FAQs: How might the UCU industrial action affect your studies?

We understand that you might have some questions about how the industrial action has, or potentially could, affect you. We hope that these FAQs help to answer your questions about your undergraduate or postgraduate studies. The University will continue to update this page as the situation progresses.

Latest update: 19 May 2022

As a consequence of industrial action, there may be disruption to your studies during the strike action which the University will do everything it can to mitigate.

Will I be assessed on any of the information that I would have been taught in cancelled sessions, if these are not rescheduled?

We will not expect you to be assessed on areas that you were scheduled to be taught but were not taught, due to strike action, or which were not adequately covered by alternative learning activities. As we expect all missed sessions to be rescheduled or alternatively taught, wherever possible, we expect very few topics to be missed. However, it may be that these topics will not be identified until after exam papers are set, as exam setting occurs early in the semester in order to provide time for external examiners to scrutinise the papers and for them to be printed. If a question(s) is set on a topic that is not subsequently taught or adequately covered, invigilators will be instructed to advise you which question(s) on the exam paper should not be attempted. If you think you have been assessed on material that has not been taught due to cancelled sessions, then you are eligible to submit ECs.

How can I get more information or ask questions?

If you have any specific queries concerning the impact of missed teaching upon any of the module/s you are studying, please contact your School. If you are a research student, you should contact your Head of School or Director of Research. For more general queries around the impact of the strike action you can call Student Services on 01782 734481 or drop them an email student.services@keele.ac.uk and we'll get a University representative to call you back.

You may also want to consult ASK in the SU (su.ask@keele.ac.uk) for support and advice.

I am worried about the impact on my progression to my next year of study (or, for final year students, graduation) if I miss assessments due to strike action. What can the University do to help me?

The University has a specific policy to support students who are prevented from completing their assessments due to circumstances such as industrial action. As outlined in the FAQs above, we anticipate that the majority of assessments will be rescheduled. However, should it become necessary, the policy allows in most cases for alternative assessments to be set and/or module marks to be calculated without disadvantage, provided that a significant proportion of the module's assessments have been attempted. Different rules may apply to students on professional programmes but we will do everything possible to ensure that your progression or graduation is not hindered by the industrial action.

What do I do if I'm struggling to meet a coursework submission deadline due to interruptions to taught sessions due to strike action? 

Should coursework deadlines fall on dates when industrial action is taking place, schools will advise on revised submission dates. You will not need to submit an EC for this.

Why are staff going on strike?

The Universities and College Union (UCU) is calling upon its members to take part in industrial action for two reasons. The first is in response to proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). This is a national pension scheme and the proposed reforms are deemed necessary to ensure its future sustainability. Keele has contributed to discussions and consultations over the past few months but we have no direct ability to resolve the current dispute ourselves. We will continue to keep in close contact with Universities UK (UUK) who represent employers in this matter and our sincere hope is that a resolution will be found soon.

The second reason is for what UCU describes as Four Fights. This is in relation to national pay settlement for 2021/22 and equality, casualisation and workload. The University takes part in national pay bargaining and is one of many universities that have implemented a pay increase following the completion of the national pay bargaining process. UCU did not agree the proposed pay increase. In relation to the other matters, the University always seeks to work constructively with our local UCU representatives on matters of concern through regular UCU and senior management meetings.

Will UCU staff be picketing on the strike action days?

Yes, we expect there to be pickets present at the entrances to the University on these days. However, they should not interfere with those who are not involved in the dispute.

How will it affect me?

We have sent communications to all staff who could participate in the strike action and asked them to let us know, in advance, if they intend to take part in the strikes. We hope that staff will inform the school management teams, or students directly, if particular classes will not be going ahead as scheduled. However, it does remain a possibility that some students may arrive for classes, on the strike days, which will unfortunately not go ahead. School management teams will take all necessary steps to rearrange any cancelled classes and affected students will be advised as soon as possible of the alternative arrangements.

Will the impact be the same for all students?

Only a proportion of academic and professional services staff at Keele are members of UCU and it is expected that the potential impact of the industrial action may vary across the University. Be assured that contingency plans are being put in place to minimise the impact as far as possible.

What happens if my taught sessions are cancelled due to the strike?

As we anticipate that many teaching sessions will still take place on the days of strike action, you should continue to attend all scheduled teaching sessions, regardless of the strike action, unless you have been explicitly advised that the session will not go ahead by your School. If your School has informed you that a specific session is cancelled your School will let you know when it has been rearranged.

What happens if a compulsory session (e.g. laboratory class or tutorial) is cancelled?

Where a compulsory teaching session does not go ahead due to strike action, there will be no penalty for you (e.g. your attendance record for professionally-accredited programmes will not be affected). However, if the compulsory session does take place and you do not attend, the normal sanctions will apply unless you have a valid reason for non-attendance (N.B. as the taught session went ahead, the strike action would not be considered as a valid reason). You do not need to submit an EC or planned absence form if a taught session is cancelled.

Will cancelled taught sessions be rescheduled?

Wherever possible, you will have alternative learning opportunities to mitigate against any loss of teaching activity and to minimise disadvantage to students. Your Head of School will provide specific information. At this stage, we cannot predict how long the dispute will continue and it is possible that not all classes will be rescheduled. In many cases, staff are providing alternative approaches, activities and various other contingencies to mitigate against any loss of direct teaching activities, to minimise the disadvantage to students. However, the next question explains how we plan to deal with the possibility that you may miss taught material through strike action.

What happens if I have an assessment on a strike day?

If your assessment falls on a day of strike action, unless you are advised that it is not going ahead, you should attend this as normal. However, if the assessment is not able to proceed due to staff absence, we accept that this is an exceptional circumstance and adjustments will be made on your behalf. There is no need to submit an individual EC claim in this case.

What if I have an assignment submission deadline on a strike day?

Your ability to submit your work, electronically or in hard copy, should not be affected by strike action and therefore, for an EC claim to be successful for these assessments, you would have to clearly demonstrate how the strike action prevented you from submitting your assignment on time.

What do I do if a taught session is cancelled that I need to help me with my assignment?

Where sessions have been cancelled and not re-arranged, and the relevant material is not adequately covered by alternative learning activities, and you feel that this has affected your performance, you are entitled to submit an EC claim, explaining how your performance was affected by the cancelled teaching sessions. This also applies to missed supervision or delayed feedback for projects and dissertations, for example.

What happens if I miss supervision for my research project or dissertation due to industrial action?

If your project/dissertation supervisor is participating in industrial action, you may lose time in the laboratory, have appointments cancelled or have delayed feedback from a draft report, for example. Wherever possible, we would expect that appointments/lab time would be rescheduled on non-strike days. Where it is not possible to reschedule and you feel that this will impact on your work, you are entitled to submit an EC claim, explaining how you have been affected by the cancelled sessions.

Can I still email my lecturers/personal tutor/supervisor?

Yes, you should continue to email staff whenever you need to, just as you usually would. It may take a little longer to get a response, though, especially if you send an email on a strike day.

I have heard that external examiners are resigning from their positions. How will this affect my degree?

The University's INT Policy (Policy for the Management of Academic Awards and Student Progression during Interruptions to Normal Timescales (INT)) sets out processes designed to enable the University to conduct assessment-related business in a way which seeks to avoid disadvantage to students whilst maintaining the standards of the University’s academic awards and the rigour of assessment and examination processes.

External examiners scrutinise assessed work and attend exam boards to ensure that the academic standards of Keele awards are maintained. The external examiners at Keele are required to give three months' notice to terminate their contract, which in the majority of cases will mean that the assessment processes this summer are unaffected. Where it is not possible for an external examiner to attend an exam board there are procedures for obtaining their approval to degree results separately, or, if necessary, referring decisions up to the main University Examination Board. Once the strike action has been resolved we will ask external examiners whether they wish to be reinstated in their position.

How will I be affected by strike action if I am a PhD student?

If you have a viva voce exam on a strike day or were about to have your progress considered either at an annual review or by a transfer panel, your Director of Postgraduate Research or Head of School will seek to make alternative arrangements for you.

If a scheduled appointment with your supervisor is cancelled due to strike action, we expect your research supervisor to reschedule your appointment on a non-strike day.

If you experience a delay in feedback on your final draft for an imminent submission of your thesis due to industrial action, you should seek advice from your PGR Director, who will be able to advise you on applying for a short extension, which will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Will the strike action only involve lecturers?

Some professional services staff are also members of UCU and may therefore be on strike as well. However, plans are in place to avoid any disruption to the support you receive from the professional services areas of the University.

What will happen to the money that is not paid to staff for the time they are on strike?

The money that is not paid to striking staff will be ring-fenced for activities that benefit and support students and will be allocated in consultation with the SU and KPA.

Am I entitled to compensation?

The formal situation is that for all universities their terms and conditions state that universities are not liable for any events outside their control, including industrial action. Your University fees are used to provide a wide range of facilities that support you during your entire degree and cover a variety of costs including the teaching of lectures, tutorials and laboratory/practical sessions, as well as access to study and student support facilities. Your fees also contribute to the development and maintenance of our campus and its security, student services, the library and the IT network as well as providing financial support of the SU and KPA.

Our current aim is that no student should be disadvantaged by the strike by rescheduling the vast majority of postponed teaching activities and applying appropriate compensatory activities.

As stated earlier, any money that the university does not pay staff who are striking will be ring fenced for student related activities that will be allocated in consultation with the SU and KPA.

If I want to make a complaint about the strike action, what should I do?

You will need to follow the usual complaints procedure: keele.ac.uk/studentcomplaints.