University strikes latest: Students clash as protesters storm Sussex University lecture hall

Posted February 24, 2018

Marking the beginning of a four-week strike, Cambridge University staff and students protested early this afternoon outside Senate House against the proposed pension reforms, which would leave university staff up to 40% worse off over the course of their retirement.

Lecturers at 64 universities in England are on strike over Universities UK's plans to make changes to their pension scheme, which they say could leave them significantly out of pocket.

The University College Union (UCU) says the proposals would leave a typical lecturer nearly £10,000 a year worse off during retirement.

Walkouts affected 64 universities across the United Kingdom, with lecturers and other workers protesting against potential alterations to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

The clash between students occurred in an academic building on the University of Sussex campus after protesters disrupted a psychology lecture with chants to join the lecturers on strike.

"Whilst students have seen university fees rise up to £9,250 a year, university staff pay has fallen 14% in real terms since the introduction of the fees six years ago as part of universities" efforts to reduce liability.

Paterson told CommonSpace that the length of time it takes someone to enter the profession does vary, but studying for upto 10 years is not uncommon:"With the level of education I have, what I am doing now is just about the lowest paid form of work I could do". Parts of that university's research computing service could be affected because anything that requires human intervention "will be hampered by these strikes", Owain Kenway, who runs a computing team at UCL, wrote on Twitter.

St Andrews University said the "vast majority" of the institution was working normally on Thursday, with 250 of 2100 staff having voted to strike.

"We shall do all we can to minimise adverse impact on our students, and we hope that UCU will take a similarly responsible stance".

The University will "withhold 100%" of all pay to those taking part in the walkouts, and they will "deduct 50%" of workers' wages "for a single day" if they fail to reschedule any classes they cancel during the strikes.

USS pension scheme's staff salaries are under the spotlight now amid a dissatisfied lecturer community who have had to deal with pay caps.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt welcomed UUK's proposal.

Universities UK, which is behind the proposed pension changes, said they would tackle the scheme's deficit and mean universities can continue to offer "attractive" pensions to staff.

In an open letter to USS members, UUK president Professor Dame Janet Beer and chief executive Alistair Jarvis said it was prepared to get back round the negotiating table to discuss a number of options for replacing the DB section of the scheme, of which CDC was one. If a credible, affordable solution were to be put forward by the union, employers would want to consider it.

"This industrial action is targeted at students". Their dismissal of the funding challenges is hugely concerning, the very reason employers and the scheme must act responsibly to protect pensions and students. It will be young people and the next generation of students who will also suffer if their education deteriorates because employers are forced to make cuts to pay more into pensions.