‘This whole thing feels like a bit of a mess’: Lincoln students react to the latest strikes

Staff members at the University of Lincoln will be continuing to go on strike throughout the semester

Lecturers at the University of Lincoln have been striking over poor pay and unfair working conditions during February, impacting on students as they receive less teaching time and have been missing out on valuable chances for feedback and advice from tutors.

The topic is being discussed all over campus and along the Brayford with students having mixed feelings towards their lecturers choosing to strike.

The strikes began on the 1st February and have gone on throughout the month. They continue into March taking place on the 16th, 17th, 20th and 22nd. Lincoln joined 150 other universities nationwide taking part in the strike action due to continued disputes over pay, pensions, and work conditions, among other things.

The University and College Union (UCU), who are responsible for the strikes, paused the ones set for the 21st of February for two weeks to negotiate with the UCEA (the employers association). A move that has left many hoping for a positive outcome which could see the strikes ended early.

So, what do the students think about all this?

Grace Ridout, BA Politics and International Relations, third year

While I fully support the university strike and am keen to see action taken soon, as a student in my third year I am really worried about how they will affect my degree long term. Out of my scheduled lectures for the next three weeks, only one is actually going ahead. It’s a lot to have to think about and it’s a lot of missed work to catch up on.”

Olivia Parr, MA History  

“I support the strikes because I think as students we see first hand just how hard our lecturers and other university staff work, and they deserve to be paid properly. Many can’t afford rent and bills and are suffering with their mental health, especially in the cost of living crisis, and the fact that many are on insecure contracts is completely unacceptable.

“I know it’s frustrating that we are missing so much teaching time especially while paying such high fees, but lecturers’ working conditions are our learning conditions and we should direct our frustrations at university bosses and management who have the power to enter into fair negotiations.”

Kayleigh Mansell, BA English and Creative Writing, third year

“My opinion is that as students I feel that we’re in a tricky position regarding the strikes. We’re encouraged to defy the institution we’re paying to be a part of, and we’re missing out on crucial learning time (especially as I myself am a third year) that we most likely won’t get refunded. So in that respect it feels like a form of injustice towards us, but it is ultimately a very effective way for lecturers to spread their inability to deal with mistreatment and being underpaid, and they’re absolutely in their right to protest that. 

“As students I think it’s very difficult and pressurising to know what to do – we’re only here for three years and in your final one, every moment counts it feels. So it’s hard to support strikes when they can be viewed as disabling some of us from achieving as much as we can, but as the strikes are motivated by the improvement of worker conditions for the staff in the years to come, it’s hard to be against.”

Martyn Rosser, MA Creative Writing 

Martyn, who has been a teacher himself, spoke to The Tab about how the strikes impacted him as both a teacher and student.

He said: “This whole thing feels like a bit of a mess. I do not believe there is much consistency in how information is being shared. As a masters student, I have 25 days of contact time over the year. One single strike day could result in me losing four per cent of this. Having quit my job, moved house, borrowed money, and taken a year out of my life to do this course, naturally, I am unhappy.

“However, these strikes have been caused by long-term reductions in pay across the teaching sector that amount to over a real-terms cut of over 20 per cent in just over a decade. In my last full-time teaching job this means my annual packet was over £5,000 less than it would have been if pay had risen with inflation over that period. From a personal viewpoint, I missed two weeks of teaching last year signed off with mental exhaustion. We had been a lecturer short in our department for over half of the teaching days in the previous six months. We covered the absence, in terms of teaching, marking and admin, as best we could, minimising the impact on students.

“The current economic problems are just the catalyst on what is already a serious issue with funding in education. When you add in that new arrangements have seen many lecturers lose a third of the value of their final pension, it is understandable that they’re striking.”

Responses from social media

After calling out for student’s opinions online, The Tab also received these comments from students about the strikes, showing the mixed reception to them in Lincoln.

“Paying £9000 a year for the lecturers to just strike all the time it’s a joke.”

“I only have two weeks left of my masters dissertation resit, but it is mostly strike days.”

“As a third year the tutors have been really helpful in responding to emails while away.” 

The University of Lincoln emailed out a form which can be filled in by students, expressing any concerns or comments they have. As part of this, students can name their lecturers who are striking, informing the university of their absence.

A spokesperson for the University of Lincoln said: “The University’s priority during any period of industrial action is always to put students first. Our focus is on minimising disruption to teaching and the student experience, although we cannot guarantee that there will be no disruption.

“Academic teams are making provision to ensure teaching and other activities continue. This will mean that timetabled teaching will go ahead in most areas and key services like the Library and Student Support Centre will be open. We will ensure students’ learning outcomes are safeguarded if teaching sessions are impacted – for example, by adapting assessment methods.

“There is a wide range of support available, please do access support from your academic school, our professional services or the Students Union should you need to.”

They also provided a link which they say should answer any questions students might have: https://www.lincoln.ac.uk/industrialaction/ 

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