From refunds to resubmissions: Everything DMU students need to know about the upcoming UCU strike

By Alexander Hodgkins-Jones

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at De Montfort University are joining 73 other institutions across the country in taking strike action, beginning on Thursday(FEB20).

A total of 14 days of strikes are scheduled to take place at DMU over five weeks, concluding on Tuesday, March 17.

Many students will be wondering how they will be affected, asking why it has come to this and, with tuition fees at eye-watering levels, thinking about the money lost on cancelled classes.

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DMU students will be affected by the upcoming strike

What is happening?

Staff across 74 universities, including DMU, have voted to strike in February and March.

Members of the UCU at DMU voted in a ballot to join the upcoming action during a meeting on February 6.

This means lecturers will be taking 14 days of unpaid leave, resulting in class cancellations at the end of February and beginning of March.

Strikes are planned on the following dates:

  • Week one – Thursday 20 and Friday 21 February
  • Week two – No ‘all out’ strike action planned
  • Week three – Monday 2 to Friday 6 March
  • Week four – Monday 9 to Friday 13 March
  • Week five – Monday 16 and Tuesday 17 March

What is a strike?

Strikes occur when trade union members choose to withdraw their labour during a dispute.

Strikes are serious and are considered a last resort. UCU members from DMU have stated that the “last thing” they wanted to do is to disrupt teaching and learning.

Those on strike will form picket lines outside of the university. This is a form of protest to dissuade staff from working during the event.

Locations for pickets at DMU include, Magazine Square, the Vijay Patel building and outside Gateway House.

It won’t just be union members who will be on strike. Many non-unionised lecturers will not be ‘crossing the picket line’ in an act of solidarity with their colleagues.

Why have DMU lecturers voted for this strike?

Despite what students may think, DMU staff aren’t striking just so they can binge-watch the latest shows on Netflix.

Members of the UCU are in a national dispute with the University and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), over pay and working conditions, with many DMU lecturers also concerned about how management is running the university.

“I think students probably expect their lecturers to be living quite comfortably. But in recent years, pay and working conditions have seriously deteriorated across UK higher education,” said Dr Ben Whitham, Senior Lecturer in International Politics at DMU and advocate for the strike.

The core issues have been categorised as the “Four Fights”:

  • The casualisation of labour, with the UCU estimating half of the UK’s higher education staff are not on secure long-term contracts.
  • Excessive workloads, which have resulted in huge rises in staff mental health issues.
  • The gender pay gap.
  • The lack of a pay rise in real terms.

How will DMU students be affected?

More than a million students across the UK will be hit by the 14-day walkout.

With staff at DMU on strike, many lessons, lectures and seminars will be not be running.

Staff are under no obligation to tell students about cancelled classes, although it is worth asking them informally.

It is up to the university to tell students about which events will and will not be going ahead.

If you have not been informed about a cancellation and a member of staff does not arrive within 10 minutes of the scheduled start time, then students have been told to assume the class is not taking place.

However, some students who commute into Leicester, like English and Journalism undergraduate Hannah Smith, are concerned about the cost of travel.

“I don’t think it’s right that I have to pay to travel to a lesson that might be cancelled,” said Hannah.

There are currently no plans from the university to reimburse student travel.

Assessed work due for submission during the strike dates should be submitted as usual. But, with potentially weeks without teaching time, the quality of submissions could be adversely affected.

Exams on some courses have been completely binned throughout the month of March.

Any student who believes the strikes will have or has had a negative impact on their studies can send a formal complaint.

A full list of FAQs has been published on the DMU website.

Interim Vice-Chancellor, Andy Collop, will be visiting the De Montfort Students’ Union tomorrow (WedFEB19), at 5pm, to answer any queries.

Anyone who wants to attend has been advised to email dsureception@dmu.ac.uk.

Why should students care?

The message from the UCU is clear: “our working conditions are students’ learning conditions”.

With many tutors allocated just one hour per student, per year, for tutorial support, it becomes evident why issues around pay, workloads and casualisation affect lecturers and learners alike.

In a statement of support for the strikes, The National Union of Students said: “The UCU’s action is integral to improving education. The student experience will always be better with satisfied staff who are able to teach to their fullest ability.”

Can DMU students complain and get refunds for missed lectures?

With hundreds of hours of lecture time to be missed during the next five weeks, many students will be all too aware that each cancelled class comes at a real cost.

Students paying £9,250 per year to study will lose out on roughly £61.67 per day.

This equates to paying £863.33 for 14 days of study which will not take place.

It is important to remember that this money goes to the university and not into the back pockets of lecturers.

A call for student compensation has been launched online and has garnered almost 15,000 signatures.

DMU has streamlined its complaints process as a result of the strike action. Students should fill out this form for the best chance to receive compensation.

As of right now, it is not clear how much, if any, money back DMU students can expect to receive.

How can students support the strikes?

UCU DMU is encouraging students to join the picket – with a series of “teach-outs” planned at the picket line.

Students who wish to show their support should also tell DMU that they agree with the four fights.

The UCU has made this process simple with a dedicated web page which will draft an email directly to Interim Vice-Chancellor Andy Collop.

DMU Vice-Chancellor speaks about upcoming strikes

By Oliver Taylor

De Montfort University interim Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andy Collop has issued a statement to students via email on the upcoming University and College Union’s Industrial Action.

Strikes are scheduled to occur for 14 total days over the next five weeks, starting this Thursday.

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DMU Vice-Chancellor Andy Collop. Photo via DMU

The strikes centre on four primary disputes: pay, equality, casualisation and workloads.

Professor Collop’s statement yesterday(MonFEB17) addressed the university’s plan to minimise the impact on students and strides DMU has made in equality and pay in recent years.

He said: “My main priority is to minimise the impact of strike action, and ‘action short of a strike’ (i.e. members working strictly to their contracts), on you and this is something I will be monitoring closely as the action progresses. The duties that will not be covered are: 

•       covering for absent colleagues

•       rescheduling lectures or classes that are cancelled due to strike action

•       sharing materials relating to lectures or classes cancelled as a result of strike action

•       undertaking voluntary activities.

“I understand this will be an unsettling and frustrating time for you and you have many questions on this may impact your studies and learning outcomes.

“While we of course recognise the legal right of employees to take industrial action, we will do everything we can to ensure that you experience minimal disruption to your study as a consequence.”

In 2018 data from the university showed that DMU’s median and mean gender pay gaps in 2018 were 2.6 per cent and 11.9 per cent respectively compared to sector averages of 14.8 per cent and 15.1 per cent. In 2019, the pay gaps were further reduced to 2.2 per cent and 11.2 per cent.

“There is of course more we can do in the other areas (equality and casualisation) but, for example, we don’t use zero-hours contracts and we’re already paying the ‘real’ living wage,” Collop said.

Video: DMU’s pancake-flipping champion talks advice and glory – and winning drunk!

By Ben Sanderson

De Montfort University’s Students’ Union will host its annual Injunction Pancake Toss Competition tomorrow(WedFEB19).

It kicks off at 11pm and will take place on the main stage in the Function Room inside the Students’ Union Building and has attracted a lot of interest on social media.

Last year’s winner, Joseph Collins, talked of his victory: “I won by 10 pancakes!

“There were 2 other people and it took place on the stage of the Function Room.

“I won by ten pancakes, because I built up a bit of rhythm after being drunk at first, and then got into it!”

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Joseph Collins

He said that being drunk during the competition was actually a blessing in disguise, despite the fact that he dropped his pancake at the start of the contest.

“I was quite drunk on stage, which helped me relax, and I have good hand-eye co-ordination, so that helped too.

“You need to go on stage a bit drunk, so you’re not worried about what everyone else is thinking, get rid and relax the nerves a little, and then if you drop it, just shake it off and just try and build a bit of rhythm, just keep going from there.”

The competition was part of four which Joseph and his housemate won over the course of last year: “The first one was a hot dog eating [contest] and I have a big mouth so I took really big bites.

“My flatmate won a spicy wings contest, which is amazing because he doesn’t like spicy food, but he was drunk so he went for it!

“The third one was the pancake-flipping.

“Then my mate won a hot dog eating contest and he’s got a big mouth too so he used that.”

He regrets not eating his pancake, though: “I wish I did eat the pancake, but no, I threw it into the crowd! I just got a bit excited.”

Joseph says he may still take part in this year’s competition to defend his title, but does not know.

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Joseph being congratulated
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Joseph flipping a pancake
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Joseph working hard on the pancakes

Video: Student raises awareness of charity and encourages others to take part

by Abigail Beresford

A first-year Psychology student at De Montfort University volunteers for the charity ‘Guide Dogs’ and is encouraging others to take part in the amazing work the charity does.

“The charity works with the visually impaired, helping them get about and with their mental health. We help train puppies to provide to them, and help with their day-to-day lives,” Erica Page explained.

“This helps people get out and about, who may not have much mobility or do not have access to a guide dog, and they struggle to get about in areas that they don’t really know. It really helps them to not be isolated and shut off.”

The charity was established 90 years ago, and has since provided ‘life-changing services’ to over 360,000 people.

Events are held regularly held in order to grow awareness of the charity and raise money.

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A Guide Dog charity walk (Photo: by Erica Page)

Erica explained that the charity has always played a large role in her life.

“My mum worked for the charity for about 10 years, then had a small break, and has been back for another 2 years. The charity has played such a big part in my life and I just kind of want to give a bit back to it.”

Over the past few months, Erica has participated by volunteering as a ‘sighted guide’. This involves taking trainee guide dogs on walks, and teaching them how to behave.

She exemplifies that it is possible to do volunteer work alongside studies, and that it can be just as easy for other students.

“I’ve told friends from University and from back at home about the charity, and really hope that they’ll take part alongside me.”

For more information of how to volunteer and work for the charity, visit: https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do

Video: Students unhappy about planned strike action take a stand

By George Boyd

Staff from 74 academic institutions across England and Wales are set to go on 14 days of strikes over equal pay and working conditions.

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De Montfort University, Leicester 

The strikes, organised by The University and College Union (UCC) begin on Thursday (FEB20) and will continue over a set schedule that has been released to the public, with the last date being March 17.

There has been an uproar from students whose studies are being impacted, with some petitioning to claim back the tuition costs for the period affected.

DMU student Olivia Wallace, 19, stated: “I don’t think the strikes are impacting my course, but I have friends who are being affected and I think that people like him should get their money back.

“This is exam period, and the strikes are just adding extra stress to already stressed out students.”

Numerous emails have been sent out to students within the institutions affected, one email from De Montfort University stating: “We would like to reassure you we are working hard to avoid or minimise disruptions to your studies as much as possible.”

But some say it’s still not enough.

Olivia added: “I know that uni tutors are already on a fair amount of money and in terms of equal pay, everyone should get the same.”