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Industrial action 2020: student FAQs

Student-led questions and answers. This list will be added to over the course of the planned industrial action as further queries are raised. 

Why are staff taking industrial action?

Following a ballot on industrial action some staff who are members of the University and College Union (UCU) are choosing to take industrial action in opposition to proposed changes to arrangements for staff in the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and also because they do not accept the last national pay award for university staff and concerns over pay gaps and casualisation across the sector. Fuller details on these matters can be found on the UCU, UCEA and USS web pages.

What form will industrial action take?

Strike action may take the form of ‘’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 have announced 14 days of strike action which are to commence Thursday 20 February to the end of Friday 13 March 2020.

  • Week 7 - Thursday 20 February and Friday 21 February
  • Week 8 - Monday 24 February, Tuesday 25 February and Wednesday 26 February
  • Week 9 - Monday 2 March, Tuesday 3 March, Wednesday 4 March and Thursday 5 March
  • Week 10 - Monday 9 March, Tuesday 10 March, Wednesday 11 March, Thursday 12 March and Friday 13 March

The period where staff may take Action Short of a Strike (ASOS) continues.

What is the University’s position on the issue?

Warwick is one of 74 universities across the UK where staff have voted to take strike action. Warwick as an individual university is not directly involved in the negotiations on any of the issues over which there is strike action. Over pensions, we are represented by UUK. On pay, we are represented by UCEA. However we understand the concerns and frustrations of UCU members particularly regarding the ongoing debate on how USS can best be preserved and protected.

As Warwick’s Vice-Chancellor, Stuart Croft has continued to work directly with UCU, UUK, and UCEA. The focus of the University’s attention during this industrial action will be on student progression and the student experience.

What is the University doing in response?

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

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

Whilst the university can request this information to support planning and advance notifications to students of any cancellations and alternatives, under employment law, staff are not obliged to inform the University in advance if they plan to take industrial action. Most staff electing to take action want to mitigate any inconvenience to students and so will do their utmost to make any change to their usual commitments known. Staff can self-declare when they are intending to take days of strike-action or ASOS using the HR system Success Factors.

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 where this is feasible, and for notifications to be sent to students directly. 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 necessary learning can be delivered should industrial action impact their usual academic timetable. Measures could include, subject to feasibility and capacity:

Alternative practical arrangements

  • Making some ‘short’ or low credit modules which may be particularly affected by staff absence, available in a subsequent term or year of study.
  • Rescheduling of time / date / delivering staff
  • Re-allocating affected students to different seminar groups
  • Re-ordering module content to ensure priority material is covered within the remaining scheduled classes
  • Replacing revision classes with content from missed classes
  • Re-arranging individual supervisions
  • Drop-in sessions

Using a Virtual Learning Environment

  • Publishing lecture notes or other content on module websites
  • Using lecture capture where materials are available and remain current and permission has been granted by the author
  • Material from previous years added to the VLE
  • Initiated student discussions online via online discussion boards instead of facilitated group learning in seminars

Further independent study

  • Suggesting directed reading material
  • Directing students to library resources
Where/how can I get information on classes that have been cancelled?

Departments will notify you directly where possible. 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 or through Moodle. Please check your Warwick email account and your department’s webpages regularly. As per question (4), general information about the situation at Warwick will be available via MyWarwick.

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

Can I swap seminars if my seminar leader is taking industrial action but another member of staff teaching the same module isn't?

This is at the discretion of staff taking action and 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.

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, even if the staff member wants to provide this option. 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.

You will be notified if this is the case.

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

You will be able to take the modules you 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 Student Mobility team in Student Opportunity.

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.

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. The University expects to be able to ensure that the necessary material can be delivered across its academic programmes. In the event that any student feels disadvantaged by the impact of strike action upon them, they may submit a complaint to the University via the Complaints procedure.

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 should speak to supervisors, the Director of Graduate Studies or Director of Education 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. If you want to keep a record, please keep notes if you meet with your tutor or supervisor.

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

You may also share general feedback with the University via

Can I submit mitigating circumstances if my studies are affected by industrial 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. You can find further information about the mitigating circumstances policy and access a helpful guide to filling in a claim.

What happens if I join the strike action and do not attend lectures or seminars?

You should attend lectures and seminars as normal, particularly as any material covered could form part of future assessments, unless you have been informed by your department or tutor that a particular session has been cancelled. The University will not make any arrangements to replace sessions that are running normally so you should be aware of this if you decide not to attend them. Your department will record your attendance or absence during the period of industrial action in the normal way. Any absences will be recorded as an absence.

What happens if I support the industrial action and choose not to attend rescheduled classes or engage in replacement learning opportunities?

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 or provide alternative learning opportunities 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.

How will industrial action affect exams?

Support arrangements are being put in place so that the impact upon exams is mitigated as far as possible, for example by using alternative resources and regulations to govern assessment in such circumstances.

The University needs to ensure that all forms of assessment, including examinations, match the curriculum, with due reference to course-level learning outcomes and retaining the full academic rigour required from such assessments.

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

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 Doctoral College should there be any changes to the date for your viva.

I’m a PhD student due to invigilate exams. What impact will industrial action have on this?

The University recognises that doctoral students undertake a significant amount of examination invigilation and it is possible that some staff also due to invigilate will elect not to fulfil this role during strike action.

The University will have put contingency plans in place to ensure sufficient numbers of invigilators are available to be deployed at short notice in the event that this occurs.

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

Taught students

Research students

  • your supervisor(s)
  • the Director of Graduate Studies or Director of Education in your department
  • the head of department or their nominated deputy

All students

Read a blog post from VC Stuart Croft on proposed industrial action this term