On 24th January 2023, the University and College Union (UCU) made the announcement that a further eighteen days of strikes will take place across February and March, impacting 150 universities across the UK. According to Palatinate UK, this will account for 44% of all teaching days during the Epiphany term at Durham University, with a reballot campaign launching this week to determine whether union members will strike again later this academic year. This is the latest in a long line of strike days which have seen both students and staff distressed by prolonged disruption to teaching across the country.
The strike dates for this term are as follows:
- Wednesday 1st February
- Thursday 9th February
- Friday 10th February
- Tuesday 14th February
- Wednesday 15th February
- Thursday 16th February
- Tuesday 21st February
- Wednesday 22nd February
- Thursday 23rd February
- Monday 27th February
- Tuesday 28th February
- Wednesday 1st March
- Thursday 2nd March
- Thursday 16th March
- Friday 17th March
- Monday 20th March
- Tuesday 21st March
- Wednesday 22nd March
These dates mean that students at Durham University will have only 9 days of teaching in February left unaffected by what UCU calls ‘the biggest series of strikes ever to hit UK university campuses’.
In Tuesday’s statement, UCU general secretary Jo Grady said:
‘The university sector in the UK has over £40bn sitting in reserves, but instead of using that vast wealth to deliver a cost-of-living pay rise and reverse devastating pension cuts, university vice-chancellors would rather force staff to take strike action and see campuses shut down.
‘There is a clear route out of these disputes, but at present vice-chancellors lack the political will to take it. They are failing staff who want to get back to work, and students who want to get on with their studies.’
There seems to be a general agreement among students at Durham, who are left feeling conflicted and confused. Amelie, a second-year student, says she feels ‘stuck in the middle’ between supporting the strikes and her frustration at the fact that she will ‘barely get taught this term’. Another student felt that the further increase in strike days was ‘a proper representation of how bad the situation really is’ and hoped that the university would take action.
Many students are concerned about the impact of strikes on their education, due to lack of crucial contact hours and feedback sessions – especially in so-called “summative season” – while expressing understanding around the reasons for staff strikes. One student said that they ‘just want to be educated since that’s what I came here for’ and called on the university to respond as ‘it’s unacceptable to charge us for something we don’t get’, regardless of any changes and mitigations put in place come exam season.
UCU says they are ‘demanding a meaningful pay rise to deal with the cost-of-living crisis as well as action to end the use of insecure contracts’ alongside the reversal of cuts to pensions and benefits made last year. Whether or not further negotiations will bring some much-desired closure to the proceedings remains to be seen.
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