STUDENT SUPPORT FOR UCU’S INDUSTRIAL ACTION STANLEY O. GAINES, JR. (CHAIR, BRUNEL UCU BRANCH) 8 DECEMBER 2021

Recently, the immediate Past President of Universities UK (who, not coincidentally, is the current Vice Chancellor and President of Brunel University London) has made public statements that falsely imply a lack of student support for national UCU’s industrial action.  However, a look at the National Union of Students (NUS) Web site (Student views on UCU strikes revealed by NUS @ NUS) reveals overwhelming student support for UCU’s industrial action.  In fact, NUS have launched a petition in support of UCU (emphasis in the original text):

Dear UUK and UCEA executives, We are writing on behalf of students, the vast majority of whom support the UCU strikes, and all of whom are negatively impacted by an unsustainable HE system.  Research undertaken by NUS has found that 73% of students support the UCU strikes, and 69% have said that they would be willing to take action to campaign for a fully-funded, accessible, lifelong and democratised education system.  The shocking truth is that senior management pay and benefits has increased in recent years, with Vice Chancellors average total pay reaching £269,000. Meanwhile academic staff on the ground have only seen more work for less reward. Many have reached their breaking point.  Students know that staff don’t want to have to go on strike, and have worked tirelessly before and during the pandemic to do the jobs they love in universities and colleges across the UK.  Against the backdrop that staff have had to stand up against, it is not only unsustainable, but it is cruel to watch them continue to be undervalued and underpaid in Higher Education.  The same education system that leaves 1 in 10 students needing to access food banks in the pandemic is the same system that leaves 75,000 of postgraduate students and other university staff on casualised contracts.  The same system pursuing the policing and securitisation of students of colour is producing a 17% race pay gap for staff.  The system is as exploitative and unfair to students as it is to staff – these cannot be divorced from each other.  This is distinctly true for postgraduate students on casualised teaching contracts, and many are given no choice but to strike given what a dire situation this has become.  The way that staff have been forced to work under the current circumstances impacts how they can teach us, and the communities we can build on campus. Staff working conditions are our learning conditions, and we must stand together if we are to realise a new vision for education that is truly democratised: run by and for the students, staff and communities that education exists to serve.  Staff deserve to be paid fairly for their work. They deserve contracts that guarantee them a stable job, and workloads that are manageable. Women, disabled staff and staff of colour deserve pay parity with their counterparts.  We, the undersigned, are asking that you return to the negotiating table and meet UCU’s demands.