Comment

Strikes: Is the gamble worth it for our education?

Both sides of the picture are presented by two of Gair Rhydd's writers

Against, By Conor Holohan

The job of being an educator is an extremely public spirited one. Educators are held up as heroes of society who put in countless hours of out-of-work marking and planning. But you cannot always have it both ways. You cannot be a hero of society when you will throw the needs of society under the bus when the going gets tough.

I, myself, do not take particular issue with the cause of the lecturers, but their decision to channel their anger in this way has wholly alienated me from the cause. When one of my lecturers told me recently that they would not be taking part in the upcoming strike action, I found myself delivering a solitary and awkward round of applause.

To every lecturer resisting the pressures to strike and standing up to the mob, I stand with you. It is a shame that some of your colleagues cannot be more public spirited. It really does make the toes curl to think that my English peers are paying in £27,000 in tuition fees only to be fleeced at a crucial moment in their education, all for the privilege of being political currency.

Sam Veal, a fellow history student, and Katie Walters have set up a petition calling for the university to compensate students for the lost hours either by providing extenuating circumstances or even money. On their ‪change.org‬ page, they say quite rightly that these strikes have “come at a time of importance and concern for many university students.” This is certainly true of Sam and myself, as we are both in our third year of study.

Sam and Katie are, however, in support of the strikes, saying; ‘We stand by our lecturers and believe that their demands are justified.’ Their desire for compensation is certainly one I agree with, and I do believe that their demands should be seriously considered, but to stand with the lecturers in their endeavour would only help the cause of adulterating the perception of the role of the educator in society.

We should take this opportunity to say that if you are prepared to act against our interests in this way, you are not someone with our best interests at heart. Cardiff University will be a better educational institution when its staff do not use their students as clout an in argument that the students have no part in.

For one of the first times in my life I found myself agreeing with Cardiff Students Union when they said in their statement on the matter; ‘We strongly encourage UCU to consider the impact of any proposed action and to ensure that the student experience is put first.’ Despite the Union being for the most part, driven by the typical hysterical leftism that we’ve come to know and love, they seem to have gotten this one right.

To anyone who finds these comments unfair, that the strikers have their families to consider, I say this. True as that may in some cases be, the academic university class is not a poorly remunerated one. They certainly do a lot better than the nurses, another public spirited job. And what is more, it is not the concern of the students to what sort of lifestyles the lecturers choose to lead, or how they manage their finances. Yet they strive to make it our problem. Why? Because, ultimately, they care more about themselves than they do about you. How’s that for your progressive, expert academic class?

For, By Ashavari Baral

You may be wondering what all the talk about on the recent potential strikes is about and you have every right to know. The college union, which includes our university lecturers are unhappy about the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) from a defined benefit scheme, where they would have a guaranteed income after retirement. Changes in this scheme will cause an average paid lecturer left with £10,000 a year after retirement. Overall, academic staff would lose about £200,000 over the course of their retirement.

Cuts in salary after retirement can very well demotivate and demoralize lecturers which can have a very bad influence on the academic progress of their students. Lecturers are not striking for fun and take no pleasure in the procedure, on the contrary this protest will most likely result in pay deduction. The UUK (Universities UK) has chronically mismanaged their pension fund. Eight years ago, even in the wake of the financial crisis, it was running smoothly.

Now, after a seven-year gap we’re told there’s not enough money. UCU (University and College Union) general secretary Sally Hunt quoted, “Staff will feel utterly betrayed by their leaders. We are disappointed at how talks ended today, particularly after UUK suggested yesterday that it wanted more talks to avoid strikes. Universities must be on notice that unless there are dramatic changes in their negotiators’ position then strike action will be arriving on campus next month.’’

In the interest of our education and our university life it may seem that the odds are against us. Higher power discussions can be the only determining factor. But if we stand together in support of our academic staff, it is a given that they will consider the university as a whole and bring about the required changes.

Strikes are scheduled to take place between February 22nd to March 8th. For most lecturers, whether to strike or not is going to be a difficult decision because they love teaching their students and they don’t want to let them down, but they also want to show solidarity with their fellow colleagues. It must also be noted that there are signs that this pension “reform” may be the first step towards further cuts to education, which could mean universities cutting staff and downsizing departments.

So, what can we do to help the situation? Well for starters we can show our support to our lecturers by going straight to the cause of the situation – The heads of Universities and state that we stand with our lecturers. We can also create awareness on social media and get other students in various universities around the UK involved.

Academics don’t get an enormous salary in the first place, so it’s our duty as students to encourage the cause and guarantee a decent pension to the people that dedicate years and years of their lives to research and education. However, there is no pressure on us as students as well as I know most of our concerns are missing three weeks of university that will directly have a negative impact on our performance academically. The responsibility for this strike falls on the shoulders of UUK and the universities that make it up. Unless the UUK can solve this dispute with UCU to prevent the strike, students and teachers alike will have to suffer those consequences.

css.php