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City University students demand reimbursement of tuition fees as strikes enter second week

PUBLISHED: 15:50 26 February 2018

Staff at City, University of London are on strike this week in a dispute over pensions. Photo by Polly Hancock

Staff at City, University of London are on strike this week in a dispute over pensions. Photo by Polly Hancock

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City University students are demanding that their tuition fees are reimbursed as lecturers’ strikes enter a second week.

Staff at City, University of London are on strike this week in a dispute over pensions. Photo by Polly Hancock Staff at City, University of London are on strike this week in a dispute over pensions. Photo by Polly Hancock

Staff have been picketing outside the university on working days since Thursday in a dispute over pensions – and they aren’t the only ones feeling the pinch. Almost 5,000 students have signed a petition calling for financial redress from lectures and seminars missed.

Industrial action has been taking place at more than 60 universities nationwide, with strikes due to continue until Wednesday, as well as another nine days in March.

Currently, under the terms of enrolment, the university is not liable to compensate students for a failure to perform its obligations if that failure is due to circumstances beyond its control, including “industrial action by its employees”.

But Jindy Singh, who signed the petition, said: “They stand up for their pensions – we stand up for our studies.”

Vicky Cross added: “I’m paying tuition for something I’m not actually going to receive for four weeks.”

A spokesman for the City pro bono society, which launched the petition, said: “We believe it is fair and just to be proportionately reimbursed for the loss of contact hours with our tutors or lecturers during the strikes.

“By creating awareness of this and insisting on our consumer rights, we hope to unilaterally direct the industrial action at those it is intended at while minimizing unintended collateral damage to students.”

The university has said that the withheld salaries of striking staff will be used to cover the costs of “any immediate contingency actions”, with any surplus going to the “student hardship fund”.

On the strikes, a City statement said: “This is a very difficult issue for any employer because nobody wants to see a reduction in employee pension benefits, and we respect the right of Union of Colleges and Universities (UCU) members to protest over scheme reform.

“We have been working hard to put contingencies in place to minimise any impact on students’ education and university experience.”

A UCU spokesman said: “UCU’s higher education committee says serious and sustained industrial action is required in the face of damaging proposals from the employers which would effectively destroy the Universities Superannuation Scheme pension scheme.

“The employers want to end guaranteed pension benefits. They say your final pension should depend on how your ‘investments’ perform and not on your contributions. We say it’s wrong to risk our members’ futures.”

For more information on the strikes visit city.ac.uk.

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