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Open letter from the Vice-Chancellor to students - 19/02/2020

Dear student,

From tomorrow (Thursday 20 February) some academic and professional services staff who are members of the University and College Union (UCU) will start a four-week period of staggered strike action.

During this time, the University will remain open and we will be doing everything we can to continue to support your learning and assessment, and to mitigate the disruption caused.

As with previous strike action, there will be limited – if any - impact for many of you.

For those who do find their studies disrupted, I want to apologise from the outset. I am very sorry that your studies may be disrupted in this way and want you to know that we will support you to the best of our ability.

Over the next four weeks we will continue to provide as much information as possible via the student intranet and Student News. You will also receive direct updates from your School.

While we anticipate that most teaching will go ahead as scheduled, in some academic Schools, there is likely to be a significant impact.

Unfortunately, we may not know that in advance. Those members of staff who decide to strike are under no obligation to tell us, making planning extremely difficult. It could result in some lectures, seminars and other teaching activities being cancelled at very short notice, and without advance warning. We will, wherever possible, notify you if we are able to do so.

Over the next four weeks, Schools will be identifying where they may need to vary teaching and assessment activities so that those students affected can have the opportunity to achieve the learning outcomes of their modules and programmes.

Please be reassured that we have clear processes in place to manage any variations to assessment, and to ensure that examination boards can take the impact of industrial action into account, while maintaining our academic standards.

There are two issues that have been raised with me directly that I want to address: compensation and the risk that students may not be able to graduate.

In relation to compensation, my priority is to ensure that all students are provided with appropriate learning opportunities and you are supported to achieve the relevant learning outcomes of your modules and programme. We will work with our academic Schools to do this over the remainder of the academic session.

However, there will be some students who may not be satisfied with the steps taken and may wish to pursue a complaint. The University has put in place a revised student complaint process, so that we can ensure complaints relating to industrial action can be addressed clearly and promptly.

To make a complaint, students will need to demonstrate that the University has failed to take appropriate and sufficient steps to offset the impact that the industrial action had on the learning opportunities.

You are advised not to submit a formal complaint until there has been the opportunity for your School to put in place actions to support your learning.

Your Head of School will have informed you in December 2019 of any variations to assessment, and in January 2020 of the supporting actions the School is taking to address the disruption caused by the strike action in November and December 2019. If you feel the School is not taking sufficient action to address any disruption of this nature, you should submit your complaint by 10 March 2020.

If you are dissatisfied with the supporting actions taken to address the disruption caused by industrial action, or if you feel the School is not taking sufficient action to address disruption caused by further planned strike action in February and March 2020, you can submit a complaint up to 28 days after the end of the academic session, by 10 July 2020.

More information on the complaints process is available on the student intranet

In relation to graduation, you may have seen recent media coverage which suggested that strike action could mean that some students may not be able to graduate.

I want to be absolutely clear: my intention is to ensure that all students will be able to meet their learning outcomes and will be able to graduate as expected. That is and will remain my priority.

You may already be aware of the reasons behind the strike action. They remain focused on pay, pensions and working conditions. Further information on the background to the dispute is available on the intranet

Pay and pensions are not matters individual universities can negotiate and resolve on our own. They are negotiated nationally on behalf of universities by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) and Universities UK (UUK).

It is for the three parties – UUK, UCU and UCEA - to negotiate on behalf of their respective members and find a resolution.

I have been heartened that joint talks across all parties have been constructive and I will continue to do all I can to support a way forward.

Like you, I want these issues resolved and to avoid any disruption to your studies.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Colin Riordan