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How to deal with the university strikes

How to deal with the university strikes

Bethany Barrett


Between Monday 25 November and Wednesday 4 December, lecturers and support staff at over 60 universities are striking over disputes concerning rising pension costs and worsening working conditions. While the universities themselves are working to minimise the impact of the strike on students, it is inevitable that some – if not all – lectures, tutorials and seminars will be cancelled. So what can you do to ensure that the strike doesn’t unduly hurt your studies?

Use this time wisely

While having all your contact hours cancelled may seem like a dream, remember that they aren’t cancelled forever. Some universities may reschedule lectures, upload recordings of the previous year’s lectures or still require you to complete tutorial work for marking at a later date. If they don’t, it is still advisable to spend your time catching up on any work left incomplete from the term so far and preparing for the weeks to come. Some universities decide to not directly test students on material missed as a result of the strike, but not all have this policy. So it is important to find out which stance your university takes! The side note to this is that even if you will not be examined on a particular topic directly, all topics in your course are related, so you should still aim to have a basic understanding of the missed topics. If you do still have extra free time, consider completing some of those applications you have been struggling to find the time to write, be they applications for insight evenings, vacation schemes or training contracts.

Talk to your tutors and university

Not all lecturers will strike, as it is a personal choice and is dependent on their union membership. You may not know beforehand who will strike and who will not, but it may be worth talking to your lecturers about what material will be missed if the strikes do affect your lectures. Personally, one of my unit coordinators has already spent some time at the end of a recent lecture covering what will be discussed in the tutorial that may be affected so that we will not miss out as much. This really helped us, so it may be worth contacting your tutors to find out if you could book a slot in their office hours after the strike to briefly discuss the topics affected. While it may not be as much as you would get without the strike, and tutors may refuse – part of the strike action involves only working to contract and not doing anything more than this – it is still worth asking.

Talking to your university in general is also advisable, especially if they have not yet contacted you with details of how the strike may affect you. Just as university staff have a right to have their voices heard through striking, us students also have a right to express our opinions to the university. After all, we all pay enough fees to attend university in the first place! Contact your law school administrative staff, personal tutor or even student union representatives (who often are involved with organising some form of student response to strike action) to find out what the university internally are doing to help alleviate the repercussions of the strike on students.

Don’t panic!

Remember that this strike will affect thousands of students throughout the UK; you are not alone. It is not in the interests of the universities involved to have students fail as a result of strike action, so they will be trying – even if only behind the scenes – to minimise the impact of it. It is also worth noting that, whilst for some students this may be a distressing time, this is not an excuse to show those staff members who do choose to strike a lack of respect. Their aim in walking out is not to disadvantage you personally, but to make their views heard by universities. Finally, a lack of structure to your day due to a lack of contact hours is not an excuse to overwork yourself (nor is it an excuse to not work at all, as I have already mentioned). Remember to take breaks when you need it, and if possible get outside for some fresh (albeit cold) air!