A number of UK universities have seen strike action taken by lecturers and other staff members over proposed pension changes.
The strike action resulted in around a million students missing out on scheduled teaching time.
Universities have so far failed to reimburse students for lost teaching time and additional losses despite a number of petitions calling for compensation.
If you want to know more about your rights and the tuition fee compensation claims process then you’ll find the answers in our FAQ guide below.
How do I know if I can make a claim?
If you were a student at the time of the strikes then you could be entitled to compensation as long as you;
- Were a student at one of the universities affected by the strikes;
- Paid your tuition fees;
- Lost teaching time as a direct result of the strike action
How will I receive updates about my claim?
We will update you by email when there is progress with your claim so you’ll always know what’s happening. As you can imagine, our legal team will be busy progressing thousands of claims against the universities but we will ensure you are fully updated along the way.
What do I have to pay?
We operate with a 100% no-win no-fee system so there would never be a charge to you if we weren’t able to win your claim. Our fees are 30% + VAT of the total compensation you are awarded. Our fees are detailed in your terms and conditions and are deducted directly from your settlement before we pay it into your bank which means you never need to worry about being faced with an unexpected legal bill at the end of your claim.
Will I have to attend Court?
You shouldn’t have to appear in court, even if we have to take your case to the Supreme Court. Whether or not your case goes to court depends on the response we get from the university. It could be that the university agree to pay as soon as we send them our initial letter, or it could be that we have to take your case all the way to the Court of Appeal. However far we have to go to recover your compensation, our fees remain the same and we will carry on working for you on a no-win no-fee basis.
How long will it be until I get some compensation?
As this is a new area of law it is difficult to be certain how long these claims will take to settle. It depends a lot on how far the universities decide to defend the cases through the court systems. It is in our interest to get you your compensation as quickly as possible though. The best case scenario could be as little as a couple of months and the worst case could be over a year.
How does the claims process work?
Bott and Co will take your instructions via our online signup form. From there Bott and Co will handle your claim against the university for you, taking the stress out of the process. We have significant experience handling claims against large organisations.
In the first instance we will send a letter of claim to the university formally outlining your claim and inviting a response within 30 days.
Where a university fails to respond to our letter and subsequent chaser or disputes liability we will select the best course of litigation to recover compensation for you as quickly as possible. This likely involves issuing a test case against each university. Read more on test cases here.
Can I approach the university directly?
If you want to claim direct with the university you should ask for a copy of their complaints procedure and follow the process through. In fact we provide a free template letter to help you if you want to take this approach. If you don’t agree with the outcome it is possible to refer the complaint to the ombudsman – this may or may not lead to compensation. We don’t believe you will receive anything any quicker than using our service. We are experts in this type of mass consumer claim and we don’t let companies and corporations fob us off.
Will this affect the lecturers?
The claim will be made against the university and has nothing to do with the lecturers and the action they are taking against the university. You pay your fees to the university and it is their job to supply you with a service in terms of lectures and contact time – if they fail in this obligation they are breaching the terms of their contract with you.
Will my course fees be affected?
The course fees you have signed up to should not be affected by any action you take against the university. In almost all cases the universities charge the maximum course fees allowed by law.
Will my grade be affected?
The university cannot legitimately downgrade you for claiming compensation as a result of these strikes. If it did you would have a strong case against them which you could refer to the ombudsman. If you are worried about your grades because of a lack of teaching time and lecturer contact then you could find a private tutor to help you. It may be possible to recover those costs as well – we would help with this if we issue legal proceedings against the university.
What if my university isn’t listed on the signup form?
Not all universities were affected by the strike action as it depended on the pension scheme the university had signed up with. Only 65 universities had the pension scheme in question and therefore only those establishments were affected by strikes. If your university is not on the list then it’s because your university didn’t have any strike action.
Why should I sign up with you?
We are the UK’s leading consumer law firm and we help tens of thousands of people fight for compensation from large companies and organisations every year. We have won multiple awards for developing new areas of law in support of consumer rights and we even have a recommendation from Martin Lewis as a result of our work in flight delay compensation. Our customer reviews show a very happy group of people and we are proud of our track record in areas of consumer law.
Can I submit a claim for my friend?
Only individuals who have consented to our legal service and terms and conditions can submit a claim. You can share the signup form with a friend so they can complete it themselves.
Questions Relating to Test Cases
We are looking for students affected by strikes to be ‘test cases’ and for us to act on your behalf as solicitors to recover compensation for your lost teaching time based on the tuition fees you have paid.
If you are interested in being a test case then email email@example.com to let us know about your case – we’ll then review it and contact you to talk more about the options.
What will happen in a test case?
Regardless of whether or not you want to be part of a formal test case we will send a formal ‘letter before action’ to your university, outlining the basis of your claim and why we believe they are liable to pay you compensation. It is likely that the university will dispute the claim and at that stage we would need to issue court proceedings in order to have a judge decide whether or not the university is obliged to pay compensation.
The case would then proceed through court and after several months there will be a formal court hearing. It is possible that you may need to give evidence at that hearing and you should be prepared for that. That decision may be appealed (by whoever has lost), which would result in an appeal court having to re-hear the legal arguments. Eventually, when the claim has concluded it will set a precedent for all other students that were affected by the same facts.
What will I have to do if I’m a test case?
We will do as much as possible on your behalf, however there will still be times when we need your cooperation and assistance. In particular this is likely to be in the form of providing us with documents relevant to the claim and also taking the time to speak to us, so that we can prepare a witness statement on your behalf. It is also possible that you would be required to attend the court hearing itself to give evidence.
How long will it take?
A simple court claim usually takes around 6-12 months to resolve, however by its very nature a test case is likely to take longer than this, particularly if it goes to an appeal court. If the claim is disputed by the university then it is likely going to take over a year, and possibly two to resolve the dispute entirely.
How will I know if I’m a test case?
We will contact you to let you know if you have been chosen (which may be by us, or by the court) to be a test case for your particular university.
What if I’m not a test case?
If you are not a test case then your case will most likely be ‘stayed’ (placed on hold) pending the outcome of the test case affecting your particular university.
Which Universities does this apply to?
There are 65 institutions that were affected by the strikes. The full list is as follows:
Birkbeck College, University of London
City, University of London
Courtauld Institute of Art
Goldsmiths, University of London
Imperial College London
Institute of Development Studies
Institute of Education
King’s College London
Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Queen Mary University of London
Queen’s University Belfast
Royal Holloway, University of London
Royal Veterinary College, University of London
Scottish Association for Marine Science at the University of the Highlands and Islands
Senate House, University of London
SOAS, University of London
St George’s, University of London
University College London
University of Aberdeen
University of Bath
University of Bradford
University of Bristol
University of Cambridge
University of Dundee
University of East Anglia
University of Edinburgh
University of Essex
University of Exeter
University of Glasgow
University of Hull
University of Kent
University of Lancaster
University of Leeds
University of Leicester
University of Liverpool
University of Manchester
University of Nottingham
University of Oxford
University of Reading
University of Salford
University of Sheffield
University of Southampton
University of St Andrews
University of Stirling
University of Strathclyde
University of Surrey
University of Sussex
University of Wales
University of Warwick
University of York
Below is a timeline of the UUK vs UCU events that have led to this. We’ll be sure to keep you updated with any developments.
29th June – UCU members will vote on commencing further strikes, just three months after the original wave of strikes, this time on the subject of low pay. In the initial consultative ballot, 65% of voting UCU members said they would be prepared to take industrial action, with 82% voting to reject employers’ pay rise offer of between 2% to 2.8%. The origins of this new dispute are the differences in pay between employers and employees.
26th June – The Tab Manchester reports that the lecturer strikes saved the University of Manchester over £1.1M. 635 staff members walked out, but despite vast sums of money saved, the only remuneration the university has offered is waiving the £50 hire fee for graduation gowns. Students are left wondering why the money isn’t being put into student wellbeing and mental health support causes.
13th June – Ulster University students whose grades have been adversely affected by the lecturer strikes could have their grades bolstered. The potential move from the university has caused furore with the UCU, who called the plan “completely unacceptable”, and questioned its fairness. Yet despite the UCU’s reservations, Ulster University has stated that the final decision would still come down to the university exam boards.
2nd June – General Secretary of the UCU Sally Hunt comes up against opposition at the union’s annual conference, with members accusing her of “procedural shenanigans” for how she handled the dispute against UUK. The main point of discontent amongst lecturers is that they were “emotionally blackmailed” and told to quietly drop the motion.
18th April – Sally Hunt, General Secretary of the University and College Union, outlines the current situation: “UUK have agreed at a meeting of the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) to formally rescind the employers’ original proposal for a fully defined contribution pension scheme’, adding ‘Members will recall that in November 2017 I recommended to the HEC) that we ballot for strike action and described it as “the worst proposal I have received in twenty years of representing university staff.” Now it has gone.”
13th April – 63.5% of UCU members vote to accept UUK’s offer, and hence, end strike action. As the highest turnout in any national ballot or consultation of any kind in UCU’s history, the lecturers’ uprising is seen as a huge success.
4th April – Sally Hunt asks UCU members to consider whether to agree to UUK’s latest proposals. If the result is ‘yes’; strikes will end. If it is ‘no’, UCU will strike for a week later in April followed by a further fourteen days in May and June.
28th March – Alastair Jarvis, chief executive of UUK states that Universities UK does not intend to return to the January Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) proposal to consult on moving to a “defined contributions” (DC) scheme. This decision is favoured by UCU, as the £200,000 loss to pensions is no longer a threat. Sally Hunt is ‘cautiously optimistic’.
23rd March – UUK board meet and agree proposal aimed at solving the dispute, and send aims to UCU members.
18th March – Sally Hunt echoes the frustration felt by UCU members: ‘UUK really need to work much harder to win the trust of university staff… what is really needed is a much improved offer.’
16th March – UCU calls on members who hold external examiner positions to resign from universities that are holding strikes.
13th March – UCU branch reps overwhelmingly reject proposal, stating the offer will have to be much improved. Meanwhile, on social media, #NoCapitulation is trending, urging the continuation of the UCU’s fight.
10th and 11th March – UCU prepare over the course of the weekend for more talks with ACAS.
8th March – Universities are faced with the looming threat of more action as UCU’S HEC sanction another 14 days of strikes.
6th and 7th March – UUK belatedly agrees to meet with UCU and ACAS to further discuss the issues.
6th March – University of Oxford reverses its support for pension cuts, now standing firmly on the side of UCU.
1st March –Sheffield University announce that they will deduct lecturers’ pay by 25% if lecturers have not rescheduled missed content within two days, and 100% within five days.
27th February – Sally Hunt tells members that she met with university employers with a comprehensive set of proposals. The result of this was the agreement to seek help from ACAS, workplace experts providing information and advice to employers and employees.
22nd February – The first day of strikes commences, and Jeremy Corbyn pledges his support by issuing a message of encouragement to striking UCU members.
7th February – Sally Hunt sends an email to members stating that UUK are steadfast in their refusal to reconsider their stance.
29th January – 61 universities are confirmed to be partaking in strikes on Thursday 22nd and Friday 23rd February.
23rd January – UCU declare that strikes look much more likely after talks about the USS (Universities Superannuation Scheme) end without an agreement. Sally Hunt says ‘Staff will feel utterly betrayed by their leaders.’
22nd January 2018 – Ballot result shows that UCU members overwhelmingly backed strike action. The turnout across all institutions averaged more than 58% (a record), with 88% voting for strike action and 93% for ASOS, Action Short of a Strike: working to contract, not covering for absent colleagues, not rescheduling lectures cancelled due to strike action.
UCU’s HEC (Higher Education Committee) congratulate members on the strong turnout and agree to escalate 14 days of strikes, starting with two days a week.
14th December – UCU release an update on the current state of affairs. This includes the note that USS refuse to meet beyond 18th December, in order to meet The Pensions Regulator demand that a settlement is made by 30th June 2018. UCU counter that an issue as important as this cannot be rushed.
30th November – Independent financial consultants First Actuarial release analysis suggesting that a lecturer starting a career in academia now could be £208,000 worse off over their retirement if proposed changes to pensions take place.
29th November – Ballot papers are sent out to academic staff. The outcome of this ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote to strike will determine proceedings of the upcoming months.
17th November 2017 – Details about UUK’s, Universities UK, the representative body for the UK’s university managers projected changes to academics’ pensions come to light.
UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt responds emphatically, calling the plan ‘…the worst proposal I have received in twenty years of representing university staff’.