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UCU industrial action at Warwick 2018: FAQs

On this page, we list a number of staff and student-led questions and provide answers to these queries. We will add to this list over the course of the planned strike action as further queries are raised. You can set a notification alert on this page to see new information as it is added.

Staff

FAQs on assessment and examination arrangements (added 21/03/18)

1. What is the University doing to mitigate the impact of strikes on student exams?

The University’s Steering Committee has invoked Regulation 41, which relates to the absence of exam marks as a result of significant disruption – in this case industrial action – which has prevented the delivery of teaching as expected and impacted on the availability of marks.

Invoking Regulation 41 means:

  • that up to 30% of a student’s mark profile can be disregarded when the University considers whether they may progress from one year of a course to the next, or whether an award may be made in the case of final year students. Note, a Board of Examiners is required to consider a student’s full mark profile once this becomes available.
  • that the Vice-Chancellor can approve that Boards of Examiners meetings proceed if attendance fails to meet the minimum required number or the external examiner is unable to attend.

2. What can I do to mitigate the impact for students in my own department?

Heads of Departments will ensure that provision is in place so that students are supported to meet the learning outcomes required of them by their courses of study. Enabling students to complete their courses should take priority over all other activities, and the following measures may be utilised: publishing lecture notes or other content on module websites; re-ordering module content to ensure priority material is covered within the remaining scheduled classes; re-arranging individual supervisions; replacing revision classes with content from missed classes; suggesting directed reading material; using lecture capture where materials are available and remain current; direct students to library resources and prioritising the marking of coursework.

This priority order for rescheduling should be driven by the need to demonstrate course-level learning outcomes for final year students on professionally accredited courses; then for other finalists, then for students in other years of study, and then by module learning outcomes that cannot be achieved by means other than face‐face teaching. Support can be offered by the Central Timetabling team, who will be able to advise on what is practically possible in centrally-managed teaching spaces.

3. Prioritising these measures may mean I am unable to complete other areas of work. What should I do?

Each Head of Department should advise their staff on tasks that might need to be set aside in favour of the most pressing priorities. Mitigating the impact of any strike on students and enabling them successfully to progress and be awarded their degrees is the University’s highest priority during the period April-July 2018.

4. How will the University manage the setting of exam papers?

Examination papers for the summer term exam session should have been submitted to the Examinations team in the Academic Office, members of whom are liaising with departments over omissions. Departments should ensure that papers only reflect content delivered to students. Where Professional, Statutory or Regulatory Body recognition or accreditation requires the inclusion of material not yet delivered, this should be raised directly with Professor David Lamburn, Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) or Katharine Gray, Senior Assistant Registrar (Teaching Quality).

Where delivery of content has been compromised by industrial action, departments are asked to review questions set on exam papers and consider whether students could be directed to disregard specific questions and still successfully demonstrate achievement of all course-level learning outcomes. Where this is not feasible because material not delivered is embedded in questions throughout an exam paper, departments should consider revising these questions to exclude such material, as a matter of priority. This should only be done where all attempts to deliver the expected content have been exhausted.

5. How will I prioritise marking as we move forward?

Our priority over May and June will be marking exam papers. Finalists’ exam papers should be prioritised. First and intermediate year students will be informed via MyWarwick in the event that there is delay in marking scripts or providing feedback to them on assessed work. Students will continue to expect the timely return of assessed work and should be alerted in the event that the usual 20-day turnaround time for the provision of feedback on assessed work will not be met.

Departments will need to give consideration to the alternative assessment of elements of courses due to be assessed by means other than written assignments which might have been affected by strike action, e.g. group work or presentations.

6. Will students be able to graduate as expected?

We are expecting summer degree ceremonies to go ahead as planned, and will share more information about this with finalists. In limited circumstances, some students may graduate with an unclassified degree in July and receive confirmation of classification with their full degree certificate once their full set of marks becomes available.

7. How can I support students who are concerned about their academic progression?

Students are advised to speak to their personal tutor in the first instance, or their module/departmental senior tutor if preferred. We ask that departments contact students if their tutor or supervisor is unavailable, and provide details for an alternative member of staff. Students may also speak to their head of department or nominated deputy.

Please also reassure students that the University has mechanisms in place to consider their performance in light of the disruption to their teaching.

Wellbeing Support Services (WSS) provides guidance and support on a range of issues, or students can contact the Student Advice Centre in the Students’ Union. They may also share general feedback with the University via academic.continuity@warwick.ac.uk

8. How will meetings of Boards of Examiners proceed?

Heads of Departments should prioritise the timely marking of exam scripts and summative assessments in order that as much credit as possible may be made available to Boards of Examiners. Individual component marks and their credit value should be shown on Exam Board grids so that incomplete modules may be considered.

Departments should seek the participation of External Examiners in Exam Board meetings in the usual way. Where Externals indicate that they will not fulfil their anticipated role, Heads of Departments should report this to the Vice-Chancellor, and should report if quorum cannot be reached for a meeting of a Board of Examiners.

Boards of Examiners may take decisions open to them under Regulation 41. In line with this, Boards will need to reconvene to consider a student’s full mark profile once missing marks become available for a final year candidate. Departments will wish to give early consideration to the scheduling of further meetings of Boards to fulfil this function if required, and work with colleagues in the Exams and Teaching Quality teams to determine the mechanism via which students will be informed of the final outcome of their examinations.

Departments are advised to keep careful records of all aspects of examination board procedures and documentation upon which decisions were based.

9. Can students make applications for consideration of mitigating circumstances?

Students have been advised that we will seek to reschedule teaching cancelled due to strike action, or provide alternative means of delivering course content so that academic progression is not impacted. Where the University has been able to re-schedule teaching or put alternative provision in place, students have been advised that they are expected to engage with these activities. Whilst acknowledging that some students have sought to express solidarity with staff during the recent action, a decision not to engage with these replacement activities will not be considered within mitigating circumstances procedures. Neither will assessments or examinations be adjusted in these instances.

If students feel that the strike has had a significant impact upon their ability to study or complete assessed work, it will be possible to submit a case for consideration of mitigating circumstances to their academic department in the usual way. Students will need to show clearly how the strike has impacted upon their ability to study or complete assessments. Where relevant, the evidence presented by a student in a case for mitigating circumstances should be cross-referenced with records in academic departments teaching that has been cancelled.

In the light of departments’ knowledge of the impact of industrial action on specific classes/modules, an academic department may seek to make a claim for mitigating circumstances on behalf of a specific student cohort, and to clarify to the affected students in this eventuality to avoid the need for individual students to make such a case in this instance.

FAQS - February 2018

1. What will happen if students have missed some teaching required for their summer exams?

Colleagues in Central Timetabling are able to provide staff in academic departments with information about the teaching that is scheduled to be delivered on strike days. Should teaching have to be cancelled as a result of industrial action, Central Timetabling will support departments in re-scheduling activities into centrally timetabled teaching rooms and will be able to perform clash-checking for lecture activities.

Departments may also re-schedule cancelled teaching in locally-timetabled rooms depending on their availability, but clashes in student timetables should still be taken into account. The early summer term – prior to the start of the summer term examination period – will offer some opportunities for teaching to be re-scheduled, although there are already many sessions scheduled for these weeks. It is advisable to put in requests to Central Timetabling as early as possible to allow for the best planning of the timetable. Notification to students of cancellations and re-scheduled sessions should also occur as far in advance as possible, via Tabula, the MyWarwick app, direct email and/or via module tutors’ webpages. See question (5) on notifying students of cancellations.

2. What will happen if some staff don’t mark exam scripts or don’t release students’ marks?

The priority is on safeguarding the student experience and prioritising the completion of summative assessment for all students, particularly Finalists. Heads of department should work with staff to seek to identify colleagues who take action and to ensure that the priority work these members of staff would ordinarily have undertaken is re-directed to enable scripts to be marked promptly and marks to be entered into SITS. Boards of Examiners should have available to them as many component marks as possible when making progression decisions.

3. What will happen if some staff choose not to act as exam invigilators?

It is the responsibility of academic departments to provide invigilators for University exams. In the event of some staff choosing not to act as invigilators as a result of strike action or ASOS, the department(s) concerned will be asked to provide alternative invigilators. Where this is not possible, the University also maintains a pool of standby invigilators to ensure examinations can proceed as planned.

4. What will happen if external examiners take industrial action?

Departments should try to check with their external examiners for boards of examiners to identify where there may be impact on these events. The University’s Regulation 41, which provides for altered assessment arrangements in certain situations, provides for boards of examiners to meet without the participation of an external examiner in specific circumstances.

Heads of department (HoDs) should also seek to confirm availability with external examiners for vivas, and liaise with them, the Graduate School and students if there is need to reschedule.

5. How do I notify students of cancelled teaching sessions?

In the event that a teaching session needs to be cancelled, the following process should be undertaken by the teaching department. In order to minimise disruption to students – for example if they are travelling to attend lectures, departments should seek to notify students as far in advance as they can of cancellations.

Email notifications can be sent to students by using Mass Mailing for lecture (whole group) events or Tabula for small group events as follows:

Using the Mass Mail service

For lecture activities, you can send an email to all students on a module by doing the following:
Click here to bring up the screen shown. Then select the module-offering department from the drop-down list, choose the ‘Module’ radio button and click on ‘Select’.

Strike action - image 1

On the next screen, start to enter the module code and select the correct option from the auto-complete list that appears. Click on ‘Add Selected’ and then ‘Next’.
You should now see this screen and be able to write the email contents into the main box and send.

Tabula Small Group Teaching

A user with ‘Departmental Administrator’ permissions can send an email to students allocated to any small group event. Other users are only able to send emails to groups that relate to their specific permissions. For example, a ‘module manager’ is able to send an email to all students on any event for that module.
To use this function, find the list of students for the small group event, scroll to the bottom and select ‘Email these students’ as shown on the screenshot.

Strike action - image 2

Further to this:
  • notifications can also be sent using the MyWarwick app.
  • Delete the event so it is not displayed on personalised timetables.

For lecture (whole group) activities contact Central Timetabling.

For small group activities, this can be done on Tabula by any users with the appropriate permissions.

6. Can students from other seminar groups attend classes with other seminar leaders if their own seminar leaders are taking industrial action?

Each teaching venue is timetabled based on the planned student numbers for each class and it may not be possible to accommodate additional numbers safely in an existing booking. If academic departments are able to identify alternative larger venues locally or through central timetabling, they may feel able to support movement between classes. This is at the discretion of departments, who will be keeping records of all the teaching that needs to be delivered to ensure that re-scheduling or other appropriate steps are in place to enable students to continue to progress.

7. What do I do when Tier 4 student monitoring points fall during industrial action?

Students’ attendance records should not be negatively impacted where there is industrial action by staff in their academic department. Departments should record the monitoring point as an authorised absence with a note to say that this is due to industrial action. This should not be added to the list of missed monitoring points that each department sends to Student Records Management at the end of the term. This should, therefore, not have an impact on students’ visas.

8. What processes should I follow if I take industrial action?

An individual is under no legal obligation to inform the University in advance that they are intending to participate in a day of action or ASOS. We request that they notify us (self-declare) of strike action days in advance to facilitate mitigation planning and to minimise disruption to students through enabling the communication of advance warning of teaching cancellations.

Under USS regulations, the University will continue to pay 'employer' contributions to the USS pension scheme for staff who take strike action, but individuals can choose whether or not to make 'employee' contributions. Individuals can notify the University of their choice in the self-declaration form. It is a USS insurance cover requirement that individuals who choose not to make employee contributions but do want to sustain death in service benefits (which would otherwise fall away if they stop making contributions whilst on strike) must declare that they are taking strike action before the action occurs.

It is legitimate for HoDs to ask staff whether they intend to participate in action. When individuals do self-declare, or are reported as participating in strike action, HoDs and the HR team will share this information between them.

9. Will I be treated differently at work if I take industrial action?

HoDs are expected to ensure that individuals taking part in strike action or ASOS are not subject to behaviour that disadvantages them for taking part, that they continue to include all staff in all usual departmental communications, meetings and development opportunities, and that they continue to operate departmental arrangements for annual leave, reporting sickness absence and working from home as usual.

10. Who can I speak to if I have concerns or feedback on the impact of industrial action?

You should speak to your head of department or their nominated deputy in the first instance. You may also contact your departmental HR adviser, or Wellbeing Support Services. For general questions or feedback, contact academic dot continuity at warwick dot ac dot uk. There will be separate arrangements made for ongoing support for HoDs.

11. What sanctions does the University use in the event of industrial action?

In the case of strike action, the University will withhold a day’s pay for each day that a member of staff takes part in a day of action. A day’s pay will be calculated on the basis of 1/365th of a member of staff’s annual salary. Please note, this replaces the previous calculation of 1/260th.

As long as the contract is being performed there will be no deduction of pay. We will be asking individuals to focus their contractual time on assessment, feedback, teaching and other activities which enable student to progress and succeed. Where individuals are only partially delivering against their contract (ASOS), the University reserves the right to deduct 25% of a day’s pay for each day that a member of staff participates in ASOS.

These deductions will apply equally to academic and professional and commercial services staff.

12. Will my pension contributions be affected if I take strike action?

In line with USS guidance, the University will continue to pay ‘employer’ contributions to USS for the days a member of staff takes strike action. However, individuals can choose whether they wish to pay the ‘employee’ contribution for a day of strike action or not. Individuals can indicate their choice when completing the self-declaration form, and appropriate adjustments will be made to pay and contributions as necessary.

It is a USS insurance cover requirement that individuals who choose not to make employee contributions but do want to sustain death in service benefits (which would otherwise fall away if they stop making contributions whilst on strike) must declare that they are taking strike action before the action occurs.

Students

1. Why are staff striking?

Some staff are members of the University and College Union (UCU) and are choosing to take part in industrial action as a consequence of proposed changes to arrangements for staff in the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension scheme. These changes involve a proposal to discontinue the element of the scheme guaranteeing a certain level of pension income in retirement. A proposal made by Universities UK (UUK), which is the University employers’ representative body, would move all of members’ earnings on to a defined contribution model, in order to close a deficit estimated by USS to be £7.5 billion. Details of UCU’s position on this matter are shared at on the UCU webpages. There is also further information on the proposed pension scheme changes which has been shared with USS members at Warwick.

2. What form will strike action take?

Strike action is defined by UCU as any concerted stoppage of work, and action short of a strike (ASOS) could take the form of working to contract, not undertaking voluntary duties, not covering for absent colleagues and not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action.

UCU members nationally have voted to take strike action from 22 February for a four-week period, and to take ASOS from 22 February to 19 June.

There are 14 potential days of strike action:

  • Week one - Thursday 22 and Friday 23 February
  • Week two - Monday 26, Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 February
  • Week three - Monday 5, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 March
  • Week four - Monday 12, Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Thursday 15 and Friday 16 March

3. What is the University’s position on the issue?

Warwick is one of 61 universities across the UK where staff have voted to take strike action. We understand the concerns and frustrations of UCU members regarding the national negotiations on the USS proposals. Stuart Croft, as Vice-Chancellor, has sought to engage directly with UUK, and made public comment on the negotiations and his concerns about the USS proposals. In the last few months, Stuart has sought to engage the employer representative body, Universities UK (UUK), on this matter and give his recommendations in a letter, and he has also shared his concerns publicly on the VC’s blog. The focus of our attention is on student progression and student experience.

4. What is the University doing in response?

We are reviewing all our usual teaching and other operations to assess where departments need to take mitigating action need to avoid disruption to student progression and completion. There will be regular updates on the overall situation at Warwick shared via the MyWarwick portal. Departments will communicate with students directly where there are cancellations and rearrangements, or alternative provision being put in place.

5. Why don’t staff have to tell the University in advance if they are taking action?

Legally, staff are not obliged to inform the University in advance if they plan to take industrial action, though we reserve the right to request this information to support planning and advance notifications to students of any cancellations and alternatives. Most staff electing to take action want to avoid any inconvenience to students and so will do their utmost to make any change to their usual commitments known.

6. How will the University ensure I receive all the teaching or supervision expected for my course?

Arrangements are being put in place to enable cancellation and rearrangement of teaching or supervision sessions to take place as efficiently as possible and for notifications to be sent to students directly where this is feasible. Departments will ensure that students are advised of local means of notifying them of cancellations.

Academic departments will be supported to identify alternative ways to ensure planned teaching outcomes can be delivered should industrial action impact their usual academic timetable. This may include: re-scheduling some teaching for non-strike days; using time available in the early part of the summer term for teaching when otherwise the emphasis is traditionally on revision classes and the use of online resources where these have been provided as a component of a current module including lecture recordings, reading lists and other online materials.

7. Where/how can I get information on classes that have been cancelled?

Departments will notify you directly. This will be through Tabula, where your department uses it, or email, and/or the MyWarwick app. In some departments, staff will also publish information about cancelled classes on the module webpage. Please check your Warwick email account and your department’s webpages regularly. As per (4), general information about the situation at Warwick will be available via the MyWarwick portal.

Please assume that any scheduled teaching is set to go ahead unless you are informed otherwise.

8. Can I swap seminars if my seminar leader is striking but another member of staff teaching the same module isn't?

Each teaching venue is timetabled based on the planned student numbers for each class and it may not be possible to accommodate additional numbers safely in an existing booking. If your academic department is able to identify alternative larger venues locally or through central timetabling, they may feel able to support you moving seminars. This is at the discretion of departments, who will be keeping records of all the teaching that needs to be delivered to ensure that re-scheduling or appropriate steps are in place to enable you to continue to progress.

9. How will the strike affect exams?

Support arrangements are being put in place so that exams are not affected by strike action or that the impact is largely mitigated, for example by using alternative resources and regulations to govern assessment in such circumstances.

The University will ask all academic departments to ensure that all forms of assessment, including examinations, are set in a manner that ensures that they match the curriculum that has actually been delivered to students, with due reference to course-level learning outcomes, while retaining the full academic rigour required from such assessments.

10. I’m a visiting/exchange student; what impact will the industrial action have on me?

It is expected that impact should be minimal. Students will be able to take the modules they elected to study at Warwick through planned or alternative means, undertake any associated assessment, and have grades confirmed in line with expected schedules. Please discuss any concerns you may have with your department. Additional support is available from the International Student Office.

11. I have my PhD viva on a strike day; will it go ahead?

Please contact your head of department to confirm arrangements. They will be in touch with your examiners to confirm availability and will discuss with you any need to reschedule. Your department will notify the Graduate School should there be any changes to the date for your viva.

12. Will I get some of my fees back for teaching cancelled as a consequence of industrial action?

Academic departments will be supported to identify alternative ways to ensure required learning outcomes can be delivered if industrial action impacts the delivery of their usual teaching timetable. This may include: re-scheduling some teaching in the early part of the summer term where feasible; the involvement of alternative staff in delivery of some material and the use of lecture capture where there is content appropriate for the relevant programme of study. The University expects to be able to ensure that the necessary material can be delivered across its academic programmes. For this reason, it is not anticipated that refunds would need to be made.

13. I am a Tier 4 visa holder. Will the industrial action affect my attendance record and visa?

Your attendance record should not be negatively impacted where there is industrial action by staff in your academic department. Departments will record the monitoring point as an authorised absence with a note to say that this is due to industrial action. This will not be added to the list of missed monitoring points that your department sends to Student Records Management at the end of the term. This should, therefore, not have an impact on your visa.

14. Who can I speak to if I have concerns or feedback on the impact of industrial action?

Where you have concerns regarding your academic progression, taught students can always seek to speak to your personal tutor in the first instance, or you may also speak to your module tutor or your departmental senior tutor. Research students can speak to one of your supervisors, or the Director of Graduate Studies in your department. Your department will let you know if an alternative member of staff is nominated as your initial contact if your own tutor or supervisor is unavailable. You may also contact the head of department or their nominated deputy.

Wellbeing Support Services (WSS) also provide guidance and support on a range of issues. You can find out more and contact them via the WSS webpages, or you can contact the Student Advice Centre in the Students’ Union.

You may also share general feedback with the University via academic dot continuity at warwick dot ac dot uk.

15. Can I submit mitigating circumstances if my studies are affected by strike action?

The University aims to reschedule teaching sessions affected by the proposed strike wherever possible to minimise disruption to your studies. If however you feel that the strike has had a significant impact on your ability to study or complete assessed work, you can submit mitigating circumstances to your department in line with usual procedures. When submitting mitigating circumstances, your declaration form and supporting evidence submitted need to show clearly how the strike has impacted on your ability to study or complete assessments. For further information about the mitigating circumstances policy, please see: https://warwick.ac.uk/services/aro/dar/quality/categories/examinations/policies/u_mitigatingcircumstances/.

16. What happens if I support the industrial action and choose not to attend rescheduled classes?

The University is committed to ensuring that, where classes or supervision are cancelled as a result of industrial action, alternative arrangements are put in place to deliver planned learning outcomes as far as is possible. We understand that some students will sympathise with views of staff taking industrial action and may not therefore wish to engage with rescheduled activities or other alternative arrangements. The University respects the right of students to express their views. However, where the University has been able to put alternative arrangements in place to replace cancelled classes and students have not engaged with these, this cannot be taken into consideration as mitigating circumstances nor can assessments be adjusted, as these assessments are designed to test achievement of approved learning outcomes for the module or course.