UCU Strike Information


University and College Union (UCU) has balloted its members on whether to take industrial action in opposition to proposed changes to pensions and pay and working conditions. The result of the ballot means that 74 UK universities including staff at Bournemouth University will be taking part in 14 days of strikes. This follows the 8-day strike action in November and December 2019.

The additional strikes have now been confirmed to be taking place for 14 days within the dates 20 February to 13 March. 

  • Week one - Thursday 20 & Friday 21 February 
  • Week two - Monday 24, Tuesday 25 & Wednesday 26 February 
  • Week three - Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 & Thursday 5 March 
  • Week four - Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 & Friday 13 March 

We are and will continue to be here for you by continually feeding back information around mitigation and welfare issues, and are working with the University and UCU to ensure that your experience is the best it can be during this time. You can do this by giving feedback via the online feedback tool known as SimOn, give your feedback here, make sure to use #mystrikestance in your entry.

We recommend that you look at the FAQ’s located on this page which will provide you with impartial information to form your view on the strike. SUBU will be working with the university and UCU to understand what actions will be taking place, along with what support will be in place for your students, and what the impact and consequences of the industrial action will be.

You can find out more information about how the strike will affect students at BU here: https://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/news/2020-02-12/national-dispute-industrial-action-february-march-2020

You can find the UCU’s full statement here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/10621/UCU-announces-14-strike-days-at-74-UK-universities-in-February-and-March       




A LETTER TO THE VC - A TEMPLATE FOR STUDENTS TO USE: WWW.SUBU.ORG.UK/assets/site_resources/Student Template Letter for John Vinney.docx




1. Why are staff striking?

The UCU believe the pay of academic staff at universities has dropped by around 17% in ‘real wages’ since 2009 based on findings from the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA). In more general terms, ‘real wages’ go down for everyone when inflation is higher. For example, if you get an annual pay rise of 2% but inflation is at 3%, it is a ‘real wages’ pay cut of 1% despite the extra pay; this is driven by economic trends and inflation. The UCU are calling for the University to immediately take steps to reverse the supposed pay decline, by increasing staff pay. The working conditions dispute also focuses on the increased casualisation of staff, the gender and BAME pay gap, and increasing workloads.

Find out more about the pay negotiations here


2. What staff are striking?

The UCU (University and Colleges Union) membership is made up of Lecturers, Post-graduate Researchers, Demonstrators, Librarians and other professional service staff at BU. Whilst it is not known excatly how many staff are members of UCU it is estimated to be around 300. The number of staff striking is currently unknown. Staff are not required to let the university know that they are striking, however some may let their students know beforehand.


3. What will happen during the strikes?

During the strikes your lecturer may be striking if they are a member of UCU. This means they will not come in to teach your lectures, seminars, tutorials or other academic sessions. They will also not be present in their office hours or undertake any work such as marking of assignments or replying to emails. Those who are striking do not need to inform you that they will not be running a particular lecture or other session, although they may choose to do so at their own discretion.

Many lecturers may ask you to not ‘cross the picket line’. This means they would ask you to act in solidarity with those striking and not come into campus through the picket line of striking lecturers; this boundary is usually established at the entrance to a workplace. You cannot be prevented from crossing a picket line.

In addition to the strike, the UCU will be taking ‘action short of a strike’ (ASOS). ASOS is defined by the UCU to potentially include: working to contract (only the hours defined by their contract, e.g. 9-5pm); not covering for absent colleagues; not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action; not undertaking any voluntary activities; a marking and assessment boycott. It is uncertain at this time how long ASOS would last after the end of the wholescale strike action.


4. What has Bournemouth University said?

You can view the full University FAQ’s here:https://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/news/2020-02-12/national-dispute-industrial-action-february-march-2020


5. Will SUBU remain open during the strikes?

Yes. We are committed to ensuring that SUBU remains open throughout the strikes and remains a welcoming place for students. The Student Centre and all SUBU outlets and services will be open business as usual.

6. What has SUBU been doing to minimise the impact on students?

In November 2019 SUBU conducted a poll where 92.6% of students said that they either supported or sympathised with Lecturers who were striking. As a consequence SUBU met with the Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor to put pressure on the university to be more transparent with particular reference to assignments and missed lectures. We issued a template letter and encouraged students to send this to the Vice-Chancellor to ask him to use his influence with the UCEA to ask them to recommence negotiations. SUBU also supported staff who were on the picket line and ran a campaign to capture feedback on how the strike was affecting students. 

What should the Students' Union at Bournemouth University's stance be in relation to the upcoming UCU industrial action (strikes)?

915 votes cast in total

46.6% (426 votes) - SUBU should support the strike and stand in solidarity with UCU

46.2% (423 votes) - SUBU should sympathise with UCU but should not support action that would seriously impact students

7.2% (66 votes) - SUBU should reject industrial action and oppose UCU's stance entirely

7. Can SUBU prevent strikes from taking place?

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


8. What is Bournemouth University currently doing to protect the student experience during this time?

BU issued the following in response to this question in November 2019:

“We are used to planning for potential disruption, for example during periods of extreme weather.  We have a group of people, including SUBU, working together to ensure that contingency plans are in place and we will continue to share information with you.”


9. What happens if students have deadlines during or shortly after this period?

BU issued the following in response to this question in November 2019:

“You should continue to complete coursework and submit assignments as planned.  We have not been advised of any disruption to marking or assessments.”


10. What about students who miss lectures? 

BU issued the following in response to this question in November 2019:

Your student fee covers a wide range of activities and services, including lectures and timetabled sessions.  We will ensure that if any sessions are postponed, the material will be made available to you in different ways.  If necessary, we may review assignments and assessment criteria.  All other university facilities and activities will be available to you as usual.


11. 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 will participate in strikes. It is, however, possible that strikes could have an impact on various aspects of your course, including assessments, marking, and lectures. 


12. What about International Students?

If you are an international student on a Tier 4 visa you will not be penalised if you are unable to attend a class that has been canceled due to the strike action.


13. I am concerned - where can I go to for support and advice?

If you are concerned about the upcoming strike action please get in touch with askBU, academic advisors, programme leaders or SUBU advice. Student Reps will also be able to provide feedback to the University and to SUBU about your experience during the strike.

Information about complaints, exceptional circumstances and student protection plans is available here: https://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/students/help-advice/important-information


14. Background to the strikes

The University College Union (UCU) announced the outcome of their ballot on proposed industrial action regarding the USS Pension (Universities Superannuation Scheme) earlier in the month.

Two different questions were asked to UCU members in the ballot, reflecting the complex nature of this issue; ‘Are you prepared to take industrial action consisting of strike action?’ and ‘Are you prepared to take industrial action consisting of action short of strike action up to and including a marking and assessment boycott?’.

At Bournemouth University, the turnout of UCU members voting in the ballot was 127, over the 50% threshold required by Trade Union law to pursue action based on the outcome.

As a consequence the UCU has informed BU that it plans to take strike action on 25, 26, 27, 28 & 29 November and on 2, 3 and 4 December 2019, as well as action short of a strike (ASOS) with effect from 25 November 2019. ASOS consists of:

  • Working to contract
  • Not covering for absent colleagues
  • Not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
  • Not sharing materials relating to lectures or classes cancelled as a result of strike action
  • Not undertaking any voluntary activities.


15. What has the NUS said?

NUS and UCU issued a public statement of mutual support concerning the ongoing disputes in higher education on the 30th of September 2019.

“NUS and UCU are sister organisations committed to promoting the interests of our members and to defending education. We are proud of our work together in calling for a better deal for students and staff, and in challenging the marketisation of education. We want to create an education system that is funded, accessible and lifelong, a system that reflects the needs of modern society."

You can read their full statement here


16. What have the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) said about the strikes?

The OIA are the national body for dealing with student complaints.

Here is their statement:

"Following the announcement last week that there will be industrial action on pay and pensions, it is important that affected providers take steps to minimise the impact on students. This includes both minimising any academic disadvantage and making up for lost learning opportunities.

We have previously published information about our approach to complaints arising from industrial action, including a briefing notecase summaries and some themes that emerged. We hope this will be helpful to providers and students’ unions. The OfS has also issued a note External link (Opens in a new tab or window) setting out their approach to the impact on students of disruption caused by industrial action.

Felicity Mitchell, Independent Adjudicator said:

“Many students will be very concerned about the impact that this industrial action will have on their studies. There were many good examples of how providers tried to reduce the academic impact of the industrial action that took place last year. But it’s just as important to make sure that students don’t miss out on learning opportunities, and some providers did not always do this as well. It is especially important for students who are in the final stages of their course or on a short or intensive programme.

Not all students will be affected in the same way. For example some disabled students, some students with mental health issues, and some international students may be more severely affected. Providers need to think carefully about additional measures they might need to take to support those students.

Students need to know how to raise any concerns they may have through internal complaints processes. They need to be able to make informed choices about how to pursue their concerns if they are not resolved internally.  During the last pensions-related strike action some students were encouraged by a number of law firms to pursue legal action rather than raising issues through internal procedures. To the best of our knowledge none of the intended class actions have resulted in concrete outcomes for the students involved. Students who are unhappy with how their provider has dealt with their concerns can bring their complaint to us for independent and impartial review.”"


17. Useful resources:

News articles about UCU Strikes and Industrial action
Information on Industrial Action
Information from the UCU
Information from the UUK
General Resources