As I am sure you are all aware, UCU is currently on strike (and that is definitely not the only reason I have time to write this article). This is a contentious topic as the industrial action comes with huge disruption to our education. Crunching the numbers puts the cost of eight days of industrial action at £493, but despite this, I support our lecturers.
Why? Because they are not only striking for their own well being (a good enough cause alone) but also for ours. If this round of industrial action is successful it will be the current generation of post-graduate students that will benefit the most. Those of us looking towards a career in academia will reap the benefits of successful industrial action. We will be the ones starting entry-level jobs with a secure pension and some certainty that in a year’s time we will still have a job – a luxury which does not currently extend to all of our professors.
There are senior lecturers on strike at the moment who will have retired before serious change is implemented; they strike for our generation. Think of your seminar leaders who are PhD students – students being the operative word – they work ‘casually’ for the university yet are answering emails at god-forsaken hours and taking marking home, on top of their own studies. Now imagine having to mark an entire class’ GCSE or A-level work in addition to trying to do your degree and having a social life. For most of us it is hard enough to balance cooking, cleaning, working, studying and partying – could you cope with marking and teaching thrown into the mix?
I agree that a loss of teaching time is a shame; it is not what we are paying for. But what are we paying for? A degree? An experience? If the latter is more important to you than the former, take this opportunity to go out and experience university life. Clubs, societies and bars are running as normal; use the strikes to go and do something that you have been meaning to do since coming to uni. If the former is of higher priority worry not. Lecturers who are less stressed will be more inclined and more able to further your academic development. For further information about the changes the UCU strike hopes to implement click here.
Finally, all of our lecturers and seminar leaders have worked extraordinarily hard to get where they are. They have had the years of essay crises and all-nighters; poor pay, job insecurity and changing pensions are no way to reward this. As students, we must remember that those who teach us are primarily researchers and secondarily teachers. And we must empathise with this because it is the work of researchers and academics which drives the progress of our society.
If you want to get involved, picketing is taking place across campus, at the Retreat, Heslington Hall and East Campus. Click here to see what you can do.