Strike Action

UCU Strike Action Information


Official Guild Statement

Read official Guild statement >

University Resources and Contact

Please check your University email account for communications from the University or you can contact them on industrialaction@exeter.ac.uk


We want to hear from you, either talk to your Academic Rep (find yours here) or click below to give your feedback.

Give Feedback >

Student Poll

11/11/2019 10:00 - 20/11/2019 12:00

We are holding a poll so our student body can inform us how best to support them during the industrial action, so it is critically important that we hear from as many students as possible on their views. The poll is now open, and should only take you a few minutes to complete:

Vote Now > 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the UCU?

The UCU, or University and College Union, is a trade union representing staff across various higher and further education institutions.

Find out more about the UCU on their website


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What are industrial actions and strikes?

Industrial action takes place when negotiations between employers and members of a trade union, such as the UCU, fail to solve a dispute or reach a solution.

This industrial action can sometimes take the form of a strike, an organised stoppage of work for a period of time. Strikes are often viewed as a last resort. However, industrial action can also take other forms, such as refusal to work overtime. This is referred to as “action short of a strike”.


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Can the Guild prevent strikes from taking place?

No, authorised strike action as organised by a trade union is a legal right, and the Guild cannot prevent them from taking place.


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What were the strikes which took place in February and March of 2018 about?

In 2017, the UCU contested changes suggested by Universities UK (UUK) to a pension scheme for University staff called the Universities Superannuation scheme (USS), the main pension scheme for many University staff across the UK. These changes were proposed as a result of a deficit owing to rising costs of the pension scheme.

The UCU stated that proposed changes could result in a potential decrease of as much as 9,600 pounds a year to the retirement income of lecturers starting work that year.

In 2018, talks between the UCU and the UUK regarding the proposed changes ended without an agreement. Following this, the UCU called for a vote, with the purpose being to organise industrial action. 58% of UCU members voted, which passed the required 50% threshold for the vote to be counted. 88% of those who voted backed a strike. 

Strikes were then organised by the UCU which took place over four weeks (22 February – 16 March), beginning with two days of strikes in the first week (22 February and 23 February), and culminating with 5 days of strikes in the final week (12-16 March).

Following a new proposal by the UUK on the 23rd of March, which suggested the creation of a panel aimed at reviewing proposed changes to the pension scheme, an electronic ballot of UCU members was held. The results of the ballot were announced on the 13th April, resulting in a 63.5% turnout, with 64% voting to accept the proposal. Additional strikes were therefore suspended. 


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What happened after?

Talks between the three parties (UCU, UUK, and USS) continued, before a revised proposal was put forward by the USS which proposed an increase in staff salary contributions toward pensions from 8.8% to 9.6%, with further increases planned for 2021 onwards. The UCU proposed that changes in contributions should be covered by institutions, a proposal which was rejected.

This coincided with ongoing discussions relating to decreases in staff pay, increased workloads, and gender and BME pay gaps. A ballot for industrial action was held in October 2018 over disputes between the UCU and the University and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA). This ballot did not meet the required 50% turnout, and therefore action was not taken.

In February 2019, another ballot on industrial action was held on the same issues. This ballot also failed to meet the required 50% turnout, and therefore no action was taken.

In response to negotiations on both points failing to result in solutions, the UCU called for two ballots on industrial action to begin on September 6, one addressing changes to the USS pension scheme, and the other on the issues of pay, pay gaps, workloads, and casualisation. Talks between the three parties (UCU, UUK, and USS) continued, before a revised proposal was put forward by the USS which proposed an increase in staff salary contributions toward pensions from 8.8% to 9.6%, with further increases planned for 2021 onwards. The UCU proposed that changes in contributions should be covered by institutions, a proposal which was rejected.


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What is happening now?

The ballots on industrial action and pay gaps, workloads, and equality, have now taken place, and the outcome was announced on the afternoon of 31 October.

Both ballots passed the required 50% turnout, with 79% of UCU members voting to undertake strike action over the USS Pension scheme changes, and 74% voting to undertake strike action over pay, pay gaps, workload, and casualisation.

Importantly, both ballots also passed the 50% turnout at the University of Exeter. This means that strike action is now a likely outcome.


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What are the dates for the strikes?

The UCU have announced that strikes will take place beginning on Monday 25 November, and continue until Wednesday 4 December. The strikes would take place on all days within that time period, meaning that teaching will be affected throughout.

In addition, the UCU have also stated that “action short of a strike” will be taking place starting on Monday 25 November, and could continue until April 2020.

This will be dependent on whether negotiations result in a resolution earlier than April 2020, in which case the action short of a strike would be stopped.


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What will the “Actions short of a strike” be?

Actions short of a strike could include:

· Refusing to cover for absent staff

· Not rescheduling lectures affected by the strikes

· Not sharing or providing materials relating to lectures affected by the strike

· Not taking part in volunteer actions (e.g. participating in open days)


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How would this affect my studies?

This will depend on the timing of the strikes, and the potential impact of the strikes on each department, as not all staff are UCU members, and not all members are required to participate in strikes. It is however possible that strikes will have an impact on various aspects of your course, including assessments, marking, and lectures. 

Be sure to visit the Advice Service page on the Guild website for further support and questions on how the strikes could affect your studies and wellbeing, and what we can do to support you.


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How will the strikes impact my exams?

This too will very much depend on your subject, the staff members involved in the strike, and the lectures and content affected. However, the University have assured us that students will not be examined on any subjects that they have not been taught.


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What can I do?

As well as making sure to provide feedback to your Academic Reps (you can find out who they are on the Guild’s Find your Reps page), the Guild will be launching a poll on Monday 11 November 10:00.

The stance we take on the strikes, and the actions which follow, will be decided by the results of the poll, so be sure to vote to have your say.

We are also planning a Q and A event for students, during which both representatives from the University and UCU will be given the opportunity to inform students about the strike and answer questions. This is not a debate, it is an information session.We will be releasing further on this soon. 


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What would the Guild’s stance be?

Currently, our objective is to provide impartial information to enable students to understand the context behind the current proposed industrial action, and coordinate the collection of feedback, which will in turn allow us to support student needs in an informed manner.

In addition, we will be holding a poll on the strikes to ensure that our stance is student-led. Our actions would therefore depend on the results of this vote.


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Will I get to know which staff members are striking?

No, staff members are not required to inform the University or students as to whether they are striking.


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Can I publicly identify staff members who are striking, or share information on who is striking on social media?

No. as staff members are not required to inform either the University or students as to whether they are striking, doing so would be compromising their anonymity.

Furthermore, we would ask that livestreaming, live tweeting, photographs, or any other method of identifying UCU speakers, not take place during the Q and A event.


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Will I be refunded or compensated for any teaching hours affected by the strikes?

The University has written the following on their Strike Action FAQ Page:

On the basis of the information currently to hand, the University is not considering any form of reduction in fees or compensation because we have mitigation plans in place to ensure that students suffer no detriment as a result of any impact that may be incurred. The University will be keeping full records of any and all impacts of the industrial action to ensure this is the case.

Could we also add the following link the general resources section of the resource page?

University FAQ for 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