Industrial Action at universities in winter 2019

This provides you with further information about the recent industrial action and the steps the University has taken to minimise its impact.

Exeter is one of 60 higher education institutions where members of the University and College Union (UCU) voted in support of taking strike action, or action short of a strike, in relation to the on-going USS pension dispute and/or national pay negotiations. 

The dates for the planned strike action were:

  • Monday 25 November – Friday 29 November (5 consecutive days)
  • Monday 2 December – Wednesday 4 December (3 consecutive days)

UCU have also advised their members to begin action short of a strike (ASOS) from Monday 25 November. If members chose to participate in taking action short of a strike it meant that they will came to work on their usual working days but did not carry out all of their regular duties.

We understand the uncertainty the industrial action has caused. We would like to reassure you that we continue to meet regularly with colleagues across the University, as well as the Students’ Guild and Students’ Union, to carefully manage the potential impact any planned industrial action may have on our University community, and to ensure the measures we have put in place continue to be the right ones for our students.


Could this affect your assessments and degree outcomes?

We will ensure that any disruption caused by industrial action is carefully accounted for when evaluating student performance on modules and degree programmes. We have rich data which provides us with an empirical basis on which to measure and correct the impact of any action on teaching and learning. By carefully considering the effects of any disruption on module marks, we will ensure that the final marks that contribute to your progression and degree award are fair and equitable. Naturally, normal appeal processes will apply.

Further information

We have drawn up Frequently Asked Questions (see below) for you so to answer any queries that you might have. 

We continue to be committed to do all that we can to ensure that the impact on your experience and academic outcomes as a result of this industrial action is minimised. 

We appreciate that this may be an unsettling time for you and would like to highlight the resources that are available to support you. This includes our self-help tool, SilverCloud and our Wellbeing Services at both the Exeter and Cornwall campuses. 

If you have any questions or concerns about the possibility of industrial action please contact our dedicated email address for students:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Below you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the recent industrial action. 

Key information for students

All Colleges have considered the implications of the recent strike activity on assessment deadlines and have established positions that aim to be fair and preserve the student experience, which remains of paramount importance. Information about whether your College has extended the deadline for submission for any coursework / assignments that are due during this term can be found  below - Colleges will also communicate these changes with you via email.

College  Position on Extensions


  • Social Sciences and International Studies
  • Humanities
  • Life and Environmental Science - Geography (Streatham only)


From 25 November all written assessments due before the end of term one will have an extension of 8 working days from the original due date, up to a maximum of the last day of term (13 December 2019).  

Further adjustments may be considered if it becomes clear that students’ ability to complete an assessment has been further affected by strike action.


  • Medicine and Health
  • Business School
  • Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences
  • Life and Environmental Sciences (except Geography at Streatham)


Adjustments will be considered on a module-by-module basis, where it is clear that students’ ability to complete the assessment has been affected by strike action. 

Further changes may be made at a later date if it becomes clear that students’ ability to complete an assessment has been affected by strike action. You are advised to contact your Hub with any queries.

If you already have an agreed extension to your assessment, which falls between 25 November and the end of term, the additional *strike extension will also be applied. For example, if you were due to submit an assessment on 20th November but you had been granted an extension of a week, your new submission deadline will have been the 27th. You will then get a further extension of the agreed (up to) 8 days.

If you already have an agreed extension to your assessment due to the Industrial Action and have a genuine case for needing additional extensions, other than due to the Industrial Action, we will be happy to consider granting the extension, even if this may mean submission will be in term 2.

*See the FAQ ‘Will the strike affect coursework/assignment submissions’

It is our intention that January exams will go ahead as planned. We aim to ensure that students are not disadvantaged by the questions set with regard to material that was disrupted during the recent strike action. It will not be mandatory for students to answer examination questions covering academic content where the delivery was disrupted during the strike.

Key information about the dispute

We are already working jointly with the UCU branch on issues relating to the use of casual and fixed term employment, the gender pay gap and equality, workloads and wellbeing. We have also established a Working Group on Fair Employment For All to agree changes to working arrangements so that all regularly timetabled teaching is delivered by staff employed on standard contracts of employment; the use of fixed term contracts is reduced; and Postgraduate Teaching Assistants receive standard paid time allowances for preparation, marking and associated activities.

At national level, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), which represents higher education institutions in national pay negotiations, has proposed further joint work on the non-pay elements of the trade union claim and joint meetings with trade unions have taken place on 26 November, 17 December and 10 January.

On the USS pension scheme, the second report of the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) was published on 13 December. Both UCU and Universities UK have welcomed the report and 5 meetings have been arranged in January 2020 to progress its recommendations. These talks, which will be facilitated by the independent chair of the JEP, will involve UUK, UCU and the USS Trustee. The UCU Higher Education Committee will meet on 30 January to consider the UCU’s next steps and information will be shared with the University community once the outcomes of this meeting are known.


We aim to reschedule at the earliest opportunity any examinations, in-class assessments, oral examinations or PGR or PhD vivas that have not taken place as a result of the recent strike action. We will ensure that you are provided with sufficient notice about when any rescheduled assessments will take place.

We realise this strike period and the period afterwards is a difficult and uncertain time and would like to highlight resources available to support you, if needed. This includes our self-help tool, SilverCloud and we are putting additional resources into our Wellbeing Services at both the Exeter and Cornwall campuses. Our Academic Skills Teams will also be providing additional skills and support sessions and information is available through MyCareerZone

We have set up a dedicated email address for students:

As industrial action has been taken we will ask academic colleagues to take account of individual learning plans (ILPs) when making any alternative arrangements, but if you have any concerns about how your ILP is being supported please contact your personal tutor or the Associate Dean for Education within your college. For general advice and further information please go to the student welfare website where there is a section on ILPs:


Yes. There are recognised and long standing procedures at the University in relation to assessment, marking, and progression to the following year and awarding of degree classification that will be enforced. Any industrial action will not stop students being able to graduate or continue to the next year/stage of their studies.

If you missed any teaching sessions as a result of the industrial action your attendance will not be recorded and so will not affect your attendance record.  If you hold a Tier 4 your status will therefore not be affected by any industrial action.

The UK government issued guidance in July 2018 that Tier 2 visa holders will not be penalised for some absences from paid work in the UK, which now include engaging in legal strike action. These changes mean that a Tier 2 visa holder's leave to remain will not be affected if such absences cause their salary to fall below the required threshold. For further information please see the Tier 2 policy guidance (point 234).

Students can complete the modules they elected to study at the University of Exeter, undertake any associated assessment, and have grades confirmed in line with expected schedules. The standard examination period in January and May will be maintained. Please discuss any concerns you may have with your department. If you need any additional support please contact

Key information for students following the dispute

The University is working with the Guild and Students' Union in Cornwall to determine how to spend the pay that is withheld from staff who participated in the industrial action. As well as supporting the work of the Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees (APACs), which will review and make decisions on degree awards and progression, additional resources have also been allocated to key services such as Student Wellbeing. All remaining withheld pay will be allocated to activities that support students affected by the strikes and we will continue to allocate further resources over the course of the next few months as the work to mitigate the industrial action continues. Our considerations relating to the allocation of these resources will also take into account the impact of industrial action across various parts of the University, including across Colleges and campuses.

The chart below provides an indication of the ways in which resources from withheld pay during the period of industrial action in Spring 2018 were allocated.

On the basis of the information currently to hand, the University is not considering any form of reduction in fees or compensation because we have mitigation plans in place to ensure that students suffer no detriment as a result of any impact that may be incurred. The University will be keeping full records of any and all impacts of the industrial action to ensure this is the case.

You can be assured that all alternative provision provided to students on every affected module will be comprehensively logged and will be considered at each of the Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees (APACs), alongside the marks for the module. This is part of the work to protect graduate outcomes for all students, with the APACs evaluating the impact and effectiveness of all mitigation provided to ensure fair and equitable outcomes for all students.

The APACs are enabled to adjust/scale marks for the cohort on the module, according to data that exists for previous years – ensuring that the impact of any disruption to teaching/assessments is accounted for.