Association of University Teachers

Guidance for students and their families on the AUT and NATFHE industrial dispute


February 2006

Why are the unions taking action?

Salaries for the lecturers, researchers and administrators who educate, develop and look after the 2.3 million students in UK higher education have stagnated. The prime minister himself has said that they have shown 'practically no increase in real terms over two decades.' AUT and NATFHE have asked the university employers to improve salaries so that they compare to those of other public sector professionals. Members in both unions agreed to take action by overwhelming majorities.

Do the employers have the money?

Between now and 2008, UK universities will receive an extra £3.4billion in funding. This amounts to a 25% increase. Universities promised the government when top-up fees and the other extra funding was announced that 'in general at least a third of that money will be put back into the salaries and conditions of their staff.' Unfortunately although the unions made a claim asking the employers to keep this promise in October 2005, the universities have not yet made an offer to increase pay.

What kind of industrial action are the unions taking?

The industrial action will begin with a one day strike, and will then be followed by action short of a strike. Amongst other things like refusing to provide cover for absent colleagues, this will include an ongoing boycott of student assessment.

How will the industrial action affect me?

The action will affect every student at universities and higher education colleges where there are AUT and/or NATFHE members – this is the vast majority. The action includes a boycott of all student assessment and this means that papers, essays and projects will not be marked. If the dispute continues examinations and ultimately graduations are at risk.

Do the unions want to negotiate?

AUT and NATFHE have been trying to agree a pay increase with the employers since October 2005. We remain optimistic that industrial action can be avoided if the employers agree to serious unconditional talks. As things stand, with no talks arranged, action that affects students is looking increasingly likely.

Where can I go if I am worried about the impact of the action?

If you are a student you can speak to your head of department. You could also contact your local Students' Union and/or the university counselling and advice services. For more information on what students are doing to support the unions you can visit the National Union of Students (NUS) website www.nusonline.co.uk. NUS are supporting the unions' actions, as they recognise that their members do not want to be taught by underpaid and de-motivated lecturers.

I am in my final year. Does this mean I won't graduate?

If the dispute continues, students' graduations will be affected by the action. We are worried that the employers, in refusing to negotiate seriously, are seeking to gamble with students' education.

I am a concerned parent, or family member. What can I do?

Many parents and other family members make huge personal and financial sacrifices to support their children through university. If you are worried about how a protracted dispute may affect your child's future employment or study prospects then you should contact their head of college now to encourage them to re-enter serious negotiations with the unions. For more information on the campaign please go to: www.aut.org.uk/paybacktime If you wish to contact us directly, please email thegeneralsecretary@aut.org.uk

Nobody in AUT or NATFHE wants to harm the prospects of students. Please help us get this dispute settled. Contact your University or college today to ask them to begin serious negotiations with the unions.

tel: 020 7670 9700 | fax: 020 7670 9799 | e-mail: hq@aut.org.uk | © AUT