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University Strikes: How are you affected? watch

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    Still doing A-levels
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    I'm going to miss 7 lectures/seminars due to the strike action. I would have missed even more, but one of my lecturers is doing work-to-rule (working 9 to 5, and then doing no marking etc. outside of those hours) as her way of protesting, so her lectures are still going ahead.
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    Surprised there are genuinely students who support these strikes.

    First of all, you're indebting yourself anywhere between 40 and ±150 pounds per hour of contact time, that is how much your lecturers and university services cost. While you may very well not be getting much out of contact time anyway, it is still something you are paying for, not anyone else. This is identical to purchasing a concert ticket or a flight and then having it cancelled and not getting your money back. Except at 6% interest.

    Second of all, you're a stakeholder at the university by virtue of being a student - a customer. Customers at any organisation are often at conflicting odds with other stakeholders, in this case employees. You're not in the same boat.

    Universities around the UK are cutting pensions because they have contractually offered guaranteed schemes which they simply cannot afford. Pensions are outsourced to pension funds and they have two main sources of income:
    A) Contributions by existing employees on the pension scheme
    B) Returns on investment

    and this funds the main destination of expenditure: retirees on the pension scheme.

    There are two main problems with the ways that pension schemes operate, not just in universities but in the private sector. Think bhs, Carillon, BBC etc. This is also not remotely limited to the UK - identical cuts are thrown across mainland Europe and the US.

    1) The secondary problem is that the amount of retirees on the schemes is rising rapidly, while the amount of contributors is largely the same. This is because people are living longer.
    2) The main problem is that returns on investment have crashed: low-risk investments such as treasury and corporate bonds now yield dramatically lower interest rates than in previous years. This makes pension schemes unsustainable if they made assumptions such as "yearly 5%" when in reality the last time we had 5% interest rates on treasury bonds was in 2007. This is similar to governments assuming a long-term trend of 2% inflation when in reality this is rarely the case.

    In 1995 US treasury bonds yielded 16% - meaning you'd need $100 million to fund $16 million in yearly payouts to retirees.
    In 2018 US treasury bonds yield 1.5% - meaning you'd need $1.07 billion to fund $16 million in yearly payouts to retirees.

    This is obviously completely unsustainable if you are a low-risk pension fund (which, by nature of being a pension fund, you must be). The problem of economies of scale also exists, so smaller pension funds (such as those of universities') are simply too small to have enough capital to invest for the payouts they need.

    There are only 3 options here:
    1) Raise tuition fees to fund payments to retirees on university pension schemes
    2) Cut or reduce university services, facilities and course modules in order to cut costs and finance higher retirement expenditures
    3) Universities follow other industry experiments and move away from pension funds and stick contributions to higher-risk investments such as equity markets, which do not have a guaranteed return, have much bigger fluctuation and can crash to below initial investment - unlike bonds.

    Options 1 and 2 are objectively negative to students. Option 3 is indirectly negative to students.

    I don't know why anyone as a student would support the strike action unless they either stand to financially benefit (i.e. their parents are academics or they plan to become one themselves) or they are ideologically dogmatic and think any strike action is just the common man sticking it to Davos, and are prepared to take the personal financial costs if it means someone else is better off.
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    (Original post by MagicalMedic)
    I was told by a friend at UCL that the strikes also affect admissions offices. As someone waiting for an answer from their university I'm getting a bit anxious how this might affect my situation
    Not sure how correct that is. Check who the UCU actually represent (I would myself but I'm on my phone). It won't affect the outcome of your offer either way, and if they did strike it wouldn't affect the university's obligation to respond before a certain deadline. Admissions tutors may well be affected, and as a result receiving the offer might be delayed compared to what it would have been otherwise, but either way you won't know whether that's the case or not, since you don't know when the offer or rejection will arrive.
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    (Original post by LostAccount)
    Surprised there are genuinely students who support these strikes.

    First of all, you're indebting yourself anywhere between 40 and ±150 pounds per hour of contact time, that is how much your lecturers and university services cost. While you may very well not be getting much out of contact time anyway, it is still something you are paying for, not anyone else. This is identical to purchasing a concert ticket or a flight and then having it cancelled and not getting your money back. Except at 6% interest.

    Second of all, you're a stakeholder at the university by virtue of being a student - a customer. Customers at any organisation are often at conflicting odds with other stakeholders, in this case employees. You're not in the same boat.

    Universities around the UK are cutting pensions because they have contractually offered guaranteed schemes which they simply cannot afford. Pensions are outsourced to pension funds and they have two main sources of income:
    A) Contributions by existing employees on the pension scheme
    B) Returns on investment

    and this funds the main destination of expenditure: retirees on the pension scheme.

    This is obviously completely unsustainable if you are a low-risk pension fund (which, by nature of being a pension fund, you must be). The problem of economies of scale also exists, so smaller pension funds (such as those of universities') are simply too small to have enough capital to invest for the payouts they need.
    I don't feel like I'm losing out since it's not my money anyway.

    The difference with a ticket for a flight or concert is you pay for it all. This is 4 weeks in 3 years for most people.

    The university sector's economic model is unsustainable, that's been obvious for some time. But it doesn't stop students getting degrees.

    I don't think students are in the same boat, but we have a common opponent in the form of university management.
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    (Original post by 04MR17)

    The university sector's economic model is unsustainable
    Not really. Universities funded by a virtual graduate tax aren't unsustainable. Bit different from the US.

    (Original post by 04MR17)
    I don't think students are in the same boat, but we have a common opponent in the form of university management.
    And this strike action will help you in your woes against the common enemy how?
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    (Original post by LostAccount)
    And this strike action will help you in your woes against the common enemy how?
    Oh it won't. But I didn't say it would, and I'm not standing on the picket line.

    Also, I'm talking specifically about the UK system.
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    (Original post by 04MR17)
    Oh it won't. But I didn't say it would, and I'm not standing on the picket line.

    Also, I'm talking specifically about the UK system.
    So am I. How is it unsustainable?

    I mean you can argue it is unsustainable for students but it isn't unsustainable for universities.
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    (Original post by LostAccount)
    Surprised there are genuinely students who support these strikes.

    First of all, you're indebting yourself anywhere between 40 and ±150 pounds per hour of contact time, that is how much your lecturers and university services cost. While you may very well not be getting much out of contact time anyway, it is still something you are paying for, not anyone else. This is identical to purchasing a concert ticket or a flight and then having it cancelled and not getting your money back. Except at 6% interest.

    Second of all, you're a stakeholder at the university by virtue of being a student - a customer. Customers at any organisation are often at conflicting odds with other stakeholders, in this case employees. You're not in the same boat.

    Universities around the UK are cutting pensions because they have contractually offered guaranteed schemes which they simply cannot afford. Pensions are outsourced to pension funds and they have two main sources of income:
    A) Contributions by existing employees on the pension scheme
    B) Returns on investment

    and this funds the main destination of expenditure: retirees on the pension scheme.

    There are two main problems with the ways that pension schemes operate, not just in universities but in the private sector. Think bhs, Carillon, BBC etc. This is also not remotely limited to the UK - identical cuts are thrown across mainland Europe and the US.

    1) The secondary problem is that the amount of retirees on the schemes is rising rapidly, while the amount of contributors is largely the same. This is because people are living longer.
    2) The main problem is that returns on investment have crashed: low-risk investments such as treasury and corporate bonds now yield dramatically lower interest rates than in previous years. This makes pension schemes unsustainable if they made assumptions such as "yearly 5%" when in reality the last time we had 5% interest rates on treasury bonds was in 2007. This is similar to governments assuming a long-term trend of 2% inflation when in reality this is rarely the case.

    In 1995 US treasury bonds yielded 16% - meaning you'd need $100 million to fund $16 million in yearly payouts to retirees.
    In 2018 US treasury bonds yield 1.5% - meaning you'd need $1.07 billion to fund $16 million in yearly payouts to retirees.

    This is obviously completely unsustainable if you are a low-risk pension fund (which, by nature of being a pension fund, you must be). The problem of economies of scale also exists, so smaller pension funds (such as those of universities' are simply too small to have enough capital to invest for the payouts they need.

    There are only 3 options here:
    1) Raise tuition fees to fund payments to retirees on university pension schemes
    2) Cut or reduce university services, facilities and course modules in order to cut costs and finance higher retirement expenditures
    3) Universities follow other industry experiments and move away from pension funds and stick contributions to higher-risk investments such as equity markets, which do not have a guaranteed return, have much bigger fluctuation and can crash to below initial investment - unlike bonds.

    Options 1 and 2 are objectively negative to students. Option 3 is indirectly negative to students.

    I don't know why anyone as a student would support the strike action unless they either stand to financially benefit (i.e. their parents are academics or they plan to become one themselves) or they are ideologically dogmatic and think any strike action is just the common man sticking it to Davos, and are prepared to take the personal financial costs if it means someone else is better off.
    Arguably, if you're a first year student, especially in STEM, you could be affected by a loss of academics if they go chasing higher pay in industry once they have lost their pension benefits. I am not sure how many people would actually do this short term, but it's definitely a possibility.

    UCU disputes the valuation that says there is such a large deficit in the pension scheme, and apparently the UUK position is largely being driven by Oxford and Cambridge (who get their colleges counted as separate employers to give them extra leverage on this issue).

    Having good quality academic staff helps universities. If they need to make savings, why not make cuts to VC and senior management salaries (often over £100,000) first?

    I'm not a current student, btw, or an academic, but when I was doing my undergrad, I was affected by marking strikes and I do understand why students are finding this stressful. However, I can see why some students would be sympathetic with their lecturers and worry about the quality of academic provision in the future.

    TBH, the best thing students can do if you are worried is to put pressure on your university to go back to the negotiating table. If negotiations can restart then the strike will be delayed. Losing 14 days pay is a lot for most strikers, so they won't have taken this decision lightly, and I don't think lecturers can be talked out of striking.
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    (Original post by LostAccount)
    So am I. How is it unsustainable?

    I mean you can argue it is unsustainable for students but it isn't unsustainable for universities.
    It's unsustainable for the government. The system was made where instead of the government directly funding universities, they would loan the money to students, the students would pay it back, so it's of no real cost to the government, the money isn't real. Universities lose direct funding and the system becomes a market. Markets are supposed to have winners and losers in order to function but I've not seen or heard of many universities closing since they flooded the market with former polytechnics. The system doesn't work.
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    Quite a lot of people on strike at QMUL today. I am in Unison (who should really be walking out at the same time - that would bring universities to a halt), but I attended the picket line in solidarity and it was impressive the number of students who were supporting. (I work as a research manager for a professor, who has joined the strike.)

    The UCU twitter account.
    https://twitter.com/ucu?ref_src=twsr...Ctwgr%5Eauthor

    In case anyone is wondering what the strike is about, the people who run the university staff pension scheme are ending the proper pension with defined benefits and switching it to rely on the vagaries of the stock markets. What should really be happening is universities injecting more money into it, if necessary increasing staff contributions and stop paying out wildly massive salaries to top managers who are under few incentives to do a good job in many cases.

    Administrative staff in universities (mainly represented by Unison and some other unions) are also being badly treated by the pension scheme changes.

    University academic staff are increasingly placed onto short term and underpaid contracts without guarantees of longer term employment. This happens across the sector and includes staff at the 'top' universities. Students can't be taught properly by academics constantly worried about their job security, low pay and lack of a decent pension.
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    Most of Durham is striking afaik. Won't be taught on stuff we miss, and all the funds (from lost pay) are going to the hardship fund (which is in dire need of being supplemented).

    My only beef is that they can't tell us which classes are cancelled, which would be fine (protecting workers' rights is important) except you have autistic students who struggle with routine changes and disabled students who often have to partition their energy accordingly. I certainly would hate to be in a flare-up, turn up, have wasted valuable energy and have to go home. For an abled person it's just an inconvenience but when you only have so many spoons it has an impact but I don't see anyone who has addressed this at my uni anyway.
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    (Original post by auburnstar)
    Most of Durham is striking afaik. Won't be taught on stuff we miss, and all the funds (from lost pay) are going to the hardship fund (which is in dire need of being supplemented).

    My only beef is that they can't tell us which classes are cancelled, which would be fine (protecting workers' rights is important) except you have autistic students who struggle with routine changes and disabled students who often have to partition their energy accordingly. I certainly would hate to be in a flare-up, turn up, have wasted valuable energy and have to go home. For an abled person it's just an inconvenience but when you only have so many spoons it has an impact but I don't see anyone who has addressed this at my uni anyway.
    They can tell you which classes ate cancelled, they are choosing not to. And that's really unfortunate and some very valid points.
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    (Original post by 04MR17)
    They can tell you which classes ate cancelled, they are choosing not to. And that's really unfortunate and some very valid points.
    Oh I thought it was about the privacy of workers striking, since you could guess who was striking based on which classes were cancelled. then again if you turn up and it's cancelled you know who's striking :lol:

    I don't think ultimately anybody *wants* to strike; I think it would have been much better for the bodies involved to be more open to conversation because none of the lecturers want to do anything other than help us.
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    (Original post by auburnstar)
    Oh I thought it was about the privacy of workers striking, since you could guess who was striking based on which classes were cancelled. then again if you turn up and it's cancelled you know who's striking :lol:

    I don't think ultimately anybody *wants* to strike; I think it would have been much better for the bodies involved to be more open to conversation because none of the lecturers want to do anything other than help us.
    Staff in our place have generally told our students (for their own sakes, obviously), but we are not obliged to inform the management in advance. If we want to tell one and not the other, that's perfectly feasible.
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    Missing 95% of stuff till half term including a test and 2 presentations + group work, woo. Not to mention
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    Most of my lectures and seminars have been cancelled. I need to go to the library to check in some books that are due but I'm scared of having to cross a picket line there. I support the reasons for the strike, does anyone have any suggestions? Should I just take the fines?
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    I have no sympathy for lectures. Its completely unrealistic to extent DB pensions in the modern age.

    Literally no private sector still has them, and it would mean with an aging population, universities would spend a greater percentage of their income paying inflation protected pensions to already rich middle class academics.

    My mom friends worked for only 2 years for a engineering company in Manchester in her mid 20s(late 80s) and that pension from only 2 years work was worth 29,000 tax free when she retired last year.
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    (Original post by The Milk Thief)
    Most of my lectures and seminars have been cancelled. I need to go to the library to check in some books that are due but I'm scared of having to cross a picket line there. I support the reasons for the strike, does anyone have any suggestions? Should I just take the fines?
    if your not an employee, you wont be crossing the picket line, the picket line does not apply to non employees.
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    (Original post by Pato1)
    Missing 95% of stuff till half term including a test and 2 presentations + group work, woo. Not to mention
    Relatable, group work = suffering
 
 
 
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