Strikes today over professors’ pay are set to disrupt lectures, as staff demand that salaries increase by more than 1%. Between 11am and 1pm Cantabs will form picket lines in front of lecture theatres, urging students and staff to support the strike by not attending their lectures or using university facilities. The University and College Union (UCU) has two further walk-outs planned.
If disputes over pay are not resolved, academics have threatened to refuse to mark students’ exam papers at the end of the year. The UCU has acknowledged that this is to be “the largest ongoing disruption of teaching ever undertaken”.
While vice-chancellors have been given an 8% increase in fees across the higher education sector, university staff and lecturers have seen just a 1% increase. This would mean a reduction of 13% in real terms.
At the same time, Cambridge’s Vice-Chancellor, Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, saw his pay increased by £20,000 to £334,000 in the year 2012-2013.
Cambridge professors have already taken part in a strike that was staged on 13 October. A rally held outside Senate House attracted around two hundred people. A Cambridge professor highlighted to The Cambridge Student that professors’ pay “is a critical issue, since it is on the working conditions of academic staff that recruitment and retention of the best teachers and researchers rests.”
Trinity Hall student Fiona Woolston offered support for the UCU’s actions: “As a finalist of course having my grades postponed would be an immediate inconvenience… However, as students we need to look beyond our own interests; if we do not support our teachers now and help end this culture of obscene disproportion, it will only continue and intensify”.
Sally Hunt, General Secretary of the UCU stated: “Despite another embarrassing round of revelations about the very handsome pay rises those at the top have enjoyed recently, universities are still refusing to improve a measly 1% pay offer and are still oblivious to the hypocrisy of their actions.”
A spokesman from the Universities and Colleges Employers Association stated that they were “disappointed” to hear the news of escalation plans: “This appears a cynical move to cause, in the union’s own terms, ‘maximum disruption’ while ‘minimising costs to members’,” he added. “Institutions will do their best to protect students but this industrial action is designed to damage the student experience.”
Jia Hui Lee, Education Officer at CUSU, told TCS: “CUSU believes that lecturers and staff should be fairly remunerated to continue providing excellent education at the University of Cambridge. We hope that the university and the union will go to the negotiating table as soon as possible to minimise disruption to students’ education.”