Table of Contents
Industrial Action Guidance 2023
The fact that I have to specify which year of industrial action this guidance is for says a lot.
Once again, the union that represents many of your lecturers, tutors, and a number of other university staff has had to call a series of strike days to try to get a serious response from UK higher education employers to long-running concerns about wage stagnation, pay inequality, insecure contracts, workloads, and pension guarantees. The issues can be complicated, but they basically come down to making sure the people entrusted with your education have fair and sustainable conditions to support the education you deserve, and to build the careers we deserve while doing so. Educators' working conditions are students' learning conditions.
Striking is a last resort. Staff are not paid for strike days. We would rather be doing the educational work that we value, rather than trying to get the attention of university bosses to value that work too. We schedule strike days (18 this semester) to give employers a fair chance to negotiate a resolution, not because we ever want to take any (much less all) of the scheduled days away from our students and our research.
Not all staff are able to be a part of the union and not everyone in the union is able to strike. You will see staff supporting the goals of the industrial action in a variety of ways.
The industrial action changes how you will experience your courses as a student, but it does not mean you will stop learning! If anything, some of your most important lessons this year will be in the context of the strikes.
Most of your learning in this course (and depending on your programme, likely other courses) is scheduled as self-directed independent learning. You can continue to access course resources online and in the library. The course website will remain live. You should still write notes, draft responses, and otherwise do what you would do to engage the course materials.
Strikes are meant to be disruptive, and you will definitely notice the effects of the reduced support available during strike periods. However, this course is designed on the expectation that students will be able to challenge themselves to explore resources independently, and you will still be able to do this with the reduced support on hand.
At the same time, you have now had a number of opportunities to connect with classmates, and supporting each other is definitely allowed and encouraged during the industrial action as well as the rest of the course!
The course has a flexible design, which means you can explore topics of interest even if you have reduced access to whole class and tutorial learning on those topics. It is also entirely possible to complete the course just focusing on the units for which you have this support available. You will not be penalised in your assessment for focusing on just non-strike units, and we will take account of the reduced support you have during strike-affected units if you decide to explore those.
Either way, you should think deliberately about how the strike affects your approach to the course and be prepared to reflect on this in your self evaluation at the end of the course.
If you would like to explore some issues from the industrial dispute in historical contexts related to this course, I have prepared a special section on science as a vocation that you can explore in addition to or instead of course units affected by the strike.
It is up to each tutor whether to meet on strike days, and this course's tutors have my full support for whatever they decide. Your tutor will inform you on a case by case basis; please allow them to do so on their own timeframe.
This course runs on a lot of uncompensated labour, and we do a lot of things above and beyond the minimum requirements of our contracts because we think they will help you learn better. During strike days, expect reduced or no access to:
- Replies to course-related emails.
- Lecture recordings or slides.
- Feedback on your work.
The course team will catch up on emails and feedback on non-strike days; please expect delays.
Whole Class Activities
There is a lot of flexibility built into this course, and we do not plan to use the whole four hours scheduled each week for learning in the lecture theatre. I think it is important not to ask students to come to class on strike days if it can be avoided. So please consider whole class learning time scheduled for strike days as a chance to catch up on reading and writing, to meet with classmates in learning groups, or to do whatever else you need to do.
One option for this time period is to come to Teachouts with Tycho.
Academic Integrity and Industrial Action
Our approach to academic integrity in this course is about more than “citation rules” and “using your own words”. Fundamentally, it is about what we owe to ourselves and each other to create an academic community based on justice, collaboration, and solidarity. How we engage with, use, and reference others' work is part of a broader concern with the basic fact that knowledge takes work and knowledge depends on the conditions that support work. We write and cite in ways that recognise how our work depends on the work of others; our citations make us a part of an academic community, and academic integrity is how we respect and build that community together.
From this perspective, understanding the conditions of academic work is a core part of academic integrity. We cannot properly give credit, take responsibility, claim our own innovations, or otherwise participate in exchanges of knowledge without making an effort to see how inequality and injustice affect knowledge making, and without doing our part to make the work of knowledge more fair and just. Insecure contracts, pay disparities, unsustainable careers, and other aspects of the current industrial dispute are essentially connected to academic integrity in this more capacious sense, and what we do together to make the work of teaching and learning better is part of our contribution to academic integrity.