12th November 2019


Dear students,

It is with a heavy heart that those of us academic staff who are union members will be striking for eight days from 25th November to 4th December. The university management has been given ample opportunity to listen to our pleas for improved work conditions, but it seems they are unwilling to genuinely engage. We are committed to giving you the best education: our working conditions are your teaching and learning conditions.

In recent years, university management have devised changes to our work loads and patterns that have put considerable strain on your contact time with us, as well as on our personal time and health. Dramatic increases in occupational health referrals and usage of the counselling service by staff have been recorded at SHU. So many of us have been expected to undertake unpaid work beyond our contracts, or work under very unpredictable conditions. We care about you and it is never easy to walk away from our classes, but we cannot continue to accept these worsening conditions. This is not a sustainable situation: we cannot continue to be the shock absorbers for a broken system.

We hope that going on strike will expose the way the university sees you as a commodity. For instance, we currently only get 20 minutes to mark and feedback on a 2000 word essay – this is simply not enough time to give consideration to the hours of hard work that you have put in. Whenever we give you feedback outside of these 20 minutes, it comes from our goodwill and commitment to your education, and this is something the university management seems only too content to see happen, at the expense of your lecturers’ wellbeing. It appears that university management want to spend money on fancy new buildings and big salaries for the top managers, instead of on the people who make this university, who see you every week through the good and bad times.

We value the work you do every day, and take pleasure when our transformative pedagogies help you to flourish. We want to continue to support you, because seeing you graduate and hearing the stories of your time with us are incredibly rewarding. But we simply cannot do this if university management continues to treat us as disposable assets.

We also hope this strike will be a good lesson for the future. There is dignity in striking, in not crossing a picket line that you know is going to make things a little better for everyone, and in fighting for what is just and right. We know good education needs resources and patience; it doesn’t need exhausted lecturers who can no longer function. If you want to support your lecturers, please come visit us on the picket lines and demand that management refunds you for any missed classes; after all, they are deducting 8 days of our salaries.

Yours, UCU members of academic staff