One Strike and We're Out - Our Education as a Bargaining Chip

One Strike and We're Out - Our Education as a Bargaining Chip

When the ‘Beast from the East’, forced universities to close for two days it was all fun and games, even if there was no milk or bread in any of the shops. Yet when I found out I had a month’s worth of university cancelled in my final term, I was far from pleased.

I received emails being told that I would have no lectures or tutorials for a month, that no extensions for imminent deadlines would be given, and that staff would not even have to reply to emails, yet I should plan to attend my classes as normal. I obviously feel awful that our lecturers are facing such a huge pension cut, and I support their decision to strike but why is nothing being done to assist final year students during this time? What about my final term of higher education? I understand that action needed to happen, but why should this directly affect students so much?

I’m an English Literature student which means I have limited contact hours as it is (sigh as you may, I actually wish I had more). Within my first week of university I had paid £120 for my core texts, that’s not even including the various novels I had to buy for each week of term. I had 6 hours a week and was given a lousy £5 worth of print credit, and I was already wondering, where is my £9000 a year going? Now I’m in my final term of university and I’m no closer to answering that question. The facilities and resources my department is given in comparison to others is ridiculous, and my friend had spent over £40 on books that she will not even have an opportunity to study due to the strikes. So, could we at least then have our deadlines extended with a recognition that we have limited options when it comes to choosing the topics we have to write our essays on? Can we at least have our emails concerning dissertations replied to?

The £10,000 a year academic staff are having cut from their pension is the amount we’re paying a year to receive a higher education, and that is triple what students in 2007 paid and probably a huge amount more than what our parents and lecturers paid. So, for staff to shout through megaphones at students who are trying to enter libraries is completely unfair, when we’re simply trying to give ourselves the education that isn’t being provided. Our generation will be lucky to even have a pension if economic trends continue, and we’ll be in a crippling amount of debt even in the first year after graduating. Whilst this point may seem trivial I’m just trying to point out that we have a lot to contend with as it is, without being shouted at for trying to learn.

For lots of people this final term determines their degree classification, it’s the difference between getting a 2:1 or a first, and for some people they may not be able to get the grade they deserve because of the strikes. I understand that lecturers have had to go to extreme lengths to try and get the pensions they deserve, and it’s not their fault that this has happened. It just seems unfair that we’re the ones who must deal with the negative repercussions of something beyond our control, as it’s our education that is being used as a bargaining chip for their pensions.

Ultimately, we need to support our staff, but we should also be given extensions and support, and quite frankly a refund equal to the number of lectures and tutorials missed. It may seem too ‘consumer’ like to think of our education in terms of how much money we’ve spent on it, but it’s kind of hard not to when we’re facing so much future debt and the strike completely revolves around money. Whilst I will support the cause in ways such as putting pressure on Vice Chancellor Hugh Brady, I will also be going to campus on strike days if I need to, and I will not just happily accept having no university for a month. I don’t have time to shout abuse at innocent strangers and to disrupt lectures, I have a dissertation to write.



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