Update: U.K. University Strikes

February 10, 2018 2:15 am

Update: March 15, 2018

A tentative agreement between the UCU (University and College Union) and Universities UK that promised to end UCU member strikes was not fully supported by UCU membership. Reports now indicate that a new round of strikes is likely to occur and may affect exam periods at participating universities.

IFSA takes this situation very seriously and are communicating regularly with our U.K. partner institutions to understand all possible ramifications for our students. We will remain in close contact with students during the coming weeks to provide the most informed advice and support possible.

Because the U.K. educational system is based on the concept of independent learning, our resident staff are experienced in advising students on how to succeed within academic structures with less teacher direction than they may be accustomed to on their U.S. campuses. In light of the news of prolonged strikes, we have launched a series of special academic workshops aimed at emphasizing key skills and specific tips for successful self-directed study and connecting students with relevant resources.

IFSA staff will continue to personally reach out, hold meetings and provide open office hours for students to receive advise and support, and we continue to encourage and facilitate the formation of study groups.

Most classes are continuing as usual. Some have been cancelled sporadically and others have been cancelled multiple times. Students are impacted in varying ways, based on who is teaching and the timing of their classes. Many students have not been directly impacted at all.

Update: February 28, 2018

Sporadic strike action by members of the University and College Union (UCU) over concerns about proposed changes to university employee pension schemes commenced on February 22, as previously reported. The UCU is a UK trade union representing some university lecturers, administrators and other staff. The timing of strike action was predetermined by the UCU, potentially affecting teaching dates through March 16 without a resolution to the dispute. More information on the timing is available at https://www.ucu.org.uk/14-strike-dates.

Classes may be (and have been) cancelled when they meet three criteria:

  • The class is taught by a UCU member
  • That UCU member chooses to participate in the strike
  • The class meeting date falls on one of the designated strike action dates

However, through constant communication with our U.K. university partners, IFSA has learned that universities are providing a range of alternative methods for engaging students. Some universities have rescheduled classes and tutorials so that they can be delivered on days that are not designated, while others have arranged for instructors who are not participating in the strike to teach courses on an interim basis. We have also been made aware that instructors who are participating in the strike are, at some institutions, delivering educational experiences such as special lectures and facilitated discussion groups outside university grounds. These examples demonstrate that all parties involved wish for the impact on students to be as minimal as possible.

The first round of talks between UCU and Universities UK occurred on February 27. While encouraging in that all parties expressed a desire to talk again, a resolution was not reached.

The strikes do not impact the operations and services of the IFSA offices in London, Edinburgh and Dublin (for Northern Ireland students). IFSA staff continue to stay in close contact with students throughout this period of industrial action. U.K.-based IFSA staff are communicating in writing and in face to face meetings with students in central locations to provide support, share concerns, review study tips, form study groups, and provide connections to resources. As notifications about the strike are received from individual universities, we share them with IFSA students so that they will know what to expect on their campus. We have also made students aware that their home institutions have been apprised of the situation.

We remain hopeful that the strikes will end earlier than planned. In our 30 years of working with partner institutions in the U.K., we have never encountered a situation where strikes irreparably disrupted students’ study or resulted in their failure to earn academic credit, and we have no reason to believe the current situation will not be resolved. Any questions may be directed to to Vice President for Academic Affairs Opal Leeman Bartzis, Ed.D. at oleeman@ifsa-butler.org.

February 9, 2018

We have been notified that the University and College Union (UCU), a UK trade union representing university lecturers, administrators and other staff, has called for a sporadic strike in protest of proposed changes to university employee pension programs. Most but not all dates during a predetermined period of February 22-March 16 will see some classes cancelled, depending mainly on whether the class is taught by a UCU member who chooses to strike. The work of some offices at the universities, including their international student offices, may also be disrupted. More information is available at https://www.ucu.org.uk/14-strike-dates.(LSE will be re-balloting before determining their participation.)

IFSA offices in London, Edinburgh and Dublin (for Northern Ireland students) will remain open and fully operational as usual during this time. As we receive specific notifications about the strike from individual universities, we will share them with IFSA students so that they will know what to expect. Although not legally required to do so, we anticipate instructors of classes that are cancelled will notify students in advance. Unless they are officially made aware of a cancellation, students should plan to attend classes as usual. We do not expect replacement classes to be offered for any that are cancelled. Assessments that would have been carried out during the strike period are likely to be rescheduled at later dates. We fully expect students to receive full credit for their semesters abroad, despite what should be only mild disruption to their studies.

IFSA staff will stay in close contact with students as we watch this industrial action carefully. Students will be encouraged to share any concerns they have about their learning progress with our staff, who will aid them in identifying additional resources for support as needed. We are hopeful that the strikes will end earlier than planned; and as we have more information, we will share it with you. Please feel free to send any questions to Vice President for Academic Affairs Opal Leeman Bartzis, Ed.D. at oleeman@ifsa-butler.org.