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UCU strike: a controversial matter

Writer: Ilaria Grasso Macola, BA International Relations


  • Ellis Warren, BA Japanese and Economics: “I support the strike, I’m fully behind it. At the same time, I really value my classes and my Japanese teacher has been very kind in going ahead with the classes despite the strike, so I feel inclined to go to class”.
  • Student: “I fully support the strike and the cause behind it, but I had to enter because I have an exam tomorrow. Other than that I wouldn’t have come in”.
  • Student: “Me and my friend just crossed the picket line, because we support the strike but we should be allowed to use the facilities”
  • Student: “I understand why they do it but […] I still need to access the building, because I don’t have a place to study”
  • Student: “The emails that the lecturers sent out, saying that the topics they’re not going to cover are to be covered by the students themselves…it’s absurd, because they still are going to examine us”.
  • George, a final year Law student, said that he supports the strike with a few caveats. His main problem with it was that there should have been a uniform approach to making students aware of it would impact them. Moreover, he linked the strike with a broader economic transition, where the value of university will go down as a result of student debts, and alternatives for higher education will pop up.
  • A Masters student: “This is part of me striking within the strike because I don’t think SOAS administration deserve for me to pay the full tuition. Three weeks of classes that are cancelled should be taken out of our tuition fees. […] I am an international self-funded student so why would I give my money to SOAS if I am not getting the services [that I’m paying for]? Those are my savings from work and my family are refugees so I need the money more than SOAS does”.
  • Student: “It’s a pity that the SU did not have a voting for it. They just made the decision and to some extent, the SU doesn’t stand for us [students]”.
  • Student: “I boycotted classes the first two strike days in solidarity, and many if not all of my lectures are cancelled for the next three weeks.  I support the aims of the strike and the demands of the lecturers.
    However, the conduct on the picket line today [26th Feb] in front of the main building was aggressive and in-your-face. The library is not striking, so there is no reason for students not to use it. Yet I was accosted demanding to know if I knew there was a strike (how could I not know?) and my way was blocked.  I had to ask the person to move out of my way.
    It made me absolutely furious to be challenged by someone who knows nothing about me and who is not supposed to be blocking the way. A fellow student of mine was called “selfish” to her face.
    This is not the right way to build support for the strike or the requests of the lecturers.”



  • Nisha, Co-president ‘Democracy and Education’: “We have been trying to engage the students in different ways, including the Open Forum we had and the student meeting to discuss the future of higher education. We did try to take it to a Union General Meeting (UGM) on the 17th of January as an emergency motion. […] that UGM did not make quorum, due to turn-up and so the emergency motion was no longer valid when the UGM was rescheduled for the 22nd of January”.
  • Dimitri, Co-president ‘Welfare and Campaigns’: “I would invite students to take more thoughts in terms of how they can use the power they actually hold in this institution, because they both hold a lot of power over the institution and also over their own SU, and that has always been information that we tried to make as clear as possible.” The Co-president also called for re-directing the frustration and anger towards “those who are actually threatening our education and our working conditions, as opposed to directing it at each other”.
  • Blanca, BA International Relations and Geography, said that she supports the strike not only as a student but also as Academic officer. “It is our duty as students to support our lecturers in their strike, because without them having dignifying working conditions, we can’t have the education that we deserve”. “We need to contextualise the strike into the wider context of the commodification of education in this neoliberal system and understand that what is going on right now, it all fits into the privatisation of education”
  • An international student: “The change in the lecturers’ pension scheme is unjust and it’s the symptom of a gradual privatisation of a good, education, that should be seen as a first necessity good. Not recognising the lecturers’ right to a decent pension is unacceptable.”
  • Ciro, BA Politics and World Philosophies, while he was handing out flyers supporting the strike. “It’s a totally necessary and legitimate action that we’re taking and we have to make sure that, event though we’re supposed to be powerless and we’re supposed to be viewed as consumers only, we’re the ones that have to take responsibility.”
  • International students are also demonstrating because they are worried about a spillover effect in their home countries. “I’m from India and I know that there have a lot of strikes about the privatisation and divestment from public education’s structure and schemes in India. The problem here is that if we don’t make some noise about this right now, this a disastrous policy that is going to end up being copied and implemented in India and pushed onto an academic system that’s already in shambles.”

The reasons for either crossing or standing outside the picket line are numerous, but overall there is a communal idea of support for those striking. Whether this is problematic, it will be up to the reader to decide.

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