UPDATE: The University of Sheffield have told Forge Press that they are committed to mitigating the impact of strike action, and will be “working closely” with university departments from next week in order to do so.
Students have had their voices heard by University of Sheffield bosses, after three of the Students’ Union Officers took their concerns to the meeting table.
Jake Verity (SU President), Beren Maddison (Welfare Officer) and Charlie Porter (Education Officer) met with representatives of the University Executive Board (UEB), including Vice-Chancellor Professor Koen Lamberts, and the local University and College Union branch, and asked a number of questions related to compensation for lost teaching, assessments and more.
This came after they took a huge posterboard of questions from students to a meeting at Halifax Hall – so as not to cross a picket line – on Tuesday 10 March.
The questions were on a whole host of topics students are interested in, and Forge Press has also been shown the responses from the University Executive Board.
On the question of compensation for students’ lost teaching, UEB allegedly said they aren’t considering at present a proactive compensation scheme, and according to their FAQ line, because the industrial action has arisen due to circumstances outside of the University’s control they aren’t obliged to compensate students.
The strike fund – where unpaid wages will be used following the strike action – will be left up to departments to decide what to do with it, while the University of Sheffield say they are contacting exam boards regarding missed exams and assessments during teaching.
They also say they are unconcerned about accredited courses, as the professional bodies are being informed, and due to a number of universities being on strike it is unlikely to affect accreditation.
The Vice-Chancellor allegedly refused to reveal his position on the dispute, as UEB believe it could jeopardise the collective bargaining position, but he has said that he will make a statement to students about this.
Along with the answers provided by UEB, the Students’ Union have released a number of calls to action for students, including maintaining constant contact with departmental heads, and filling in the strike disruption form at tinyurl.com/ucustrikeform.
Professor Wyn Morgan, Vice President for Education at the University of Sheffield, said: “Our primary focus is on mitigating the impact of the strike action on our students and next week, when striking staff return to work, we will be working closely with departments to do this.
“The impact of industrial action will be different across departments so it’s important that, once we have assessed this, we target the strike funds directly to where that effect is felt, to ensure staff closest to the local impact can take appropriate mitigating action.
“We recognise industrial action is a challenging time for our University community and encourage students to use the support we’ve put in place, including the industrial action information line, welfare support and departmental contacts, who can help provide tailored advice and guidance to individual queries from those affected.”
The University added that they have been prioritising student welfare throughout the periods of industrial action, including setting up a 9.00am-4.30pm strike hotline on weekdays, and working to mitigate the impact of lost teaching, including action such as rescheduling lectures and agreeing assessment extensions.
Representatives of Sheffield UCU were also asked questions by students through the SU Officers, and in response they said they are working with the National Union of Students to improve both staff working conditions and student learning conditions.
The strike action is set to end on Friday 13 March, and while the UCU is committed to looking for solutions to the disputes, they will also be balloting members over potential further strike action on Monday 16 March.
The University of Sheffield’s Frequently Asked Questions related to strike action can be found here: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/students/industrialaction