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Update: National Industrial Action by the UCU

Industrial action

Update on 1 December 2022

Yesterday was the last day of the planned national strike action by members of the University and College Union (UCU) and work is underway to ensure our students are supported in this crucial period of learning and assessment preparation. Your education and welfare are extremely important to us and continue to be our number one priority.

We will use these pages to keep students informed of any developments and will add to the FAQs below as the situation progresses. An industrial action response group is working with Faculties and Services and alongside representatives of the Students’ Guild and the Students’ Union to ensure we identify the right measures to put in place for our students and your course.

Further information and support

We ask you to continue to focus on your studies and attend all timetabled sessions, and to submit your assignments by their due dates.

We would like to encourage you to access further information and support should you need to do so. This includes our self-help tool, SilverCloud and our Wellbeing Services at both the Exeter and Cornwall campuses. You can also contact the Students’ Guild and Students’ Union Advice services for independent and confidential advice.  

We will keep you informed as the situation progresses, however, should you have any immediate concerns or queries please email: industrialaction@exeter.ac.uk

Please note that these webpages will be updated as the situation progresses.

Information about the industrial action

UCU held ballots on two separate issues.

One ballot was about changes to the national USS pension scheme. These changes were implemented by the independent USS Trustee in April 2022 following extensive consultation with higher education employers, UCU and scheme members following the 2020 valuation. For more information, see our USS webpages. The University is consulting with UCU representatives at Exeter about our position on the next valuation which will take place in 2023.

The second ballot was about the outcome of the 2022 national pay negotiations. For further information of the offer made by the University and College Employers’ Association (UCEA), on behalf of 145 higher education institutions, see news story. This increase was implemented in August 2022. Colleagues on the lowest pay grades received a further increase in September 2022 when the Living Wage Foundation announced the increase to the Real Living Wage. Further changes to Grades B to F were communicated to colleagues on 2 November 2022 in a message from the Vice-Chancellor. These changes, which will benefit more than half of the University’s staff community, will be implemented in November 2022.

In addition, we are continuing to work with trade union representatives at the University of Exeter on actions to:

  • improve equality, including closing the gender pay gap
  • progress our Fair Employment For All initiative, which has already led to a large increase in the number of colleagues transferred from fixed term to open-ended contracts and improved contractual working arrangements for Postgraduate research students employed as Postgraduate Teaching Associates
  • enhance colleague wellbeing, including academic workloads.

Members of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) are taking national strike action, and/or action short of a strike, over changes to the national Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), which came into effect in April 2022, and UCU's claim for pay and working conditions for University staff. 

We would ask you to continue to submit your assignments by their due dates and attend for any exams (or other in-person assessments e.g. presentations) unless you are contacted by your department. 

All departments have considered the implications of the strike activity on assessment deadlines and have established positions that are fair and protect your academic outcomes, which remains of paramount importance. All departments will communicate any changes to their assessments, including submission dates and arrangements, if it becomes clear that students’ ability to complete an assessment has been affected by strike action. You are advised to contact your Hub/Education Support Team if you have any queries.

In addition to the national strike days, the UCU advised their members to begin action short of a strike (ASOS) from Wednesday 23 November. If academic colleagues participate in action short of a strike it means they will come to work on their usual working days and will carry out their scheduled teaching activities. However, they may choose not to undertake any voluntary activities, cover for absent colleagues or reschedule lectures not delivered due to strike action. The UCU were considering a marking and assessment boycott, however, this will not form part of the action short of a strike which will commence on 23 November.

The University will reimburse travel and childcare costs incurred by students to attend a scheduled teaching, learning, and/or supervision session that was cancelled without prior notification during periods of strike action. This means that if all of the sessions you are set to attend on campus on any given day are cancelled and you have not been notified in advance, you can make an expenses claim to cover your travel and childcare costs. 

  • Travel Costs: In line with the University’s policy on sustainable travel, any student travelling from outside EX1, EX2, and EX4 (Exeter) or TR10 and TR11 postcodes (Cornwall) is able to claim travel costs when they travel to campus and all teaching sessions they were set to attend are cancelled without notice due to strike action. This includes costs of public transport or mileage for those travelling by car. Those who travel to University from within these postcodes with a valid exemption for requiring to use public transport or their car, for example on medical grounds, will also be able to claim expenses.
  • Childcare / Carer costs: Any student who has incurred childcare or caring costs to allow them to attend scheduled teaching, learning, and/or supervision sessions is eligible to obtain reimbursement for these costs when all sessions they were set to attend are cancelled without notice due to strike action

If you meet these criteria, you can contact industrialaction@exeter.ac.uk and provide details of your claim. In order to make a claim, you’ll need proof of costs, for example, a train ticket or receipt for childcare costs. You’ll also need to note the date, time, and details of the teaching and/or supervision session which was cancelled. If you have a valid claim, you’ll be sent an expenses form to complete and your claim will be paid.

Please check the module ELE page and look out for information from your module lead between now and the end of term. If by the end of term you have not been provided with information about how your lost learning will be replaced, or have another question, please contact industrialaction@exeter.ac.uk and we will help you as soon as possible.