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Universities: Industrial Disputes

Question for Department for Education

UIN 141187, tabled on 16 March 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to help support students who have been disrupted by industrial action called by unions representing university staff.

Answered on

25 March 2022

Students have suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic, and any further disruption caused to their learning is wholly unfair and completely unnecessary.

Young people have already sacrificed enough during this pandemic and students should be able to enjoy the full university experience. Students deserve good quality, face-to-face teaching from their universities, and we need a resolution that delivers this for them as soon as possible. It is what the vast majority of teaching staff want, and what students rightly expect.

The Office for Students (OfS) have wide-ranging powers to ensure students’ interests are protected, and they expect providers to do all they can to avoid disruption to students. The OfS has written to universities to make their expectations clear: universities must abide by the conditions of registration and ensure they meet obligations under consumer protection law in relation to the impact of industrial action.

Higher education providers are autonomous and responsible for the pay and pension provision of their staff. While government has no direct role in the disputes, we have been clear that we want this disagreement resolved in a way that avoids further disrupting students’ learning. We strongly encourage a resolution that delivers good value for students, staff, and providers.

Students who have complaints about their higher education experience should contact their provider in the first instance. Where a student remains unsatisfied once they have been to their provider, they can approach the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) who can consider their complaint. The OIA has published a guide to handling complaints arising from significant disruption: