Why are lecturers striking? Which universities are involved in the UCU strike and the dispute explained

Roughly 70,000 members of the University College Union (UCU) will be striking over the coming week following a continuing battle over pensions, pay, and working conditions.

The UK-wide action could bring the entire sector to a standstill. In a statement on Twittter, UCU said: “We are going to deliver the biggest picket lines ever seen in higher education.”

The UCU said ballots returned a 79 per cent majority vote on the pay dispute and an 81 per cent majority on the pension dispute in favour of strike action.

Heather Connolly, an Associate Professor of Employment Relations explained: “When staff in higher education went on strike in 2019, the dispute was mainly around pensions [but] since 2019, issues around pay and working conditions have now surpassed pensions and become the main driver for the strikes.”

Why are university staff going on strike?

Most staff are striking over pay and conditions, whilst others are still taking action over pensions. Some are striking over both.

Professor Sean O’Connell, president of the UCU branch at Queen’s University Belfast, said staff are going on strike for future generations of university employees.

“The 150 UK vice-chancellors are paid a total of £44m per year. For such an unbelievable sum, I would hope at least one of those privileged 150 university leaders is capable of coming up with meaningful proposals to end the damaging cycle of industrial action in our universities that has gone on for far too long.

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“Thanks to students’ astronomical fees, UK universities are awash with cash. QUB has over £600m in reserves and the sector as a whole has billions in its financial reserves.

“Yet they have been driving down real-terms staff pay for 15 years. Slashing our pensions by up to 35 per cent was another further cynical move that is rapidly making working in higher education a much less attractive prospect than it was a generation ago.

“This strike is about much more than current grievances. We are striking for future generations of staff and students.”

On pay, the union has demanded:

  • a pay rise of inflation (RPI) +2 per cent or 12 per cent, whichever is the higher
  • action to end the use of zero hours and temporary contracts
  • action to tackle “excessive workloads” resulting in hours of “unpaid work”

Professor Connolly says, “A wide range of factors within higher education in the UK, as well as in the union, have contributed to the decision to take industrial action.

“Beyond the ongoing pensions dispute, university staff have faced the effects of the increased marketisation of education, including a rise in precarious, short-term working contracts.”

Which universities are striking?

In total, 62 universities will see strikes over both pay and conditions and pensions:

  • Aberdeen, The University of
  • Aberystwyth University
  • Aston University
  • Bangor University
  • Bath, University of
  • Birkbeck, University of London
  • Birmingham, The University of
  • Bradford, University of
  • Bristol, University of
  • Brunel University
  • Cambridge, University of
  • Cardiff University
  • City, University of London
  • Courtauld Institute of Art
  • Dundee, The University of
  • Durham University
  • East Anglia, University of
  • Edinburgh, University of
  • Essex, University of
  • Exeter, University of
  • Glasgow, University of
  • Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Heriot-Watt University
  • Hull, The University of
  • Keele University
  • Kent, The University of
  • King’s College London
  • Lancaster, University of
  • Leeds, The University of
  • Leicester, University of
  • Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
  • Liverpool, University of
  • London School of Economics
  • London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • Loughborough University
  • Manchester, The University of
  • Newcastle University
  • Nottingham, The University of
  • Open University
  • Oxford, University of
  • Queen Mary, University of London
  • Queen’s University Belfast
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Royal Veterinary College, University of London
  • Salford, The University of
  • Senate House, University of London
  • Sheffield, The University of
  • SOAS, University of London
  • Southampton, University of
  • St Andrews, University of
  • St George’s, University of London
  • Stirling, The University of
  • Strathclyde, University of
  • Suffolk, University of
  • Surrey, University of
  • Sussex, University of
  • Swansea University
  • Ulster University
  • University College London
  • University of Wales Trinity Saint David
  • Warwick, University of
  • York, University of

Five will see strikes over pensions only:

  • Cranfield University
  • Imperial College London
  • Institute of Development Studies (IDS)
  • Reading, University of
  • SAMS at University of the Highlands and Islands

Another 83 will see strikes over pay and working conditions only:

  • Abertay University
  • Anglia Ruskin University
  • Arts University Bournemouth
  • Bath Spa University
  • Bedfordshire, University of
  • Bishop Grosseteste University
  • Bolton, The University of
  • Bournemouth University
  • Brighton, University of
  • Buckinghamshire New University
  • Canterbury Christ Church University
  • Cardiff Metropolitan University
  • Central Lancashire, University of
  • Chester, University of
  • Chichester, University of
  • Coventry University
  • Cumbria, University of
  • De Montfort University
  • Derby, University of
  • East London, University of
  • Edge Hill University
  • Edinburgh Napier University
  • Falmouth University
  • Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Glasgow School of Art
  • Gloucestershire, University of
  • Greenwich, University of
  • Harper Adams University
  • Hertfordshire, University of
  • Huddersfield, The University of
  • Kingston University
  • Leeds Arts University
  • Leeds Beckett University
  • Leeds Trinity University
  • Lincoln, University of
  • Liverpool Hope University
  • Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA)
  • Liverpool John Moores University
  • London Metropolitan University
  • London South Bank University
  • Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Middlesex University
  • Newman University
  • Northampton, The University of
  • Northumbria University
  • Norwich University of the Arts
  • Oxford Brookes University
  • Plymouth Marjon University
  • Plymouth, University of
  • Portsmouth, University of
  • Queen Margaret University
  • Robert Gordon University
  • Roehampton University
  • Rose Bruford College
  • Royal Academy of Music
  • Royal Agricultural University
  • Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
  • Royal College of Art
  • Royal College of Music
  • Royal Northern College of Music
  • Sheffield Hallam University
  • Solent University
  • South Wales, University of
  • St Mary’s University College, Belfast
  • St Mary’s University, Twickenham
  • Staffordshire University
  • Stranmillis University College
  • Sunderland, University of
  • Teesside, University of
  • Trinity Laban
  • UCA University for the Creative Arts
  • University College Birmingham
  • University of the Arts London
  • West London, University of
  • West of England, University of the
  • West of Scotland, University of the
  • Westminster, University of
  • Winchester, The University of
  • Wolverhampton, University of
  • Worcester, University of
  • Wrexham Glyndwr University
  • Writtle University College
  • York St John University

Additional reporting from Press Association

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