In Term 1's All Student Vote on the “Warwick for Fair Pay and Pensions” motion, students gave Warwick SU the backing to support UCU in their current strikes. As NUS states, “we stand shoulder to shoulder with UCU”, and here at Warwick we proudly echo that. The work of UCU and the Students’ Union is often closely paralleled, and we value any opportunity to work alongside them to bring about positive change to our University. Staff at this university have consistently worked with students to support us on our issues. These strikes represent our opportunity to return that favour.
However, the strikes are not just about protecting academics’ interests. They are about fighting back against a Higher Education system which has become increasingly marketised, commercialised and casualised. The symptoms of this include:
Moreover, we cannot view the issues that staff are striking about in isolation: we must view them in conjunction with the conditions that we ourselves are facing as students. The exorbitant debt we now leave university with, the rising cost of campus life, a burgeoning mental health crisis and the limited access we have to health and wellbeing services are all symptoms of our marketised University.
All of this needs to change. Staff teaching conditions are students’ learning conditions, and as a community we should be standing alongside one another to change this. We need to join together to fight for an education system that works for students, staff and wider society alike. Your voice has the power to make a difference, so please use it wisely to influence positive change and help end these strikes sooner.
We understand that students may be frustrated or angered by the strikes, and that is completely valid. However, it is important that this anger is directed at the right targets: at Universities UK for making changes which will see staff lose a significant proportion of their pensions; at UCEA for forcing staff into a system where gender and BAME pay gaps still exist, where they are put onto precarious contracts and where they are given unmanageable workloads. Moreover, students should be angry at our own University management for not doing more to protect the interests and working conditions of our academic staff.
It is equally important to recognise that lecturers, tutors and any other academic staff you engage with do not want to be out on the picket lines, losing 8 days’ pay. They are doing this because they have to. In a marketised system where people are becoming increasingly disposable and their voices are no longer listened to, this is the only way to make a difference.
We hope that students will therefore use the strikes as an important learning opportunity, where you can engage with what it means to be in the workplace and fight for your rights. During the last round of strikes, we saw students and staff come together and connect in ways that we hadn’t been given the opportunity to before. We have so much to learn from each other, and so much to benefit from through the collectivism of staff and students. Through this community, we have a chance to fight for our common goals and learn from each other’s experiences.
We stand in solidarity with our academic staff during this strike. They are fighting for a better Higher Education system for all of us.
For campaigning resources, please see HERE.
Information for students (including answers to FAQs) can be found HERE.