Do students deserve compensation? This question has frequently been raised in recent weeks, as a result of the contact hours lost to industrial strike action. With some students having lost 75% of their contact hours, the desire for compensation is understandable. Dissertation students can’t access their supervisors, deadlines are getting pushed closer towards the exam period, and we’re just not getting the education that we came here for.
Repeated requests for compensation from students could turn up the heat for university leaders and encourage them to support the strike. Universities are now a commercial enterprise, so if we’re being treated as customers shouldn’t we respond as any other paying customer would? Some students have calculated that they have lost £2800 worth of contact hours. As this funding is needed to continue running the university at a high standard, maybe a continued request for compensation could stop the strikes from continuing.
On the other hand, repeatedly demanding compensation could distract the university from the main aims of the strike. If the university lost a significant amount of money, I imagine that the blame would fall on the lecturers. As a supporter of the strike, this outcome seems undesirable. Academic staff have already had their pensions threatened but are continuing to support students whilst losing a significant amount of their wages in order to stand up for themselves. Demanding financial compensation could cause more harm than good.
As staff wages are also being lost to the strike, I think they should be put towards improving the quality of university life
With deadlines increasing and the exam period moving closer, receiving financial compensation is not my main concern. After having almost no contact hours for the past three weeks, many students are struggling to grasp the content needed for crucial essays. Demands for financial compensation would decrease, if lectures and seminars were rescheduled and students were confident that their grades would not be affected by the strike.
As staff wages are also being lost to the strike, I think they should be put towards improving the quality of university life. Students and staff at the University of Bath recently created a petition to put lost wages towards mental health services, a movement that I would definitely support. If universities aren’t paying staff wages, then they should be put towards a useful cause that will improve the university for both staff and students.
With tuition fees being so high, money will always be a significant debate. As the strike is set to continue, I believe that we should continue to support industrial action – in light of the deplorable treatment of academic staff – and avoid causing any impractical tension. However, when the strikes are over, I hope that universities listen to calls from students regarding compensation, and will give us the power to decide what happens to any lost wages.