Friday, 18 February marked the 5th day of a 10 day strike by the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) against the University of Edinburgh, bringing the perennial debate over student support for strike action back into vogue.
Student support at Edinburgh for UCU strikes is often high, rarely dropping below 50%. However, some supporters of the strike worry that two years of lost contact hours from covid and intense strike action during the 2019-2022 academic year have tested some students’ resolve.
The Student asked several students about whether they supported the most recent round of strikes, in order to gauge public opinion.
One student, Theo Colledge, a second year Politics student, shared his view on the strikes, saying:
“I totally support the strikes – it’s pretty clear from what I’ve seen the university is exploiting and overworking the uni staff.
“Not being able to guarantee pensions in my opinion is ridiculous whilst they continue to spend on meaningless things e.g., the Edinburgh Futures Institute.”
Another student, first year Hannah Wenzel, supports the strikes but is critical with how the strikers has been communicating with affected students, saying:
“Generally I’m in favour of the strikes as I believe that the lecturers and staff deserve better.
“However I had no information whatsoever as to if my classes were running this week and had to actively seek out lecturers to ask if I had to show up with the picket lines still being in force (many of whom I had no response from).
“It’s not always easy to plan a week around something like this if there’s no information and I know a few other people were left feeling lost as to if they had to complete certain work or if the class was canceled.
“I understand the impact that the strike needs to have but I also know that student mental health isn’t helped with a lack of information (at least on my part).”
Not all students have found themselves universally supporting the strikes. With most contact hours for the past two years wiped out by covid, and an intense period of strike action during the 2019-2020 school year, many students have found themselves exasperated at the prospect of losing even more contact hours and other staff encounters.
One such student, a fourth year student who wished to remain anonymous, shared their view with The Student, saying,
“I agree with the right to strike and generally support the strikers. But after four years of strikes and covid, I feel totally disillusioned with higher education.
“I’ve got a dissertation to write but my supervisor isn’t holding our scheduled appointment because of the strikes and all my marks from last semester’s assessments have come back late.
“It’s hard not to feel like the strikes disproportionately and adversely affect students more than the university.”
Strike action by UCU on issues of pensions, pay, and working conditions are expected to continue until Wednesday, March 2.
Image Credit: Magnus Hagdorn via Flickr