Industrial Action


The University and College Union (UCU) which represents many university staff nationally is currently asking its members to vote on whether to take industrial action. The ballot closes on 4 November 2021. The disputes being balloted on are in relation to pensions, pay and working conditions. You can read about UCU members’ concerns here, and read the University of Exeter’s current statement here

This webpage will provide you (as our student members) a central hub to keep up-to-date on any potential strike action, as well as providing a platform for you to raise your thoughts, questions and concerns with us so we can ensure you are supported. Keep an eye on any updates coming soon. 

Update on 5 November

UCU have released the results of their USS Pension ballot which you can read more about here. At Exeter, the turnout for this ballot (47%) was below the 50% mandate threshold. This means that the Exeter UCU branch have not achieved a mandate for industrial action on this issue at this time. Check out the full breakdown of the results. 

Update 9 November 

On Friday evening, UCU released the results of their Pay & Working Conditions ballot. At Exeter, the turnout for this ballot (47%) was below the 50% mandate threshold. This means that the Exeter UCU branch have not achieved a mandate for industrial action on this issue at this time. Check out the full breakdown of the results. 

Jargon Buster
  • UCU: University and College Union – a trade union representing staff across UK higher and further education institutions. Find out more about UCU on their website here. You can also find out more information on the local branch of UCU at the University of Exeter here

  • Industrial Action: Industrial action takes place when negotiations between employers and members of a trade union, such as UCU, fail to resolve a dispute or reach an agreed solution. Industrial action can take the form of strike action or action short of a strike. 

  • Strike Action: an organised stoppage of work for a period of time. 

  • Action short of a strike: where workers take action such as refusing to cover for absent staff, not rescheduling lectures impacted by strike action, not providing additional materials, refusing to work overtime, etc. 

  • Picket line: a picket line refers to a form of protest taking the shape of a physical boundary created by those involved in industrial action, and are typically located at the entrances of workplaces. They can take on many different forms, with some participating in a picket line by holding signs, bringing music, performing, or informing passers-by of the reasons for the picket line. 

  • USS: Universities Superannuation Scheme – the principal pension scheme provided by higher education institutions. 

  • UCEA: Universities and Colleges Employers Association- the representative body for universities and higher education colleges in national negotiations with the five sector trade unions, government bodies, funding councils and other stakeholders. 

  • OIA or OIAHE: Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are staff considering strike action?

According to UCU, the current ballots for strike action cover two disputes: 

“The Four Fights dispute is about addressing systemic problems that have plagued the sector for over a decade: wages that do not keep up with the cost of living; precarious employment practices; workload intensification; and pay gaps for women and Black and disabled staff.” 

“The USS pensions dispute is about massive cuts which employers are imposing on USS members' retirement benefits.” 

You can find out more about UCU’s reasoning for balloting its members on potential industrial action via their website here

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When will strike action take place? 

Details of any potential industrial action has not yet been confirmed, pending the outcome of the current ballots, but we will ensure to update students once we find out more. Industrial action may involve UCU members stopping working, forming picket lines on campus, or taking ‘action short of a strike’. 

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How can I get involved?  

You can talk to your tutors, lecturers, and supervisors to find out more about why they are considering strike action. If strike action takes place, you can get involved in rallies, picket lines and writing letters to the University.  

You can also talk to your Student Reps who can raise your views and concerns to the University. You can find out who your Student Reps are here

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How will I be impacted by potential strike action? 

Staff and postgraduate students who are members of UCU may strike. We don’t yet know what industrial action may be taken, if the current ballots pass, so it is difficult to assess any potential impact of strike action. 

It is difficult to know how strike action will impact individual students, as it will depend on the timing of the strikes and it may differ from subject to subject and depending on your level of study. It is reasonable to expect some subjects to be impacted more than others by any potential strike action. In the event of strike action, the University should communicate with you via your subject and college about any potential disruption. 

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What is the Guild's stance on potential strike action? 

Exeter Students’ Guild is shaped by you, our students. As with the previous strike action in 2019/20, we want students to have your say and help shape any stance we take. We’ll be hosting drop-in sessions over the coming weeks to provide you with a platform to raise your thoughts, concerns or questions regarding potential strike action. We’ll also be setting up some online polls to gauge student opinions on potential strike action. 

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What is the Guild doing to support me? 

We’re currently working to provide students with the most up to date information from UCU and the University, so you know what is going on with regard to any potential industrial action. To provide students with the opportunity to find out more information and ask any questions you may have, we’ll be hosting regular drop-in sessions and student forums. We’ll also keep you updated regularly on our website, via email and through social media. 

Upcoming drop-in sessions

If industrial action was to take place, we will do our utmost to ensure that students are supported, and we'll work collaboratively with UCU and the University to ensure students’ questions and concerns are raised and considered in all discussions. 

The Guild’s Advice Service can also support you, and our amazing team of advisors can provide guidance on academic issues or complaints in the event of any industrial action.  

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University of Exeter Students' Guild is a Charity and Company Limited by Guarantee. Registered Charity Number: 1136468 Company Number: 07217324; registered in England and Wales Registered office: Devonshire House, Stocker Road, Exeter, EX4 4PZ