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Students call for University to reimburse cancelled teaching amidst staff strikes

Staff at Queen's University Belfast are among those who will walk out

The confrontation comes as university employers insisted they are open to talks in an ongoing bitter row over pensions, saying they have "never refused" to try and find a solution.

UNIVERSITY LECTURERS at 61 institutions across the United Kingdom began a series of strike actions yesterday over proposed changes to their pension which they say could leave them £10,000 worse off per month. UCU says this would leave a typical lecturer nearly £10,000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set-up.

Bill Galvin's pay package rose by 17 per cent from £484,000 to £566,000, according to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

The National University of Students (NUS) said it supports UCU members' decision to strike, and encouraged NUS members to support their lecturers. It said the total loss in retirement for current USS members reduces with the more past service they have.

NUS-USI president Olivia Potter-Hughes said it was important that a strong message was sent out against any employers who might consider reducing the terms or conditions of staff. When living costs are taken into account, it's estimated that the average student will finish university with around £50,000 of debt. They say it will leave them £10,000 a year worse off when they retire.

They are among 64 United Kingdom universities to be hit by strikes. However, in an interview for KTV, University Vice-Chancellor Karen Cox said that "there is no need for any financial compensation" for students at Kent when staff are trying their hardest to reschedule contact hours and "making sure that students are able to continue with their program".

McKee told CommonSpace that he thinks the dispute is down to the wider drive for austerity, which he says forces universities to deliver more with less money with no thought regard for the consequences for those who work in the system or the quality of the education delivered.

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"One of our marchers was assaulted by a student when we disrupted the lecture", the Sussex Supports the Strike group wrote in a statement on their Facebook page.

"They're not doing it because they enjoy going on strike, they're losing 14 days pay".

New polling commissioned by the UCU has found that the majority (61%) support strike action by university staff, with almost a fifth (19%) opposed. Missed laboratory time will be hard to make up and cancelled lectures will not be rescheduled, according to the union.

A source told CommonSpace that senior university staff had told them they had been urging UUK to negotiate, but had confirmed reports in the Guardian that it was votes on the UUK board by Oxford and Cambridge university which were preventing a solution.

Hundreds of thousands of university workers are understood to be enrolled in the USS pension scheme, mainly those working at older institutions established before 1992.

The student-led protest, which began at 12pm outside Senate House, occupied the majority of the square outside Great St Mary's, forcing pedestrians to walk past them in single file.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU, said: 'We have been calling for talks for weeks either directly or through Acas, so if Universities UK is willing to now meet without preconditions with a view to resolving this dispute this good news'. It will be young people and the next generation of students who will also suffer if their education deteriorates because employers are forced to make cuts to pay more into pensions.

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