The Higher Education Megathread

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Mini E
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PostRe: The Higher Education Megathread
by Mini E » Fri Feb 14, 2020 12:10 am

Red wrote:Anyone else being shafted by the ongoing strike action from the UCU?


I'm not striking (and chose not to vote for a strike in my institution) but am a member of the UCU. To be fair, lecturers spend a large proportion of their lives getting absolutely shafted by people earning around ten times the salary and working quite frankly ridiculous hours in sometimes discriminatory and horrible working environments, and IMO the strike action in some institutions is entirely justified. If your institution is half-decent and if your lecturers aren't dicks, you will find they make the time up to you off the record. General consensus is we want the powers that be to think we're affecting the student experience, without actually screwing any students over.

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PostRe: The Higher Education Megathread
by Red » Fri Feb 14, 2020 7:51 am

I'm not getting it made up by my lecturers, the university already has my money, so it seems like students are getting strawberry floated by something they have no control over or part in at all. I think both sides are cretins for letting it get to this point.

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PostRe: The Higher Education Megathread
by Corazon de Leon » Fri Feb 14, 2020 7:59 am

Mini E wrote:
Red wrote:Anyone else being shafted by the ongoing strike action from the UCU?


I'm not striking (and chose not to vote for a strike in my institution) but am a member of the UCU. To be fair, lecturers spend a large proportion of their lives getting absolutely shafted by people earning around ten times the salary and working quite frankly ridiculous hours in sometimes discriminatory and horrible working environments, and IMO the strike action in some institutions is entirely justified. If your institution is half-decent and if your lecturers aren't dicks, you will find they make the time up to you off the record. General consensus is we want the powers that be to think we're affecting the student experience, without actually screwing any students over.


Red wrote:I'm not getting it made up by my lecturers, the university already has my money, so it seems like students are getting strawberry floated by something they have no control over or part in at all. I think both sides are cretins for letting it get to this point.


I am striking, as I'm directly affected by the working hours issue and am on a contract that works out at around 0.05FTE with hours given as and when they need me over and above that, with no benefits or pension etc.

Many of us don't earn a liveable wage from teaching at all and over half of all academics are on temporary contracts or earning basically minimum wage. Luckily I also work in a call centre to supplement my income but others aren't as fortunate to have a stable job; I've known people who work at two, three or more institutions across the country on similar contracts to mine, having to travel up and down to different places on different days. It's an unworkable, unacceptable situation. I've linked to a couple of Guardian articles below that hopefully contextualise the reasons for the strike.

As Mini E says, no right-minded lecturer or university teacher wants to strike, it's an incredibly difficult decision to make and most of us will simply be changing our teaching days to avoid the strike days or giving tutorials and lectures off the record at different times. It is good that those of us who are junior colleagues have the support of senior lecturers and staff in many institutions.

For now I'd suggest you make a formal complaint to your university about the interruptions. The more people make their voices heard, the more likely universities are to actually do something about the problems. For what it's worth, I'm sorry if you miss out on important teaching that can't be made up. It's a really horrible, poisonous situation - students have been generally very supportive, but they're caught in the middle of the argument and I completely understand the frustration that you're feeling.

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/jan/28/academics-must-stop-uk-universities-sweatshops?CMP=share_btn_tw

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/nov/07/university-staff-dont-want-to-strike-for-fair-pensions-and-pay-but-were-being-forced-to

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/oct/29/temporary-work-lecturers-balloting-strike-uk-academics-short-term-contracts

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PostRe: The Higher Education Megathread
by Mini E » Fri Feb 14, 2020 9:41 am

Red wrote:I'm not getting it made up by my lecturers, the university already has my money, so it seems like students are getting strawberry floated by something they have no control over or part in at all. I think both sides are cretins for letting it get to this point.


The lecturers on the ground have been driven to this and are not cretins. I've been in the industry for two and a half years and am already strongly considering leaving, even though I worked for seven years to earn my position here. Middle management and upwards at some Universities may be cretins. No need to throw that at the people working on the ground.

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PostRe: The Higher Education Megathread
by Red » Fri Feb 14, 2020 5:06 pm

I see it as failure by both the universities and the UCU, not putting it on individual lecturers. I think it's a really terrible move to throw students under the bus like this and there's literally nothing we can do. Sure I can write a pissy letter that will be completely ignored to the vice chancellor if I can find the energy but the skills and knowledge I hoped to learn are lost. I think sympathy will fairly rapidly evaporate as this continues.

Coconut Bob wrote:You come across as feminine as a cave troll so its no wonder you have little concept of the way females should behave.

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PostRe: The Higher Education Megathread
by Corazon de Leon » Fri Feb 14, 2020 6:01 pm

The fact that those of us who have dedicated our lives to teaching and encouraging students feel that the only way to protect our livelihoods, our mental health and our pensions is to withdraw our services should give you some idea how awful a position university staff have found themselves in.

Like I said, I fully appreciate your frustration and I feel sick thinking about the amount of wasted student fees across the 76 striking universities(particularly in England where the fees are much higher and not government subsidised) but my livelihood, my future livelihood and acceptable working conditions are at stake for me and for thousands of others and I feel like there is no other option but to withdraw my labour. I hope you can understand the difficult position we’re in, at least.

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PostRe: The Higher Education Megathread
by Outrunner » Sun Feb 16, 2020 4:29 pm

I'm affected by the strikes but I fully support my tutors taking this action. The only thing I feel bad about is crossing picket lines.

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PostRe: The Higher Education Megathread
by Red » Sun Feb 16, 2020 5:07 pm

Fortunately we have some stupid bloke in a shark costume dancing on the picket line here which removes any sense of guilt for crossing it on my part. They could at least look like they're taking it seriously.

Coconut Bob wrote:You come across as feminine as a cave troll so its no wonder you have little concept of the way females should behave.

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PostRe: The Higher Education Megathread
by Carlos » Mon Feb 17, 2020 8:03 am

I'm a Lab Tech at a large UK uni and whilst I've been on both sides of the strikes as a student and staff member.

Remember the technical staff at your place of study are all experts in their field and should be more than willing to help out and offer advice with any lab project/design project/dissertation that you're doing.

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PostRe: The Higher Education Megathread
by Red » Mon Feb 17, 2020 12:46 pm

I think I'm more annoyed than I otherwise would be because of the tone of the email our professor sent us. It was essentially, we won't be teaching you any XRF analysis, you'll have to do your project on use wear even if you'd decided on the other option, and I could apologise but strawberry float that because I'm not doing anything wrong, go complain to someone else if you're angry. Also with a set of slides that came across as very condescending, about the things like the gender pay gap - yes thanks for that, male professor, I am aware. Oh you've not had a pay rise recently? Well join the club. At least you get a decent wage to start with.

If the tone had been a bit more conciliatory, considering none of this is my fault, I'd probably feel a bit more collegiate about this.

Coconut Bob wrote:You come across as feminine as a cave troll so its no wonder you have little concept of the way females should behave.

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PostRe: The Higher Education Megathread
by Green Gecko » Mon Feb 17, 2020 1:27 pm

UCU on strike but partner who's a college technician still required to go to work during half term lol

I worked at a university on zero hours as what wound up being the sole technician for what was a department before the entire staff were laid off and replaced by one person working across campuses with one PA who was the PA for two members of full time staff, obviously it was a joke and I got strawberry floated over in numerous ways.

Pro tip: technicians generally have more practical and contemporary useful knowledge than a single one of the lecturers, they just skilfully avoid academia because there's zero point getting involved with the politics and umpteen years of study for no real wage or job security at the end of it. Yeah, nope

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PostRe: The Higher Education Megathread
by Outrunner » Mon Feb 17, 2020 5:27 pm

I can't speak for other departments at my university but the Department for Lifelong Learning are doing everything they can to be supportive and cause as little disruption to our education as possible. I mean, I'd support the action anyway but they are doing their best to support the students. Some students on the foundation year seem to be upset about it, but then they don't come to lectures and when they do they piss about anyway so I'm not sure their indignation is warranted.

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PostRe: The Higher Education Megathread
by Red » Mon Feb 17, 2020 5:53 pm

Everyone on our MA is angry and no one is pissing about. Undergrads seem less annoyed but then they've got less to lose.

Coconut Bob wrote:You come across as feminine as a cave troll so its no wonder you have little concept of the way females should behave.

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PostRe: The Higher Education Megathread
by Outrunner » Mon Feb 17, 2020 7:37 pm

Red wrote:Everyone on our MA is angry and no one is pissing about. Undergrads seem less annoyed but then they've got less to lose.


To be clear, I wasn't having a dig or anything. I think your grievances are well founded and your lecturers aren't helping their case. My comment about "pissing about" was more of an aside that the most vocal people on my course are the ones that are barely there and don't put much effort in so it seems a bit rich that they are complaining about missing lectures. Apologies if it came across as having a dig.

For what it's worth, I do feel I have a lot to lose. I'm only on my foundation year but I have taken a big risk in going back to university and anything that jeopardises that is a cause of great stress and anxiety for me.

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PostRe: The Higher Education Megathread
by Mini E » Mon Feb 17, 2020 7:49 pm

Red wrote:I think I'm more annoyed than I otherwise would be because of the tone of the email our professor sent us. It was essentially, we won't be teaching you any XRF analysis, you'll have to do your project on use wear even if you'd decided on the other option, and I could apologise but strawberry float that because I'm not doing anything wrong, go complain to someone else if you're angry. Also with a set of slides that came across as very condescending, about the things like the gender pay gap - yes thanks for that, male professor, I am aware. Oh you've not had a pay rise recently? Well join the club. At least you get a decent wage to start with.

If the tone had been a bit more conciliatory, considering none of this is my fault, I'd probably feel a bit more collegiate about this.


By all means, be annoyed at your individual lecturers (who sound utterly gooseberry fool), but don't generalise this to the rest of us in the field getting shat on from above. The absolute vast majority of us are bending over backwards to do our best for our students in a strawberry floating difficult profession.

Edit: This sounds more antagonistic than planned - that isn't directed at you - but the vast majority of us go way above and beyond what is expected for our students.

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PostRe: The Higher Education Megathread
by Corazon de Leon » Mon Feb 17, 2020 8:09 pm

Our student union have started a petition to our chancellor, basically saying that there was no need for this strike because the university’s leadership should never have let it get to this stage. The NUS seem to still be in full support, too. Generally though I think that’s because the majority of people I’ve spoken to on faculty have been very empathetic towards student needs, unlike Red’s professor who sounds like a right banana split.

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PostRe: The Higher Education Megathread
by Mini E » Mon Feb 17, 2020 10:28 pm

One thread amongst a sea of similar sentiments.


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PostRe: The Higher Education Megathread
by Carlos » Tue Feb 18, 2020 9:47 pm

Red wrote:I think I'm more annoyed than I otherwise would be because of the tone of the email our professor sent us. It was essentially, we won't be teaching you any XRF analysis, you'll have to do your project on use wear even if you'd decided on the other option, and I could apologise but strawberry float that because I'm not doing anything wrong, go complain to someone else if you're angry. Also with a set of slides that came across as very condescending, about the things like the gender pay gap - yes thanks for that, male professor, I am aware. Oh you've not had a pay rise recently? Well join the club. At least you get a decent wage to start with.

If the tone had been a bit more conciliatory, considering none of this is my fault, I'd probably feel a bit more collegiate about this.


Can you not just get a lab technician to show you how to use the XRF? Once they've been trained we let students use ours for their research.

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PostRe: The Higher Education Megathread
by Red » Tue Feb 18, 2020 9:56 pm

We've got 12 hours of classes scheduled that we're missing, so possibly I can get someone to show me the basic operation (which I need for my dissertation anyway) but that's a lot of teaching that's out the window, and they've shut down that route on the assessment for the module so it's use-wear only there.

Fortunately my dissertation supervisor isn't striking because we have to submit our proposals (worth 10 credits) in a couple of weeks, and most people are strawberry floated as the people they need to consult are off. So I'm lucky there. Also my standing buildings recording module isn't being cancelled, so that's a bonus. Some people have it worse.

Coconut Bob wrote:You come across as feminine as a cave troll so its no wonder you have little concept of the way females should behave.

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PostRe: The Higher Education Megathread
by Mini E » Wed Feb 19, 2020 11:25 am

One example of the way senior management are trying to "make peace" with academics on the ground that I've heard about this morning:

My former institution has voted for strike action (lectures are being covered by Associate Lecturers). To appease students, senior management have pushed back all deadlines by two weeks. Senior management have also decided not to move the University exam boards, meaning that an already tight deadline for lecturers to mark/moderate hundreds of thousands of words of work is now absolutely zero. Can you really not see why treatment like this (which happens constantly before the strike too) leads to lecturers reaching breaking point? Most people in my department are working 10-12 hour days five or six days per week, and are expected to work weekends too for applicant days/open days etc and all that happens is decisions are made from above to make things even more unpleasant.

As previously said, if your lecturers are gooseberry fool about this, they're probably gooseberry fool lecturers anyway. The majority in this industry are not.

Edit: A number of middle aged-older male academics in higher education will be tools. This is known amongst everyone else in the industry. Apologies on their behalf, the next generation is better.


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