UCU Industrial Action information for students

The University of Leeds is currently in a period of industrial action. We've pulled together some questions and answers to help you understand what this means for you. 

What is industrial action? 

Industrial action is a way for staff to seek to resolve a dispute with their employer, and can be in the form of a strike (where staff members don’t work at all) or ‘action short of a strike (ASOS) (where staff members work, but in a more limited way than usual). Industrial action is organised by trade unions, who hold ballots (or votes) of their members to decide what action to take, and is a democratic right under UK law. 

You can learn more about industrial action and strikes on the government website.  

When is it happening? 

Strike action has already taken place in December, February and March.

There have been strike already been run by the University and College Union (UCU) but Unison, the union for support staff have also been involved with recent strikes. 

Union members may also be taking part in action short of strike (ASOS), which includes a marking boycott, planned to run from 23 May. At present ASOS will mean UCU members work only their contracted hours and duties and won’t volunteer to do more. The marking boycott was part of an additional vote, where staff will target one specific task – in this case, marking assessments.

Why is it happening? 

The University and College Union (UCU) announced industrial action at 58 universities after a ballot of its members at the start of November. The industrial action is about two key themes - proposed changes to the pension scheme that staff at the University of Leeds (and many other UK universities) pay into, and pay and other related issues.  

UNISON industrial action is related to the same themes. The UCU marking boycott will start on 23 May, which covers part of our formal assessment period. 

What is the University doing to resolve it? 

Most of the issues in dispute are already being tackled by the University. We are already taking action to address UCU’s concerns about staff workload and casual contracts with our Fairer Future For All pledges.  

However, the future of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension can only be resolved at a national level because USS isn’t part of our University. It can only be resolved through negotiations with USS and its members, which includes the University of Leeds and many other universities. An employee consultation, which closed on Monday 17 January 2022, allowed scheme members and eligible employees to share any comments or concerns about the proposed changes to the scheme.

Are all staff taking part? 

No, just some members of staff who are members of UCU, which includes academic, professional and managerial staff, plus some postgraduates; and some members of UNISON, which represents support staff at the University. While staff don’t have to tell us if they’re a union member, we know that only a minority of academic, professional and managerial staff actually took part in industrial action in recent years, and in action held in 2021 and 2022.

UCU members have recently voted to take another 10 days of strike action, although no dates have as yet been confirmed. Unions must tell us when they plan to take any strike action, so we will keep you informed of any further developments.

What do I need to do as a student? 

Our priority is to minimise any disruption to your education and learning experience. As you may know or have seen for yourself, we’ve kept the University open throughout previous strikes, in December 2021 and February and March 2022.

It’s important to: 

  • Check your University email and Minerva regularly to make sure you have up-to-date information about any rescheduled sessions and activities 
  • Attend all sessions that are rescheduled after the strike period 
  • Check with your School or speak to Leeds University Union Advice if you have any concerns

I’m in my final year. Will I be able to graduate as planned? 

We’re focusing all of our efforts on making sure that you will be able to graduate as planned, working with you School to prioritise final year assessments and projects. 

I’m worried I might have to resit. Will my results be ready in time? 

Don’t worry, we will make sure you have sufficient time to prepare for resits if you need to take them. 

I’m planning to do a masters or go on placement. Will the boycott affect my plans? 

We’re doing all we can to ensure you won’t be affected, whatever you’re planning to do next. 

I’m a postgraduate researcher. How will the industrial action affect me?  

Firstly, you should talk to your supervisor, who should be able to advise you what impact, if any, the industrial action will have on your work. Otherwise, you can approach your graduate school or the Doctoral College. You can also speak to the Help and Support Team in Leeds University Union. If you are a PGR who is part of UCU, our FAQs for staff may offer more guidance. 

I have work that’s due in shortly. Should I still hand it in?

Yes, any assignments or coursework that are due during this period of industrial action should be handed in by the agreed deadline.

Can I carry out laboratory work during the industrial action? 

You should only carry out lab or fieldwork if your supervisor or head of school has confirmed that adequate arrangements are in place to protect your health and safety. If in doubt, speak to your supervisor or the student support office in your school. 

What if my coursework deadline is during the industrial action? 

You should submit your work in the usual way on the date specified unless you are notified otherwise. If you have any concerns about this, please contact your school. 

What if I can’t complete my assignment because my teaching is incomplete because of the strike? 

Each school is taking steps to ensure that students are assessed based on the learning activities that have been delivered, so you should complete any assignments based on what you’ve learned. 

My teaching has been cancelled because of Industrial action. What will happen?

Any learning opportunities missed because of industrial action should either be rescheduled or made up for in other ways to ensure you meet the agreed learning outcomes for your module or course. Assessments should not usually be affected. Once the period of industrial action is over your school will be in touch to let you know how any missed learning will be made up.

What do I do if I want to make a complaint? 

We’re doing everything we can to ensure that you won’t be disadvantaged by the industrial action, and that plans are made to deliver any missed learning opportunities. Your School should be able to resolve any concerns, please contact them in the first instance. However, if you aren’t happy with this resolution, you can email studentcomplaints@leeds.ac.uk. We will then provide further information about how to make a complaint. 

The Office for Students provides further guidance for students affected by industrial action.   

Are the libraries and other services still open? 

Libraries, computer clusters and other services will still be available during the industrial action. For opening times, please check individual websites (libraries, careers service, LUU, support and wellbeing, The Edge). 

Where do I go if I need support? 

You can speak to your academic personal tutor, the student support team in your school or the Help and Support team in the Leeds University Union. You can find links to all of the University’s support services here.