UCL and University and College Union industrial action: your questions answered

The University and College Union (UCU) has announced plans for further industrial action in February and March 2023, including strike and action short of strike, which may affect your studies.

The University and College Union (UCU) has announced plans for national industrial action which will take place throughout February and March 2023, alongside a period of continuous ‘action short of strike’ (ASOS). UCU has met all the legal requirements for calling lawful industrial action.   

Find out more about how this will impact your studies and what support is available from UCL on this page. Please also check your UCL emails and Moodle for updates throughout this period of industrial action. 

On this page you will find information relating to: 

About strike action and Action Short of Strike (ASoS) 

When will industrial action be taking place? 

Latest update:

1 March | Additional day of strike action called 
Wednesday 15 March will now be a strike day. 
20 February | UCU strike action called off for the next two weeks
Strike action planned for the next two weeks by our union partners has been paused. This means that the days of strike action which were planned to take this week on Tuesday 21 February, Wednesday 22 February, Thursday 23 February and next week on Monday 27 February, Tuesday 28 February, Wednesday 1 March and Thursday 2 March are now no longer happening.

As it stands, the planned strike action will resume after the period of calm.

Full list of remaining dates:
  • Wednesday 15 March (additional date), Thursday 16 March, Friday 17 March
  • Monday 20 March, Tuesday 21 March, Wednesday 22 March

Action short of strike is planned to run continuously, starting on 23 November and finishing no later than 20 April 2023. 

What is a strike or industrial action? 

Industrial action usually happens when a dispute in the workplace can't be resolved through negotiation. Industrial action is when workers:  

  • go on strike 
  • take other action, like refusing to do overtime (known as ‘action short of a strike’) 

Industrial action is 'official' if it is formally backed by a trade union and members of that union are taking part in it. 

What does strike action mean? 

Strike action is when staff refuse to work on a particular strike day. At universities, this includes not doing any work-related activity, such as teaching students, marking coursework, attending meetings, preparing for meetings or lectures, sending emails related to work and carrying out administrative tasks.  

Striking staff may create a picket line by standing outside their workplace to tell people why they are taking part in industrial action and ask them not to cross the line.

What is action short of strike (ASoS)? 

Action short of strike is when staff take other action, such as limiting some work-related activities. UCU has confirmed that the planned action short of strike will consist of staff only working their contracted hours and duties and not volunteering to do more; not rescheduling classes and lectures cancelled due to strike action, not covering for absent colleagues, and removing uploaded materials related to, and/or not sharing materials related to, lectures or classes that will be or have been cancelled as a result of strike action..  

What is happening with the negotiations? 

UCL employees’ pay, and benefits are negotiated on a national level with UCEA (Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association) and our recognised trade unions.   

UCL supports and will continue to participate in these national negotiations.

How is UCL tackling key issues? 

We recognise that the current economic and geo-political environment means that these are exceptionally challenging times for our sector, for UCL and for our community. We are committed to driving improvements in each of the areas raised in the ballots and working constructively and collaboratively with our trade union partners.  

We are taking action on a number of key issues including staff pay, pensions, job security, workload, pay gap and equality. For more information on how we are supporting our community please see the UCL HR website.

Do striking staff get paid? 

Staff taking part in strike action do not get paid for the days when they are on strike. Staff taking part in action short of strike are paid as usual unless they fail to undertake specific contractual duties that are part of teaching, such as setting, marking and returning assessments. 

Unpaid salaries from striking staff have always gone directly towards supporting our students.  

Funds from strike action in 2021 and 2022 have been, and will continue, to be reinvested into schemes which support students who are in unexpected financial need. Funds from the upcoming strike action will be put into Students’ Union UCL’s Sarah Douglas Hardship Fund.

What can you expect during the industrial action? 

What impact is this industrial action likely to have on students? 

It is difficult to predict how you will be affected. UCU members include both academic and professional services staff, but not all staff are UCU members. Staff who choose to strike do not have to tell UCL of their intention beforehand and they may not commit to all scheduled strike days.   

This industrial action could mean that some of your classes or lectures are cancelled. You may also find that offices and student support services are not fully staffed on strike days.  

We guarantee that you will not be assessed on academic content which has not been properly covered due to industrial action.

Will I still be able to come onto campus during the strike action? 

You are still able to come onto campus during the strike, and buildings and libraries will remain open. You might see a picket line made up of UCU members outside some buildings. They might be holding signs or handing out leaflets, and you can talk to them and ask questions if you wish. They might ask you not to cross their picket line, but they are not allowed to prevent you from entering the building. 

How can I find out whether my classes are affected?

Striking staff do not have to tell UCL in advance of their intention to strike, but your department will try to inform you about changes to the teaching schedule through the usual channels, i.e., email and Moodle.  

Throughout the period of action, you should:   

  • Keep a close eye on your UCL emails and look out for Moodle page announcements. 
  • Stay informed by following the links in this update and looking out for announcements in the media.  

What should I do if I do not want to cross the picket line? 

It is your decision whether to cross the picket line or not. If you do not want to cross the picket line, you can choose not to do so, but please be aware that there may be a negative impact on your studies if you miss classes or assessments that have not been cancelled.  

Those picketing cannot intimidate anyone choosing to cross the picket line.  

If you experience any inappropriate behaviour please inform UCL Security by calling 222 from a UCL landline phone or +44 (0)20 7679 2222 from a mobile or visit Report and Support to report this. 

You can also get in touch with UCL’s Security team at the touch of a button by downloading UCL’s Safezone app – find out more.

How will the industrial action affect my teaching, assessments and examinations?

Will my degree be devalued if I miss some of my teaching and in-class assessments? 

UCL will do everything we can to minimise the impact of the action on students. In previous disputes, we have always ensured that students are able to complete their studies and graduate on time. We will also ensure that you will not be assessed on academic content which has not been properly covered due to industrial action.  

Please bear in mind that the teaching, learning and assessment for your programme of study takes place in a range of different ways, not just in the classroom. You can use your reading list and online materials as usual to ensure that you continue to have a wider learning experience.

What will happen about examinations and results? 

When handling any problems related to examinations and assessments, UCL will always try to be fair to students and ensure the integrity of our academic standards. With the Central Assessment period fast approaching, I know some of you might be concerned about the impact on your examinations and assessments. Your examination timetable will be published on Monday 27 February, and you should assume these exams are going ahead, unless your department tells you otherwise.  

In some small cases, the way in which you are assessed might differ from what is stated on your timetable, for example, an examination might become a piece of coursework, or another alternative form of assessment. In instances like these, this will be communicated directly to you.   

We pledge that you will not be assessed on academic content that has not been taught due to industrial action, so that your educational outcomes are not affected by these strikes. We will also issue guidance to examination boards to ensure that disruption is taken into account when considering the individual graduation and progression profiles of affected students. No one at UCL, very much including striking staff, wishes to harm your educational outcomes. 

If affected, UCL will try its best to ensure you are not disadvantaged. If you have missed any classes due to industrial action, UCL will take this into account either in the assessment that we set for you or when we consider your marks. Our examination boards have procedures that they can use to make these decisions.There is a possibility you may experience some delays in receiving your results if we are not able to complete all our marking and results approval processes in the usual way.  

For further information, UCL has provided the following staff guidance on managing the impact of industrial action on assessment, progression and award.  

What does this mean for coursework assessment? 

Your department will advise you on arrangements for coursework assessment. These will vary from no change through to extensions to allow more time for you to submit the work.  

What should I do if I have an assessment on a strike day? 

You are expected to attend class tests and assessments that are scheduled on strike days. 

What about labs that I have missed and in-class tests? 

Your department will advise you on whether your labs or in-class tests will be rearranged to take place on a non-strike day, or whether they will be cancelled. If your lab was to be assessed or you had an in-class test and these cannot be rescheduled, we will discount these components from your overall module mark, in line with our regulations, so that you are not penalised as a result of the cancellation.  

Do I need to submit an extenuating circumstances form? 

You do not need to submit an extenuating circumstances form as we have information about the impact of the strike on your classes. This includes exams and coursework assessment.  

What does this mean for my attendance?  

Will I be penalised under the attendance policy where my classes are cancelled? 

We will not penalise you for not attending classes that we have cancelled due to the industrial action.  

What if my classes are running but I choose not to cross the picket line and miss my class? 

We would expect all students to attend classes where they are running; however, we will not penalise you under UCL’s attendance policy. 

I am a student on a Tier 4 student visa  – will I be penalised for not attending classes? 

If you are on student visa you will not be penalised if you are unable to attend classes that have been cancelled due to the strike action.  

Information for Postgraduate Research students 

I am a Postgraduate Research Student. How will I be affected? 

Please assume that any viva examination (oral examination), upgrade meeting or other progression review meetings will go ahead as planned. However, we recommend that you contact your supervisor or department to confirm. 

You should submit your thesis or any other work on schedule. 

If an event you were due to teach at is cancelled, you will still be paid. 

Further information and support 

When will more information be available? 

As far as possible, your department will try to inform you about changes to the teaching schedule through the usual channels, i.e. email and Moodle, but please remember that striking staff do not have to tell UCL in advance.  

Throughout the period of action, you should:  

  • Keep a close eye on your UCL emails and look out for Moodle page announcements.   
  • Stay informed by reading any updates sent to you and looking out for announcements in the media.  

What support is available if I miss out on teaching due to staff taking part in industrial action?  

UCL is working with departments to ensure adequate support is made available where teaching is affected by industrial action and that disruption to students is minimised.

In the event that you travel to campus and find that your teaching has been cancelled without prior warning, it may be possible to claim reimbursement for these travel costs. You should contact your department in the first instance.  

If you believe the mitigations provided have not been sufficient to meet your learning outcomes, you can let us know by making use of UCL’s Student Complaints Procedure

I’m worried that this may affect my mental health and wellbeing. Is there someone I can talk to? 

If you have any worries related to the industrial action that may affect your mental health and wellbeing you can access support through the 24/7 Student Support Line or contact us through askUCL.

I am a student who receives disability-related support, such as support workers and interpreters, will this be impacted by industrial action?

UCL Student Support and Wellbeing will incur the costs of any cancellations of disability related support resulting from UCU strike action. This is regardless of whether the student in receipt of disability related support is funded by UCL or Government funding. Please ask your provider to invoice Student Support and Wellbeing by emailing ssw-disabilitymentalhealth@ucl.ac.uk 

Will student support services be affected? 

Student Support and Wellbeing (SSW) will keep its services open as usual during the period of industrial action. Their same-day and prebooked appointments will continue to be available each UCL working day.   

If you have a pre-arranged appointment with an SSW adviser or counsellor, please attend as usual.  

Please note that SSW staff are unable to answer any administrative questions about the strike, such as whether your classes will be running or how the strike might affect your studies. In these cases, please contact your academic department.  

Has your question been answered? 

If you have any other questions that you would like to ask about the industrial action and its impact, please speak to staff in your local department who may be able to help. If you have further questions that cannot be answered by your department, please do submit these via askUCL.