Reimburse students affected by strikes at English universities, watchdog says | Higher Education
English universities should consider partially refunding tuition fees if students see their classes disrupted by strikes on campuses this week, the student watch body said.
Nicola Dandridge, head of the Office for Students, the higher education regulatory body in England, said universities affected by the industrial action should compensate for any disruption.
âUniversities are subject to consumer protection law, and they should think about how they will compensate for any disruption caused by industrial action,â Dandridge said. âThis may include postponing any missed instruction, presenting course topics in a different way, or determining the desirability of partial tuition reimbursements. Students should not be academically disadvantaged due to any disruption. “
Pickets erupted in 58 universities on Wednesday morning at the start of a three-day walkout by members of the Union of Universities and Colleges, after a double ballot on proposed cuts in pensions, wages and working conditions.
Staff at 33 institutions are taking action on the two disputes, four on pensions alone and 21 on wages and working conditions. UCU members at six other universities supported non-strike actions, including contract labor.
Union members include technicians, university administrators, librarians and researchers, as well as lecturers and teachers.
The UCU said employers, represented by Universities UK and the University and Colleges Employers Association, refused to lift pension cuts and tackle falling wages and deteriorating working conditions, such as l ‘use of extended short-term contracts for teaching staff.
Raj Jethwa, Managing Director of UCEA, said: âWe respect the right of employees to take legal industrial action, but it is unrealistic and misleading for their members that the UCU asks them to lose three days’ wages in the pursuit of an unrealistic salary demand of 7% to only more than a third of higher education institutions in collective remuneration schemes.
Jo Grady, UCU General Secretary, said: âWhile university directors doubted the staff’s determination to improve the higher education sector, the number of striking staff today proves that they are seriously mistaken.
âThousands of dedicated university staff and students are on the picket lines, attending protests and marching to demand fair wages, decent pensions and better working conditions.
âThe level of action seen today is just the start and university directors must now wake up and respond to very modest staff demands. Otherwise, the potential for more widespread and escalating industrial action in the New Year becomes very real. “
A group of student activists called the Red Square Movement on Wednesday blocked Universities UK offices in support of the strike.
The National Student Union has offered its support by advising students not to cross picket lines.
The strikes are likely to affect more than a million undergraduate and postgraduate students in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and more than 100,000 enrolled at Open University.
Dandridge said she was “extremely concerned” about the potential impact of the strikes on students. âThe students went through an exceptionally difficult time. It cannot be fair that they face further disruption, and we urge employers and unions to work quickly so that no labor disputes materially affect students. “