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Edinburgh University under fire over plans to try and break pensions strike with out of date recorded lectures

6 March 2018

UCU Scotland today accused Edinburgh University of preparing to use out of date recordings of lectures in an attempt to break the ongoing strike over pensions.

In an escalation of the dispute over cuts to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension, it has emerged that the university's law school is trying to use old recordings of lectures made in previous years in an attempt to break the strike.

The strike, which is now in its third week, is over cuts to the USS pension scheme which would see a typical lecturer lose around £10,000 a year in retirement.  Lecturers and academic related professional staff in nine other Scottish universities are also taking part in the action in which staff are taking an unprecedented 14 days of action. In the strike ballot 87% of UCU members backed strike action with the turnout in Scotland 63%.

The practice of universities recording lectures is a grey area. While there are legitimate reasons for doing so around accessibility, for example if a student needs to be able to listen again to a recording, it is important that the lecturer whose work is being recorded gives their consent.  Lecturers participating in the strike action have not given their consent for any recordings to be played to students while they are standing outside on a picket line.

Mary Senior, UCU Scotland official, said: 'It's bad enough that the new principal at Edinburgh has sat on his hands and not taken steps to resolve the dispute over cuts to his employees' pensions until now,  but it's quite another thing for Edinburgh university to be proactively taking steps to break the strike in this underhand way. 

'Students deserve the full attention of lecturers and not out of date recordings recycled by university management. If the university doesn't stop using these recordings in this way then they're letting down both their staff and students.'

Student leaders also attacked using recorded lectures in this way. NUS Scotland vice-president education Jodie Waite said: 'The idea of serving up recordings of classes from years gone by - all in the name of undermining staff and lecturers' campaign for fair terms and conditions -beggars belief. Staff and students deserve better.

'Good lectures can't just be reduced to re-runs, they should be engaging and relevant to the time in which they're delivered. Using recorded lectures in this way completely undermines their intended use and true value: to make education more accessible.

'We'd be deeply concerned if any institution saw this as a legitimate proposal. The only positive solution to these strikes for students is universities getting round the negotiating table and reaching an agreement with their staff - not looking for shortcuts or get outs.'

Note: In an email to Edinburgh university law school subject area heads the head of the law school wrote: 'In trying to address [students'] concerns, I should like please to reiterate something I said in my earlier email to all staff. I would very much appreciate it if all of you, as subject area heads, could continue regularly to monitor what lectures, tutorials, and seminars are being missed in your subject area on account of industrial action and to then do two things: (i) to see whether it is possible to arrange alternative teaching for any of the missed classes, and where this is the case put arrangements in place to deliver this teaching; and (2) ensure that, as quickly as possible, for missed lectures you liaise with the UGO about identifying the specific lecture missed in order to have its recorded counterpart from last session uploaded to the LEARN page (this is only happening sporadically at the moment). We need to try to do this quickly, otherwise students may end up missing out on teaching in the correct order, and I cannot oversee all of this personally.'

Last updated: 20 July 2018