UCU Strike

Oxford SU Updates on UCU


UCU Rally. 

The Sabbatical team attended the rally. You can see pictures and comment on our news section. 

We also hosted a virtual rally. Students who have difficultly accessing solidarity efforts (due to disability, time constraints, etc.) are invited to take part online instead. Throughout the duration of the strike, we will be posting photographs and messages of support from students to those involved in UCU strikes. You can send us a photo/ supportive message directly via email (link to my email) or post it yourself using the hashtag #UCUVirtualRally and we will share it on our social media channels.



Send an email to the Vice-Chancellor to support the UCU strike


Email "vice-chancellor@admin.ox.ac.uk" with the subject "I Support the UCU strike" and the message "Dear Vice-Chancellor,

I am a current student of your University and I am writing to you regarding the upcoming strike action by members of the University and College Union, Oxford Branch.

The fact that UCU have been forced into strike action, as a last resort, is incredibly troubling. We believe that those working in higher education should be treated and remunerated fairly. It is unacceptable for people who have dedicated their lives to education to be faced with the prospect of such uncertainty in their retirement.

I would strongly urge you to speak out against the pension reforms. The University of Oxford is a well-respected institution, with a strong national voice. Thus, it is imperative that the University stands firmly with their staff to ensure they are treated fairly. 

I hope that you will take this into consideration and encourage the University to put pressure on UUK to reconsider their stance, and speak with the Oxford branch of UCU to find the best resolution for our staff. This is in the best interests of the whole University, staff and students.



Join us by showing your support for the strike at the upcoming Rally. 

You can find more information on our Facebook page. 


VP Access and Academic AffairsVP Graduates attended Education Committee and raised the issue of better communication from the university to students about the educational impact of the strike. We shall carry on working on this issue. 


VP Graduates met with a representative from UCU to discuss how Oxford SU can best support UCU during the strike. 


VP Access and Academic Affairs & VP Welfare and Equal Opportunites met with staff from Exam Schools and discussed the plans in place for students sitting exams during the strike.


Is Oxford SU supporting the strike?

Oxford SU stands in solidarity with the University and Colleges Union  (UCU) in their strike, as we believe those working in higher education should be treated and remunerated fairly.

What exactly does it mean that Oxford SU support the strike?

In practice, this means that Oxford SU:

Will encourage students to not cross picket lines, even if this means they will miss their classes.

Will encourage students to take part in solidarity action.

  • Will NOT be working with the university to organise any alternative forms of teaching to cover classes that are cancelled due to the strike.

  • Will provide information and guidance to students about the ways they can support the strike.

  • Will encourage our student members that are also employed by the university to become members of UCU.

  • Will urge the senior management team at the University to put pressure on Universities UK to negotiate with UCU.

How did Oxford SU take this position?

The Oxford SU sabbatical team has agreed this statement for now https://www.oxfordsu.org/news/article/6013/Oxford-SU-statement-on-UCU-Strike/  and has submitted an item for discussion on this to Student Council on Wednesday of 3rd week. Oxford SU is asking all JCR’s, MCR’s, Campaigns, Course reps and Divisional reps to consult with their students and come to 5th week council to take a motion. Oxford SU will continue to monitor the situation and consult with our student representatives in the JCRs, MCRs, departments and divisions.


Why is the strike happening

Why are UCU members striking?

The members of UCU are mainly academics and postgraduate students that teach. UCU and Universities UK (the body that represents universities across the UK) have been trying to reach an agreement over a reform of the pension scheme for academics. Universities UK argue that they cannot continue to afford the current scheme in the future, while UCU argue that the reforms are unfair to current and future academics. The discussions between UCU and Universities UK has so far not led to any agreement and UCU’s members have therefore voted to strike.

What is all this talk about pensions?

The umbrella group Universities UK (UUK) wants to change the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), which covers pensions for academic staff in universities such as Oxford.

This would see academics’ retirement funds moved from a scheme that gives a guaranteed income, to one where pensions are subject to changes in the stock market.

Independent analysis of the proposals claim that some lecturers would lose over £200,000 in retirement if the UUK plans were imposed. https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/9093/Overhaul-of-university-pensions-could-leave-staff-200000-worse-off-in-retirement

For more information UCU have a Q and A here https://www.ucu.org.uk/uss-dispute-questions?list=9041

Who gets to decide whether there’s a strike?

Members of the UCU were balloted and in Oxford 85.6% of members who voted backed strike action and 93.9% backed action short of a strike. The turnout was 51.6% (514 ballots cast).

The strike action will happen if there is not a satisfactory resolution reached between UCU and Universities UK (UUK) before 22nd February.


What does the strike look like

How does a strike take place in practice?

A strike involves the workers withholding their labour. In this case it may mean disruption to teaching and research within departments. There may be picket lines outside university buildings during the strike.


Who are the people that are striking?

The members of UCU are typically academics and postgraduates that teach. Not all academics and postgraduates are members of UCU.

Some UCU members may also decide that they don’t want to join the strike.

The academics and postgraduates that aren’t joining the strike will continue to carry out their normal work.

What does action short of a strike mean?

Action short of a strike is when the employees of an organization engage in an action that cannot be classified as a strike nor is it the work that the employee is hired to do, but it is somewhere in between these two.

Workers engage in action short of a strike to interrupt the normal flow of business and functions in the workplace or department so as to make the employer realize that they are dependent on the employee’s goodwill to run the business and hence they should not engage in practices which are against the interests of their employees like job cuts and pay cuts.

When an ‘action short of a strike’ is designed it includes maximum number of people possible so that the impact is strong.

How long time is the strike going to be on for?

The strike is initially scheduled to last for 14 days across a four-week period. There will then be four days of strikes from Monday 5 - Thursday 8 March and a full five-day walkout the following week (12 - 16 March).
The strike dates are:
6th Week - Thursday 22 and Friday 23 February (two days)
7th Week - Monday 26, Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 February (three days)
8th Week - Monday 5, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 March (four days)
9th Week - Monday 12, Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Thursday 15 and Friday 16 March (five days)

Oxford SU will continue to monitor the situation and will update this page if there are any changes to these plans.

What can I do if I want to support the strike?

  • Talk to your tutors, lecturers and supervisors to understand why they are striking. Ask them whether they would like you to join them at the picket line or help in other ways.

  • Don’t cross a picket line (this may mean that you can’t use facilities such as libraries and common rooms).

  • If you want to do academic work, do it from home or go to a cafe or public library.

  • Don’t ask your tutors, lecturers and supervisors to compensate the teaching you have lost due to the strike.

Can I go past a picket line and into university buildings?

You may go past a picket line.

‘A picket line is where workers and union reps (‘picketers’ or ‘pickets’) stand outside a workplace to tell other people why they are striking. Pickets may also ask people not to:

  • do some of their usual work

  • go into work

Pickets must not prevent people from going to work or doing their usual work if they want to do so.’



Effect on students

What does this mean for me?

From the Uni statement:

‘Oxford University is looking at measures to minimise any disruption arising from this action. Students should therefore attend as normal for any scheduled examinations.
Teaching in colleges will not be affected but it is possible that some departmental teaching may be. Students should attend all teaching as normal, unless advised of alternative arrangements.’

What impact will the strike have on students?

It is difficult to say exactly how the strike will impact on you.

The impact depends on your level of study. For example, certain undergraduates may be less affected than postgraduates, because teaching in colleges is likely to be less affected than teaching in departments.

The impact also depends on the length of the strike. The strike is currently scheduled to take place over a four-week period, but if UUK and UCU are unable to reach an agreement, the strike may be extended. If this happens, Oxford SU will update this FAQ to ensure that students are informed about the changes to the situation.

How will this affect postgraduates?


Your supervision may be affected by the strike. Please contact your supervisor or the leader of your research group to get more information about the impact on your research.

If you are employed by the university (e.g. teaching undergraduates), you should contact UCU to get more information about your rights and duties.

If you are an enrolled postgraduate student contracted to teach in UK higher education institutions you are entitled to free membership of UCU. You can join here https://www.ucu.org.uk/free


Taught Masters

Students should contact their course convener or department if they are worried about the impact the strike will have on their course of study. The university has said that some departmental teaching may be affected and this may include PGT students.


How will this affect undergraduates?  

It may affect teaching in departments, such as lectures and classes. The University has said teaching in colleges will not be affected. Depending on the length of the strike this could also mean that there will be an impact on marking.


Does this affect colleges and departments in the same way?

No, it does not. The University statement says ‘Teaching in colleges will not be affected but it is possible that some departmental teaching may be.’ For updates on how this will affect you, contact your tutor or department.

Should I still show up to the lectures, tutorials and exams I have scheduled?

The University has issued a statement where they ask students to attend their scheduled activities as normally unless they have specifically been told otherwise.

Can I use the libraries and other facilities as normal?

Check with the university for updates on disrupted services.

There may be picket lines outside of faculties or libraries.

Pickets must not prevent people from going to work or doing their usual work if they want to do so.

Crossing picket lines to use facilities in departments or libraries could be perceived as not being in support of the strikers. If you want to show solidarity please see our previous FAQ.  


Oxford SU Consultation

Who should I contact?

Departmental/Divisional contacts

You can get in contact with your tutors or departmental leads. You may also wish to contact the relevant division.



Head of Division: karen.obrien@humanities.ox.ac.uk

Associate Head of Division for Education: andreas.willi@ling-phil.ox.ac.uk


Medical Sciences:

Head of Division: hod@medsci.ox.ac.uk

Associate Head of Division for Education: david.vaux@path.ox.ac.uk



Head of Division: donal.bradley@mpls.ox.ac.uk

Associate Head of Division for Education: michael.bonsall@zoo.ox.ac.uk


Social Sciences:

Head of Division: sarah.whatmore@socsci.ox.ac.uk

Associate Head of Division for Education: paul.martin@politics.ox.ac.uk


You can also contact your course or divisional student representatives.

I’ve still got questions?

If you have questions not answered in the FAQs or if want to give feedback to the SU about the strike you can contact https://oxfordsu.typeform.com/to/qUNk0V

Where can I get updates about the strike?

From UCU - through their website and social media https://www.ucu.org.uk  https://twitter.com/ucu

From the University - they should communicate with you about disruption to your classes

https://www.ox.ac.uk/students?wssl=1 https://twitter.com/UniofOxfordSI

From Oxford SU - we will update our information on the strike as and when we get it www.oxfordsu.org/ucu https://twitter.com/OxfordStudents