university their lectures have been cancelled for past 2 weeks so turning four weeks holiday into 6 weeks.

She then goes back on 8th May for 2 exams!!!!! and term officially ends mid June.

So, she will have paid 2 terms tuition (£6000) for about 6 weeks tuition.

Disregarding the rights and wrongs of the industrial action the amount of tuition given at university needs to be more transparent. Given that the first term was only about 8 weeks long she's paid £9500 for about 14 weeks tuition, plus £7000 for a year's accommodation.

We could have booked her into a hotel for much, much less had they been honest about the amount of time she would need to be there.

titchy Sun 08-Apr-18 19:11:53

Well the post-92s haven't been on strike so maybe pick one of those instead of an RG if the strike (which is all but over) is a significant factor in your dc's decision-making. hmm

boys3 Sun 08-Apr-18 19:32:01

I'm a fellow parent, but surely independent study is a large element of being at Uni, rather than an expectation that the spoon speeding that schooling has largely become will simply continue? Otherwise we might just as well rename the first year at Uni as Year 14. smile

I have to admit to having lost touch with the latest ins and outs of the strike. For DS1 in final year, the biggest issue appears to be availability of external examiners to validate the internal marking. Although that was before the Easter break so things may have moved on since then.

Primrosie Sun 08-Apr-18 19:37:59

Good grief- how on earth are typical parents, let alone typical 18 year olds, supposed to make rational decisions about their future?

Titchy- what does the confused face mean?

Thank you OP for raising this issue. I have a Year 12 DD about to go through this and it's thoroughly depressing.

From a non-academic parent's of view, for the higher ranking unis I the greedy VC's salaries should be cut, the academics and the courses they teach properly funded. In return appropriate professional behaviour by those academics should preclude taking their grievances out on students as is happening now and has happened in the past.

The lower ranking unis, in my opinion, rip off students who know no better and should have swingeing cuts to courses and the ridiculous fees they are allowed to charge.

Strikes will definitely affect the advice I give to my DD and the support we are happy to give her.

titchy Sun 08-Apr-18 19:53:38

It's not a confused face, it's a 'wtf' face.

Most academics agree that some (not all) VC salaries are too high. But cutting their salaries at most knocks £20 a year off fees. Hardly going to revolutionise university teaching is it?

All academics want properly funded courses - where do you suggest they magic up the funding from?

Do you want your kids taught by the best academics in the world? How do you think universities can recruit and retain the best given that we get less and less income each year? A decent pension scheme is a good way of doing that. Unless you cut it by 40%....

And academics aren't taking their grievances out on students ffs, they're taking the only course of action open to them.

As I said if you're stupid enough to let the strikes affect the advice you give your kid the send them to a post 92 cos they won't be on strike.

SummerGold Sun 08-Apr-18 20:07:06

"Finally, universities have committed to using the money withheld from staff pay for students, so it is completely untrue that students are receiving no compensation."

Somewhat misleading - it's not as though every affected student is going to receive a cheque.

titchy Sun 08-Apr-18 20:08:15

* Somewhat misleading - it's not as though every affected student is going to receive a cheque.*

No it's going directly to those most in need. Surely that's better than giving everyone two pounds...

SweetieBaby Sun 08-Apr-18 21:08:09

@boys3
Completely agree that independent study is important but 3 months tuition out of a year is a bit more than independent study surely? Why have universities at all if you can basically teach yourself and if you can pass a degree with only 14 weeks of 9 hours tuition do we need lecturers at all?You may as well teach yourself and just pay to take final exams. The 14 weeks was only 9 hours contact time per week as well so that still gives a lot of hours per week for independent study. I think I would be very concerned if I were an academic that by defending a lack of tuition time I was actually arguing myself out of a job.

At the very least shorten the "year" to 2 terms so that the students only pay rent from September to Easter rather than pay the 3rd term for no reason.

I'm sure when students received full grant for their degree that is was great to have lots of time for independent study (or drinking and parties) but I think it's just disgusting now that it is costing so much that the courses aren't proving better value for money.

titchy Sun 08-Apr-18 21:23:49

You may as well teach yourself and just pay to take final exams.

Feel to give it go then - google University of London.

user150463 Sun 08-Apr-18 21:23:50

My sibling received, on average, 1 hour one on one with an academic per week for 20 weeks when at Oxford. That's about 60 hours for a three year degree. (Sibling attended very few lectures, as most were not relevant to niche discipline.)

Terrible number of contact hours.

My sibling obtained first class degree, became world famous in that area and earns six figure salary.

Don't underestimate the value of one hour of an academic's time - plus the time spent reading through work to guide independent study.

user150463 Sun 08-Apr-18 21:27:48

@SweetieBaby: as you are so disgruntled, care to name the university?

Because I really find it hard to believe that any university is giving 8 weeks tuition pre Christmas plus 6 weeks after.

Somewhat misleading - it's not as though every affected student is going to receive a cheque.

OP was misleading in implying that universities were not going to compensate at all. The mechanisms for compensation/use of the salaries not paid to staff will vary by university and by course. It is simply not true that those affected the most will receive no compensation.

Note that in some disciplines e.g. engineering very few academics were on strike in most universities and therefore there has been little disruption to students. It would be highly inappropriate to compensate such students equally to those who lost much more teaching time.

SummerGold Sun 08-Apr-18 21:31:57

So poorer students are most in need of receiving tuition? 😐

user150463 Sun 08-Apr-18 21:33:22

Strikes will definitely affect the advice I give to my DD and the support we are happy to give her.

You are aware that academics right through the pre 1992 universities are on strike, right? Even at the "top" universities? So if you want to avoid academics who have been striking then you pretty much need to avoid all pre 1992 universities - except a couple like Birmingham, where there was no mandate to strike as not enough staff voted.

By striking and protesting at the Senate Oxford academics effectively forced the university to change its position on pensions. And similarly the Cambridge VC has had to move the university's position immensely. It is recognised right through the entire higher education sector that university management have been trying to force through a completely unacceptable change to pensions. There was simply no other way to protest this change than striking.

The fact that parents think academics should just lie down and accept a 40+% pay cut is remarkable.

SweetieBaby Sun 08-Apr-18 21:35:35

@user150463

Of course. It's Kent University.

So Freshers started 19th September for a week. Term started end of September. They broke up 15th December for Christmas (having had reading week at end of October).

Spring term started mid January, reading "week" in February spread over 2 weeks. Strike then for 4 weeks then no tuition for the weeks either side of Easter and now 4 weeks Easter holiday.

Due back from 8th May to 16th June but this is only for 2 exams, so no tuition at all from the week before Easter.

titchy Sun 08-Apr-18 21:38:21

* So if you want to avoid academics who have been striking then you pretty much need to avoid all pre 1992 universities -*

Yes please do encourage your offspring to go to university of Chester, or Solent, or LondonMet. Leave the RG places for those of us who value them despite their 14 days of striking.

SweetieBaby Sun 08-Apr-18 21:40:04

As I say, it isn't only the tuition fees but the on costs - so rent, bills, etc. Charge the £9500 but be honest that it is only for 2 terms/year and that accommodation is only required for 2 terms.

My nephew is studying at Leicester and he is even worse. He didn't start until 24th September and then had Freshers for 2 weeks. Broke up for Christmas mid December and then finished 2 weeks ago for Easter, and was affected by strike action.

titchy Sun 08-Apr-18 21:41:08

The strike wasn't four solid weeks though was it. It was 2 days in week 1, 3 days week 2, 4 days week 3 and 5 in week 4.

SweetieBaby Sun 08-Apr-18 21:47:27

Also @user150463 you say your sibling had 20 hours of 1:1 contact time. I would think that is extremely valuable time. I'm sure that you can learn a huge amount in that time.

As far as I know my daughter has no 1:1 time. Her 8 hours is made up of lectures and seminars, so smallest tuition group is 1 lecturer to 15 students.

user150463 Sun 08-Apr-18 21:48:47

Most RG universities work on the basis of around 24 weeks of teaching, plus 4 weeks of exams, plus reading weeks/independent study/project time.

If your students aren't working solidly from late September until the end of May/beginning of June, then they probably aren't working as hard as they should be.

So Freshers started 19th September for a week. Term started end of September. They broke up 15th December for Christmas (having had reading week at end of October).

So in fact if we count this up this is actually 12 weeks of teaching, including one reading week of independent study/catching up on essays and assignments. Not 8.

user150463 Sun 08-Apr-18 21:50:50

As far as I know my daughter has no 1:1 time. Her 8 hours is made up of lectures and seminars, so smallest tuition group is 1 lecturer to 15 students.

I charge companies £300-500/hour for a seminar given to 10-20 people. My research group charges companies £1000 per day for about three hours of tuition.

SweetieBaby Sun 08-Apr-18 21:55:50

I've not said 8 weeks - I said 14 weeks. It was 8 hours per week for 14 weeks (a rough guess but as you've pointed out, only 12 weeks).

And yes the strike was 2 days, then 3 days etc but it just depends on what days your lectures fall as to how badly you were affected.

titchy Sun 08-Apr-18 22:06:27

The two days were Thur and Fri, the week 2 days were Mon to Wed. So actually one weeks worth of contact not two. However your timetable fell.

But as I say, feel free to encourage your offspring to non-striking, former polytechnics, universities. They'll get more contact hours as well, on average, so win win if that's what you value.

quartermooninatencenttown Sun 08-Apr-18 22:19:39

All of which assumes students actually attend all lectures/seminars/ tutorials on offer.

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