As you may be aware, Monday 24 February marks the start of 14 days of strike action, over four weeks, called for by the University and College Union (UCU). I recognise news of industrial action is concerning and is likely to cause stress and anxiety, particularly for you as a postgraduate taught student who has a different structure to the academic year than undergraduate students.
On Tuesday 18 February, I wrote to all staff and provided an update on the areas which have been the catalyst for this industrial action; remuneration (pay and pension), which are negotiated nationally and areas which, although relevant to all universities, are managed locally; workload, casual contracts and the gender pay gap.
These are complex issues that will take time to resolve, but I believe genuine progress is being made. In my email to colleagues I set out both the progress made and my hope that we can give our national negotiation bodies and local teams the time and space to act so that we can avoid further industrial action that we know hurts you, our students, and complicates genuine attempts to resolve our challenges.
Colleagues are entitled to take industrial action and we cannot force academics who are members of UCU and who choose to take action to replace lost teaching. However, Royal Holloway is distinctive in the passion, care and commitment our academics have for you, our students, and your learning outcomes so please don’t assume that all your academics will be on strike. If colleagues do choose to strike, to seek to minimise the impact of the action we have explained to them that we expect that, on working days, activities will be delivered that will enable you to meet the learning outcomes of your course. We have also asked academic colleagues to give priority to these activities.
During the strike action we will monitor closely which classes take place so that we can understand the impact of the action on your course. Please be aware that support services such as the Library, Student Services Centre and CeDAS that support your independent learning should be operating during the strike period.
It is a normal part of assessment and exam review to consider the context within which the assessment or exam took place and take into account any factors that may have negatively impacted a student’s performance. I am aware that postgraduate taught students have particular challenges related to the time that you are with us and I will be writing to you again when we have completed discussions with your schools on how we make sure you are not disadvantaged as a direct result of this industrial action.
Through my weekly newsletter, intranet and social media I will keep you updated on any developments and ensure that you have information as it becomes available. I will also ensure the Students’ Union are kept informed.
We will be publishing contact details for your schools who will hold drop in sessions where you will also be able to talk about your individual circumstances. I would also like to draw your attention to the Industrial Action Hardship Fund and encourage you to use this if you incur unnecessary expenses as a result of strike action.
I very much regret that your studies are being affected by the planned strikes and I ask for your patience as we engage with colleagues in order to seek to minimise the impact of this action on you.
Professor Paul Layzell