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Second petition sent to University demanding UCU strikes compensation

Are free graduation gowns enough to pacify students?

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Image Credit: John Robinson

In the wake of the recent University and College Union (UCU) strike action taken by many members of university teaching staff, a student led petition has been launched demanding that the University "equitably reimburse students for strike action."

The petition created on 9 December, has amassed nearly 1,300 signatories as of 13 December, and calls for the University of York, and Vice-Chancellor Charlie Jeffery, to "provide monetary reimbursements to all students affected by the strikes" that took place between 25 November and 4 December.

The demands made of the University are made clear, with signatories asking that "the University acknowledges the significant cost of tuition fees, and responds accordingly by providing a reimbursement to each student . . . proportional to the teaching time lost."

It also criticises the University’s response to the previous UCU strike action between 22 February and 16 March 2017, stating that "students felt the University of York’s offer of free graduation gown hire was not adequate compensation" for the teaching time lost due to strike action.

The funding was initially secured by then-YUSU sabbatical officers James Hare and James Durcan, and fell short when compared to compensation given to students by other universities facing the same issues. After the last strikes, University of Sheffield students received £100 in compensation.

With the current rate of tuition fees standing at £9,250 per year, one day at university where teaching is officially available costs an average student on an undergraduate course £61.66, based on three ten-week terms with five days per week. The University’s gown hire provider, Ede and Ravenscroft, state that graduation attire costs can reach up to £75, which does not meet the cost to an average student for the eight-day strike period of 2019, standing at £492.80, or the cost of the 18-day 2017 strike period, which would have been £1,080 based on the then annual tuition fee of £9,000.

The petition notes that "strike pay for lecturers is provided by the UCU" rather than by the University itself, declaring that it is "unfair for the University of York to take payments for tuition that is not being provided."

The petition also demands that the University "respects the demands of the striking members of the UCU" but insists that the aim of the petition is to remain impartial in the dispute between UCU members and their respective institutions.

The University responded exclusively to Nouse when asked about the petition, saying that "the University put in place a number of mitigations to minimise the impact of the industrial action on students.

"Mitigations include delivery of teaching by staff not taking action, combining or rescheduling teaching activities, looking at alternative ways to deliver the learning, and where necessary making adjustments to assessments to reflect the learning that has taken place.

"Students can be assured that exams at the beginning of next term and other assessments will not rely on anything that has been missed. In addition, after the Common Assessment Period in January, students will be informed of any further learning opportunities or resources to mitigate for missed teaching.

"At this point in time we cannot say whether any students will be eligible for financial compensation. Departments will be assessing impact and working through final mitigations at the start of next term."

Many of the 1,272 signatories have offered their own comments on the petition page. One student wrote "Students should not have to pay for education they don't receive for whatever reason. The full amount lost should be refunded to each student by the university . . . This is a fair and reasonable request", while another stated that "this University has not kept its side of our contract."

This is not the first time a student-led petition relating to reimbursement for strike action has gained traction among the student body. Following the 2017 strike action, a petition delivered to the University of York title ‘Compensate Students for Strike Action’ demanding a blanket £300 reimbursement for any student affected by strike action reached 6,115 signatories.

To view the petition and follow it’s progress, follow this link:The University of York: Equitably reimburse students for strike action

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