It is the final day of a three day strike by university staff who are campaigning for better pay, pensions and working conditions.

Walkouts have been organised at 58 universities with around a million students affected.

The University and College Union said it wrote to employer representatives last month to explain how the strike action could be avoided. 

Pension amounts need to be reinstated

It wants pension cuts to be revoked and is also calling for employers to improve their pay.  It says this means committing to meaningful agreements and action on casualisation, workload, and equality pay gaps. 

The UCU claims its employers are refusing to revoke pension cuts or to even acknowledge issues like casualisation.

It also says staff pay has fallen by 20 percent after twelve years of below inflation pay offers; one third of academic staff are on insecure contracts; the gender pay gap sits at 15 percent.

Some students and critics have raised concerns about the disruption to education, after a year and a half of disturbances due to Covid.

NUS shows public support

But, students have mainly supported the action, with the National Union of Students (NUS) saying in a public letter: “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.”

According to Higher Education Statistics Agency figures of the 22,810 professors in the UK, under a third (27 percent ) were women and only 155 (1 percent) were Black.

Depression due to over-work

Staff say they are also experiencing a crisis of work-related stress with over half exhibiting symptoms of depression.

Oxford Brookes University vice-chancellor Prof Alistair Fitt  told the BBC he was “really disappointed” with the strike action, saying students have endured enough since the pandemic disruptions. 

He said the USS pension scheme was “very generous”, but admitted it might be “too expensive” for many academics.

Professor Fitt added: “One of the things we’re committed to doing is to try and make USS a little bit more flexible, and to try to give particularly young academics and young university staff a range of options,” he said.