Academics have announced the “biggest ever university strikes” will take place across the UK over three days this month, potentially impacting more than 2.5 million students.
More than 70,000 university staff at 150 universities will take part in the industrial action on Thursday, November 24, Friday, November 25 and Wednesday, November 30.
The action will include working to rule, refusing to make up work lost as a result of strike action and refusing to cover for absent colleagues.
The dispute centres around pay, working conditions and pensions.
Universities UK (UUK), an organisation representing 140 institutions, including Queen Mary University London in Tower Hamlets, said: “We appreciate this could be a difficult time for students, who may be anxious about possible disruption to their learning.
“Universities are well-prepared for industrial action and will put in place a series of measures to protest students’ education, as well as other staff and the wider community.”
The University and College Union (UCU) said employers imposed a pay rise worth three per cent this year but that this comes after over a decade of below inflation pay awards.
The UCU’s demands include a meaningful pay rise to deal with the cost-of-living crisis and action to end the use of insecure contracts.
It added that a package of cuts made this year will see the average union member lose 35 per cent from their guaranteed future retirement income.
According to the UCU, if employers do not make improved offers, strike action will escalate in the New Year alongside a marking and assessment boycott.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “This is not a dispute about affordability – it is about choices. Vice-chancellors are choosing to pay themselves hundreds of thousands of pounds whilst forcing our members onto low paid and insecure contracts that leave some using foodbanks…
“UCU members do not want to strike but are doing so to save the sector and win dignity at work… If university vice-chancellors don’t get serious, our message is simple – this bout of strike action will be just the beginning.”
The National Union of Students (NUS) said it supported the strikes.
A spokesperson for the University of East London, in Newham, said: “This is a national strike that can only be resolved at a national level.
“With the progress we’ve made so far at the University of East London, we do not believe that there is a case for our staff to take part in the strike action, although we respect their legal right to do so.
“In addition to the nationally negotiated salary, this is the third year that a ‘Shared Success Award’ is accessible to eligible staff. The value of this Award has more than doubled this year with the first of four lump sums payable in the December payroll. We are also consulting with staff on a range of additional benefits and support which we will implement in 2023.
“The university will prioritise and protect the student experience by minimising any disruption to learning and teaching during any period of strike action.”
The university added that it runs a dedicated support scheme to help staff get through the current cost-of-living crisis, including access to financial wellbeing and training support, free breakfasts, free car parking, free access to essential products, discount vouchers and more.
NUS vice president higher education, Chloe Field, added: “Universities and employers must come to the table and take meaningful action to end these disputes.
“They have a responsibility to their staff and students to end unacceptable pay disparities for racialised staff, disabled staff, and women, and to protect staff pensions to that they can have a decent retirement.
“As the workers of the future, students have everything to gain from UCU members winning this fight.”