Olivia explains the rationale behind the UCU strikes, and why it’s so important for us, as students, to voice our support for them.
In November last year, the University and College Union (UCU) announced a national strike, and students and staff showed their overwhelming support at the University picket lines. In my view, it is absolutely critical that this support continues.
The large influx of students in the last few years at the University of Glasgow, especially the doubling of offers to international fee-paying students indicates an increase in University financial reserves. Despite this, University staff are working overtime and facing pay cuts. The increase in students means staff are being forced to work longer on preparation and marking. The UCU claims that university staff, on average, do an extra two days of unpaid work a week. University staff are facing low wages and overtime work, while simultaneously dealing with a bleak winter and cost of living crisis, like the rest of us. All while the University has roughly £1 billion in reserve money. The University has the facilities to pay its vital teaching staff a fair wage but actively makes a choice not to, year after year.
As students, we do not always think about the working conditions of our teaching staff, but it is crucial that we pay attention to the demands of the UCU, and make our voices heard. As the UCU members state: “Lecturers working conditions are our learning conditions.” Solidarity with the strikes is important, not only for the staff but also for the students. It is vital that we show the University a united front as students and staff, and provide a uniform message about where we think the money should go. More funding for the hardworking, increasingly underpaid and overworked staff, is a necessary demand – and it’s one that we, as students, should make alongside the staff that have been striking.
This year especially, students are experiencing the knock-on effects of the University’s increased greed and underpayment of staff. The increase in student numbers by about 40% since 2017 has led to innumerable issues. It’s ridiculously difficult to find housing as a student in Glasgow, an issue which has forced students to commute from homes far outside of Glasgow, and has been an immense problem for international students in particular. There has also been inadequate space for lectures to take place, with some lectures even being held in Grosvenor Cinema, and increased strain on University services. All of this unprecedented and unwelcome upheaval in student experience is a result of the University’s greed.
As students, voicing our support for the strikes demonstrates to the University that we are aware of their greed and it will not be overlooked. Neither students nor staff have seen the benefits of the increased funding supplied by the increase in student numbers. Instead, we have to deal with the consequences of this increase, without any of the funding being directed to improvements in our experience as students and staff. Our University Principal, Anton Muscatelli, however, takes home a comfortable 6 figure salary every year, placing him in the top 50 earners in the UK in 2017. He is among the few who benefit from the increase in student numbers. Meanwhile, UCU members across the UK are asking for food banks to be instituted on campus as they are unable to care for their basic needs during the ongoing cost of living crisis.
It can be infuriating and stressful to miss out on important academic material, especially towards the end of term time which is when these strikes occurred. However, despite this, we need to acknowledge the rationale behind these strikes: staff are being mistreated. Our frustration about missing out on classes should be directed not towards the staff who are campaigning for their rights, but towards the institution and higher-ups that are continually failing us all.