Across the country, members of University and Colleges Union (UCU) are preparing for fourteen days of strike action across four weeks. As a University of Bristol (UoB) student I will be affected by the action. Appearing on my Facebook feed, is a petition by students asking for compensation for contact hours lost. Based on arbitrary figures and simplistic mathematics signers of the petition are failing to see the bigger picture of the strike action and why this request is not what our lecturers need when facing dramatic and damaging changes to their pensions.
The suggestion you can simply divide our annual tuition fees by the number of contact hours per annum fails to account for the complex management of a university institution. By their own admittance in a recent report published by UoB, arts student fees are propping up more expensive courses such as medicine or chemistry that require specific equipment and resources for their education. Our tuition fees are too high, but they don’t simply cover the cost of contact hours but a far wider range of services and resources essential to our university experiences, like sports, buildings, health services etc. The mathematics involved is far more complicated than these petitions discuss and their calls for hundreds of pounds or so of ‘lost’ money is detrimental to wider cause of lecturer wellbeing.
Further the request for compensation is individualistic and doesn’t recognise our place in a wider community. If lecturers feel happy in their jobs, secure in their future and supported by their employer, they will be enthusiastic educators. We should not quantify the quality of work environment for the individuals who have dedicated their lives to our education and improving knowledge on wide range of topics. We are more than consumers and this argument for compensation reduces both ourselves as students and our lecturers, we are members of a community that should be based on support and knowledge, not capital.
No one wants to strike. No lecturer is opting for a day of unpaid leave where they can’t contribute to the lives and learning of their students. The UCU have voted overwhelmingly in support of strike action because they see no other option to oppose the changes to their pensions now the negotiation table has been closed. They are losing financially not just for those days they strike but are staring down the barrel of huge losses in years to come. They do not need our personal calculations of what we may ‘lose’, attacking and victimising the individuals who will help us not only in our university lives but in securing our own careers to come. They need our support.
To argue that these calls are placing pressure on the university takes away from the focus and purpose of these strikes. If you truly want to support them write to the university in support, speak to your lecturers and give them positive messages of encouragement, join the picket line. Loud, vocal support is what they need, they need to see the we understand these strikes are an attack on all of us who are part of this university. Lecturers’ job security is being put at risk, and that is an attack on all of us part of this institution. I stand with my lecturers in their fight.