Possibility of further strikes looms on students

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The UCU has recently announced the potential for another week of strike action between 16 April and 20 April, or Week 10 on the St Andrews calendar.

This strike would affect 13 UK universities, including the University of St Andrews.

Shortly after this announcement, Principal Sally Mapstone informed the St Andrews community via email on Monday 2 April that a new proposal is currently on the table to end the UCU strikes which have affected thousands of students across the UK.

If the majority of UCU members do not vote in favor of accepting the proposed deal to renegotiate the pensions changes, then students are at risk of suffering further class cancellations.

This offer by the UUK would allow for the renegotiation of the pensions changes that initially sparked the nation-wide strike.

However, it does not finalize any sort of deal between the universities and their employees.

Such negotiations would have no timeline and could span over years.

Many members of the UCU have called the proposal too ambiguous, and several UCU branches are urging their members to vote against it.

In February, 88 percent of the UCU members voted in favor of taking strike action due to changes in the pensions scheme that would amount to a loss of £10,000 every year in retirement for the average lecturer.

The UCU has put up the proposal to a national ballot on which its members are to vote, with voting closing on 13 April.

In the email sent on 2 April,

Principal Mapstone confirmed to graduating students that “graduation schedules will be unaffected by the industrial action,”

and reminded students that faculties would be taking into consideration how the strikes may have affected assessments for students.

However, many students still worry that graduation itself could be affected by a delay in exam grading, especially considering how the potential for strikes during the examination period still has not been ruled out by the UCU.

Though the date of graduation may not change, there remains the possibility for students to have not received final grades by graduation, and thus receiving a blank degree.

On 8 March, the UCU published a brief stating that “universities across the UK will be hit with another 14 days of strikes around exam time if the pensions dispute is not resolved.”

The 14 days of strike action were sanctioned if they would be necessary and would occur between April and June.

The UCU stated on 8 March that it was currently working to gather information on which dates would be the most effective for universities, though no further notice has been given on the likelihood of this strike action being pursued.

While many students have been supportive of their striking lecturers, the UCU found itself facing scrutiny in St Andrews after The Saint published an email in March from Dr. Chris Beedham of the Modern Languages department addressed to Principal Mapstone confirmed to graduating students that “graduation schedules will be unaffected by the industrial action”the UCU St Andrews branch president, Dr. Tom Jones. The email summarises a UCU meeting, along with the views of its members, about continued strike action.

In the email, Dr. Beedham informs Dr. Jones that the members of the UCU are in favor of striking during the exam period rather than during teaching.

Specifically, Dr. Beedham said, “The exams boycott (especially non-marking) is our one unbeatable weapon, it worked in 2006 and it will work again. The universities have no answer to it.

”On 3 April, the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) passed a motion which calls upon the University and the UCU to “refrain from further interrupting scheduled classes, assessment, and examinations.”

The motion stemmed from the newly announced strikes for St Andrews from 16 to 20 April, as well as information indicating that the strike action is being carried out because of momentum and student support, since the UCU is now considering a proposal and many universities have not decided to further strike action until a decision has been made.

President Lewis Wood, who drafted the motion, cited Dr. Beedham’s comments in his email on this reasoning, whereby Dr. Beedham said, “We are currently at full strength, with unprecedented support, we need to do justice to that fortunate situation.”

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