As a third year Newcastle student, this is what I really think of the UCU strikes

No, it’s not just a day off for me

Following the UCU announcement of a further 18 days of strike action across February and March, students across the country have faced mass scale disruption to their studies, with many being in the pinnacle of our academic studies.

If I was a first or even a second year, I would be over the moon to get more than two weeks’ worth of days off uni, especially straight after this term’s exam season where I had just a week to recharge. And back then, I was. I can honestly say that last year, I was supportive of the strike action and did not care too much about missing couple 9ams for it. They meant I got to sleep in after an impromptu night out in the middle of the week as well.

However, as a third year, I feel extremely overwhelmed and angry at the scale of disruption. Because of how the dates of strikes are allocated, I am losing five weeks of all lectures and seminars of one module. Five weeks is almost half of the semester and then I am expected to write a 3,000 word essay on a module that I am about to basically teach myself. Even the biggest supporters of strikes cannot contest that such impact to students’ studies is unacceptable.

But on the other hand, this would not be much different from my first or second year – my whole time in university has been rather “unprecedented”, as the media and universities themselves likes to call it. From completing my first year online, having not stepped one foot into any university building, to having my second year tainted by having to experience all of the unfamiliar “firsts” of in-person teaching and assessments, exploring a new city and finally experiencing Newcastle nightlife (is this not why universities have unassessed first year?) – to have my grades suffer as a result. And now – this. “9K for what?” has gained a new meaning for me.

As I am reading through my cancelled lecture slides in preparation for seminar, I can’t help but notice that they do not make sense – it’s clear that they were made to accompany a spoken lecture, one that has not been delivered in person, nor on ReCap. The absence of explanation of the main concepts leaves just three summary words on many of my slides, a springboard for the lecturer to teach us, but completely futile for me. I don’t know how to prepare, I barely got anything from the 10 slides I found on Canvas, but I guess I can say thank you to the lecturer for letting us know of their absence at least. Some students do not even get that courtesy, with lecturers having the privilege of being completely absent and leaving it up to students to show up and be left stood up – as if this was a hinge date gone bad.

Strikers on Northumberland Street on the first day of industrial action

I feel anxious letting such opinion out in public, but someone has to say what we’re all thinking – this is not our problem, yet we are the ones paying the most for it (literally). Don’t get me wrong – lecturers deserve to get adequate pay and working conditions, but it is pretty clear that students are the ones suffering the most during all of this – definitely not the universities.

I am not alone with my opinion: according to BBC conducted survey, only 36 per cent of the public support university staff striking, while around 70 per cent supports other workers like nurses, paramedics and teachers striking (in comparison, all of them earn less than full-time university lecturers). With university staff planning to strike for a further 17 days over February and March, I’m sure that there will be plenty more student opinions surfacing.

Find the remaining strike dates here.