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Information for students

 

Questions and answers about the disputes and industrial action

What is industrial action?

Industrial action is the general term for collective legal actions taken by employees of a company as a protest.

Strike action is a form of industrial action where workers who belong to a trade union collectively refuse to work. For academic staff, this may include class cancellation, late feedback to assessments and delays in marking coursework.

Picketing is when some staff gather outside their workplace to draw attention to their cause and discourage others from going inside. The gathering is known as a picket line and they are only allowed at or near entrances and exits of the workplace.

Action short of a strike (ASOS) is when trade union members engage in an action that falls short of a full withdrawal of labour, sometimes known as partial performance of contractual duties. Action short of a strike is determined by the union and can run simultaneously to strike action and continue until the union calls it off.

When will industrial action take place?

There is an ongoing national dispute about pensions which has affected 74 universities across the UK, including King’s.

The University & College Union’s (UCU) mandate for industrial action will mean that we experience both strike action and action short of a strike.

UCU has advised us that the dates when strike action will take place are as follows:

  • First Week (3 days): Monday 24, Tuesday 25 and Wednesday 26 February
  • Second week (4 days): Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 and Thursday 5 March
  • Third week (5 days): Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 and Friday 13 March
  • Fourth week (2 days): Thursday 19 and Friday 20 March 

The action short of strike is intended to be continuous and will start on 24 February 2020 and will end no later than 27 July 2020.

This will consist of UCU members working to contract:

  • not covering for absent colleagues
  • not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
  • not sharing materials relating to lectures or classes cancelled as a result of strike action, and
  • not undertaking any voluntary activities.

Why are university staff taking part in industrial action?

The industrial action relates to an ongoing dispute throughout the higher education sector about the university pension scheme, Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

The dispute over the sector-wide USS pension scheme relates to an increase in contribution rates, which the USS Trustee has decided are necessary to maintain the existing pension benefits. As a result, the University's contribution rates (quoted as a percentage of salaries of USS members) increased in October 2019 by 1.6 per cent and member contributions have increased by 0.8 per cent.

The University and College Union (UCU) position is that all the increases should be paid by the employers.

What is the university doing to resolve the industrial action?

The dispute concerns pension contributions that are set at a national level for all universities, so it cannot be resolved at King’s alone. We continue to encourage the trade unions and employer associations to reach agreement.

With regards to the sector-wide USS pension scheme, we have been working closely with the employers’ body Universities UK (UUK) who in turn have been engaged in a dialogue with the UCU over the past 18 months to better understand and address these issues.

Beyond the national dispute, King’s is working with its local trade unions on a range of matters which are of concern to them and colleagues across the sector to find ways to address issues such as workload pressures, stress, mental health, casual working and gender and ethnicity pay gaps.

How could industrial action affect me?

The university is committed to doing everything possible to support students during this time, and, working closely with faculties and KCLSU, will take all available measures to minimise the impact of the disruption on your studies.

Please keep in touch with your department or school for further information and updates specific to your circumstances. 

The university will remain open and you will continue to have access to the libraries, computer rooms, and services to enable you to continue your studies and independent learning.

Teaching and learning

What happens to teaching and learning during industrial action?

Where possible, teaching and learning activities will go ahead, including the supervision of projects and dissertations, but there may be instances where sessions have to be cancelled. If they can, your faculties or departments will let you know as soon as possible of any change to your timetabled sessions. However, we are not always in a position to inform you of any changes in advance, as staff members are not legally required to tell the university if they plan to take industrial action.

Please keep in touch with your department or school for further information and updates specific to your circumstances. 

The university will remain open and you will continue to have access to the libraries, computer rooms, and services to enable you to continue your studies and independent learning.

What if my lecture, tutorial or contact point is cancelled because of strike action?

You should make every effort to attend timetabled sessions. However, if a lecture, tutorial or other planned contact point is cancelled due to industrial action, you should inform your department directly.

What if my lecture or class is disrupted because of strike action?

If your lecture or class is affected by strike action but still takes place (e.g. it is covered by another member of staff or is rescheduled) you are expected to attend unless you have been given prior permission to be absent in line with normal procedure.

If a member of staff does not arrive for a teaching session at its planned start time, you should wait for a few extra minutes to be sure before leaving the room.

Please note that unless a class has been disrupted, normal attendance monitoring will take place.

How will I know if my seminar, lecture or other session is disrupted?

Where possible, teaching and learning activities will go ahead, including the supervision of projects and dissertations, but there may be instances where sessions have to be cancelled. If they can, your faculties or departments will let you know as soon as possible of any change to your timetabled sessions. However, we are not always in a position to inform you of any changes in advance, as staff members are not legally required to tell the university if they plan to take industrial action.

Will I be allowed on campus if my lecture has been cancelled as a result of strike action?

Yes, we encourage students to come to campus even if your lecture is cancelled. You will be able to work with classmates and benefit from peer-to-peer learning in the Students’ Union and other campus learning facilities as normal. 

Will there be attendance monitoring during the strike?

Yes, lectures or classes will still be monitored during the strike. The Student Attendance and Engagement Policy will continue to apply to all students. However, if a lecture, tutorial or other planned contact point is cancelled due to industrial action, you should inform your department directly.

Exams and assessments

Will my examination dates or hand-in deadlines for assessments change?

Assessments will go ahead as planned during the strike action. You are expected to do all assessments and submit all assignments, in accordance with the university's General Regulations.

Unless informed otherwise, all deadlines for coursework will remain and you should plan to submit your work accordingly.

If some submission deadlines and supervision sessions are affected by strike action, your faculty or department will inform you of the changes. Normal penalties will apply to coursework that is not submitted by the appropriate deadline.

Please contact your department if you need advice or are not sure of the deadlines.

Will my work be assessed/marked within the normal turnaround period?

Our aim is that all work will be assessed within the usual time period. However, we appreciate that some assessments and feedback may be delayed if they coincide with the period of the strike.

Your faculty or department will monitor the situation and give you revised dates for assessments and or feedback if there are any delays.

If my sessions are disrupted and not rescheduled, how can I be assessed on those topics in examinations or assessments?

For your assessments and exams, we will ensure that you are not disadvantaged if you have missed any learning due to strike action, while of course maintaining our quality and high standards.

Assessment Boards will be advised to consider what has been missed and to make appropriate adjustments. What this means in practice may vary, but could include:

  • questions or topics being removed from examination papers;
  • using a different assessment method;
  • changing the weighting of different module elements.

What if an in-class assessment does not take place because of the industrial action?

If an in-class assessment is cancelled because of strike action, we will encourage faculties or departments to ensure that the assessment of these learning outcomes is rescheduled as far as possible or assessed by other means.

Where an assessment cannot be changed, Assessment Boards will be advised to consider what has been missed, and to make appropriate adjustments, such as changing the weighting of other module elements.

What if my viva, oral examination or presentation is disrupted?

Should oral examinations, assessments and vivas coincide with the industrial action, they should be rescheduled at the earliest opportunity. Your department will give you details of the arrangements.

I am a visiting study abroad/exchange student, how will the industrial action affect me?

During the strike action the university will remain open and you will continue to have access to the libraries, computer rooms, and services to enable you to continue your studies and independent learning.

Where possible, teaching will go ahead, but there may be instances where sessions have to be cancelled. The university will ensure that no student’s academic outcomes are disadvantaged by the industrial action.

Please be assured that we will explore all the available options to mitigate any potential impact on your learning and do what we can to make up for lost learning opportunities. Assessment Boards will be advised to consider what has been missed and to make appropriate adjustments.

Will my module marks be affected by the industrial action?

Faculties or departments will assess if industrial action has impacted on the learning and assessment of each module and, if it is considered necessary, fair and reasonable adjustments can be made for the whole group of students. What this means in practice may vary, but could include:

  • revising the date of an assessment;
  • using an alternative marking model;
  • extending a deadline;
  • questions or topics being removed from an examination paper;
  • using a different assessment method;
  • changing the weighting of different module elements.

Will my award be affected by the industrial action?

No, your award will not be affected. All final module marks will be used in the degree algorithm, as normal. There are no exceptions to the award rules. Classification boundaries will not change as a consequence of industrial action.

Will we be entitled to an extension for dissertations or other submission of work due to the industrial action?

You should assume that any deadlines set for submitting work, including dissertations, still apply as normal. Your faculty or department will aim to maintain assessment deadlines but will also look at whether there are any instances in which revised deadlines may be appropriate for you.

International students

How will the industrial action affect my visa in terms of my attendance record?

Your Tier 4 visa conditions are not affected by the industrial action. Unless you are told that a session has been disrupted, you should attend as normal, and the normal processes for attendance monitoring will apply to undisrupted sessions.

If a session is disrupted due to industrial action, this will be recorded by the university as a cancelled session, and this will not have a detrimental impact on your attendance record for the purposes of your Tier 4 visa.

If your lecture or class is cancelled, you will be recorded as an ‘authorised absence’. You should make a note of the cancelled lecture or class.  

Support

Will I still be able to get access to student services?

Student services will be available throughout the strike action period, you can access these via our student services online portal. Students can also access impartial and confidential academic advice support services through our Student Union advice webpage.

Where can I go for support?

We understand that industrial action can cause additional stress and pressure on top of your studies. You may wish to speak to your department or the following services: 

  • Advice & Guidance Team – For welfare support and advice relating to your immigration status
  • Chaplaincy – Emotional support and practised listeners for students of all faiths and none
  • Big White Wall – 24-hour confidential online support and wellbeing service
  • KCLSU Advice – Impartial academic advice for students with issues affecting their studies

If you are struggling with your mental health and wellbeing, you can register for counselling appointments and access different support options at student mental health support.

What happens to the money that the university saves by not paying staff taking industrial action?

The university will not benefit in any way from the salary savings that will arise from the strike action and will instead ring-fence those funds and use them in ways that will benefit our current student body.

We are consulting with KCLSU to decide on the best uses for these funds and are aware that the KCLSU officers intend to consult with the wider student body.

I feel worried about crossing a picket line.

Students should not feel intimidated about crossing any picket line and we have proactively been working with both KCLSU and local trade unions to make this clear.

We will continue to ensure this is the case. If, however you feel intimidated in any way or witness any behaviour you find concerning, please contact the security at your campus.

If you feel that you have been the target of harassment or bullying, you can find relevant help on our website.

Complaints and compensation

Can I complain or claim compensation for any possible disruption from the industrial action?

The university remains committed to delivering an educational programme for each student during any period of industrial action and it will seek to ensure that students remain able to complete their programmes of study and graduate as anticipated.

All reasonable attempts will be made to make contingencies for students to continue their studies without detriment to their learning opportunities and assessment outcomes. 

There is a specific process and complaint form for raising a complaint in relation to the industrial action. Details are available on the Student Complaints webpage. Complaints relating to the industrial action should be submitted from 3 April 2020 after strike action has taken place and before 30 September 2020. 

Please be aware that faculties and departments are unable to deal with any complaints, and these should be directed through the formal process.

Do I need to submit a Mitigating Circumstances Form where my teaching/classes has/have been cancelled due to Industrial Action?

No, it is not expected that you will need to submit an mcf due to strike action as your department will put in place measures to provide mitigation for all students in this situation.

However, there may be very limited exceptional circumstances, where you believe that you have been more severely impacted due to your personal circumstances and it has unduly affected your assessments.

If this is the case, you should contact your department in the first instance to discuss this. Your department may be able to provide more information on what steps have been taken and will let you know if they think that you have exceptional circumstances where an MCF is appropriate and support you to complete it.

Who can I send questions to?

If you have any additional questions or concerns, please email questions@kcl.ac.uk.