News and events

Industrial action

Queen Mary is one of 60 higher education institutions where members of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) voted in support of strike action and/or action short of a strike over pay and working conditions, and the proposed changes to the USS pension scheme. You can find more information about the issues on the Universities UK website

At Queen Mary, 367 of our 4500 staff voted in favour of strike action in relation to pensions, and 363 voted in favour of strike action in relation to pay and working conditions. Information that has already been sent to staff in relation to the issues around pensions can be found here.

Two periods of strike action have been announced by UCU: 25-29 November and 2-4 December. Action short of a strike will commence on 25 November, and UCU has said that such action will finish no later than 29 April 2020. Pay and pensions are nationally-negotiated issues, and much as everyone is working hard to find a solution, it is likely the industrial action will go ahead.

We understand the uncertainty the industrial action may cause and hope that the dispute can be resolved. We would like to reassure you that we’re meeting regularly, at the university, faculty and school level, to carefully manage the potential impact this industrial action may have on our University community.  Particularly, we want to ensure we have measures in place so as not to disadvantage our students. The FAQs below are designed to answer any questions you may have. If you feel something is missing, do, please contact your Head of School or School Manager, or Head of Institute.

Frequently asked questions for students relating to industrial action by University and College Union (UCU) members

Could this industrial action affect my assessment or degree outcome?

No. We will make sure you are not disadvantaged in your assessments. For example, you may be told that certain questions are on material that has not been covered owing to the strike action, so you may choose not to answer those questions. Examination Boards will also be looking for any anomalies in scores on questions, and if there are such anomalies will be asking if these could have been a result of the strike.  

What is being done to minimise the impact of industrial action on students?

We understand that you will be worried about the impact on your studies. Every member of staff at Queen Mary is passionate about providing the very best education and experience for you, and it is our responsibility to minimise any disruption that you may experience as a result of this industrial action. We are therefore working extremely hard with your Heads of School or Institute to minimise the impact on your teaching, learning and overall experience. Many of the mitigations will vary between schools, and so your Head of School or Institute will contact you separately to explain what is being done.

What should I do on strike days?

Unless you are informed otherwise by your school or institute, you should come in to University as normal for your timetabled sessions. Please do keep checking your Queen Mary email account for the latest information. Not all members of staff are taking part in the industrial action and many lectures and other classes will run as normal. Wherever possible, we will let you know in advance if any of your teaching sessions are likely to be affected; however, staff do not have to tell us if they are going on strike so in some cases this will not be possible.

What happens if I get to my class and my lecturer doesn’t turn up?

We know that many lecturers who are taking industrial action are telling their students in advance if teaching is cancelled. You should assume your class is running if you haven’t been told otherwise. If you attend a class and find the lecturer is not there, please wait for 15 minutes past the start time. If at the end of that time your lecturer has still not appeared, you can assume they are not coming and leave. If you are unsure about anything or want to talk to anyone about untaught lectures or seminars, please contact your Head of School or Institute.

Can I apply for a partial refund of my fees if some of my teaching time is missed?

We are doing everything we can to minimise the impact of industrial action on students. Once we understand better the impact of strike action and ASOS on your studies, we be able to look at whether adjustment to fees is appropriate. It is worth noting that tuition fees pay for a wide range of services and facilities in the course of the year, such as learning resources, student support, campus and facilities management, other professional services, and funding of the Students’ Union. It would be incorrect therefore to define the fee only in relation to contact time, or in terms of a daily rate. We will continue engaging with students to ensure that we are helping them to complete their studies successfully.

Our terms and conditions describe our approach to delivering and changing programmes.

We advise you to keep a record of any situation where you think we have not responded adequately. If you are unsatisfied with the outcome, you can make a formal complaint. If at the end of the academic year, you think you have been disadvantaged in your assessment, in spite of the arrangements put in place, you should speak to your school or institute in the first instance.

Will my lectures and other teaching be rescheduled?

It is possible that some teaching can be rescheduled, but we cannot guarantee that this will be the case as we cannot require staff taking industrial action to complete work that they have missed due to a strike day.

Will the exams in January 2020 still take place?

Yes. January exams will still take place. Examination timetables will be sent to you during the week of 18 November.

Can I ask for an extension for submissions of work falling in the strike period?

This will vary between schools and institutes. Please assume that deadlines still apply as normal unless you are contacted by your Head of School to say that an extension has been granted.

Will my work be marked if my lecturer is on strike? Do I still need to submit my work for marking?

Please complete and submit work as normal. Your school or institute will let you know if there is to be a delay to marking.

Will the library and student services, including student wellbeing services and advice and counselling, be affected by the industrial action?

The library and student wellbeing services, including advice and counselling, will not be affected and will be open as normal.  

Should I submit an ‘extenuating circumstances’ claim if any of my teaching is cancelled?

If your teaching is cancelled because of strike action, your school or institute will be aware of what you have missed so it will not be necessary to submit an extenuating circumstances claim. Please do not submit extenuating circumstances claims just because you think you might have been affected. Only submit a claim for a clearly defined issue that is specific to you as an individual.

I want to raise a complaint as a result of the strike action, what should I do?

If you wish to raise a complaint, please follow the University’s normal complaints procedure. Information about this can be found here

For independent and confidential advice about their complaint, you can get advice from Annie Mitchell, our Advocacy and Representation Manager in Queen Mary’s Students’ Union: (please note Annie is a staff member of QMSU, not a student officer).

Will lecture capture still be available?

Lecture capture will continue to be used as normal for those teaching events that take place.

Should students still record their attendance at lectures?

Where teaching has gone ahead, attendance will be monitored as normal.

What does this mean for the attendance records of international students on a Tier 4 visa?

There will be no impact on student visa status. If any of the students’ timetabled teaching time was cancelled, the School or Institute should have informed the Registry Office, and they will ensure that students will not be marked as out of attendance.

Will this affect students on postgraduate research programmes?

Supervisions, review meetings and vivas for research students are arranged on an individual basis. Please contact your school or institute in the first instance if you have any concerns. Alternatively you can contact the Research Degrees Office:

How will any money withheld from staff as a result of their taking part in industrial action be used?

Any money withheld from staff as a result of their taking part in industrial action will be used to support students’ education.

What is the industrial action about?

This is a legally conducted national-level strike about pensions, pay and working conditions. No one who goes on strike will have taken the decision lightly: staff at Queen Mary are dedicated to teaching their subject and hate the idea of causing disruption to students.

Not all staff will go on strike. Some do not agree with the dispute or are not members of the trade union UCU; others may agree with the principles of the dispute, but be unable to strike for financial or personal reasons. As a University we respect everyone’s position and the choices they make.

What is a picket line?

Staff who are members of a trade union, and who have had a lawful vote to take strike action, create a picket line by standing outside buildings and explaining to people why they are on strike. They hope to persuade fellow union members not to cross the picket line, so that as many members as possible take strike action.

As a University, we respect trade union members’ right to take part in industrial action. The trade union UCU has issued guidance to its members about behaviour on picket lines. All pickets should be peaceful in nature. Staff on picket lines may explain to you why they are on strike, but they should not block your way, or be abusive in any way.

I don’t want to cross a picket line. What should I do?

Please do attend University as normal, unless you have been informed that a session has been cancelled. The campus will be open as normal on strike days and staff, students and visitors will be able to go into all buildings.

Access to campus entrances will not be blocked and you should feel able to pass freely and easily without confrontation. If you have any concerns about behaviour on the picket line, or feel intimidated, please ask security (who will be present on the picket lines) for help or call security on 020 7882 3333.

Who can take part in strike action and ASOS?

Any Queen Mary member of staff may take part in strike action and will have the same rights as union members.

What constitutes strike action, and ‘action short of a strike’ (ASOS)?

Taking strike action generally means the individual will not work for that day, or period of days. Action short of a strike (ASOS) can mean activities such as not covering for absent colleagues, not sharing teaching materials from tutorials and lectures that are cancelled owing to strike action and working to contract.

Do staff who are members of UCU have to take part in the industrial action?

No. It is up to each UCU member whether they take part.

What are the positions of the employers’ associations (Universities UK and the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UUK and UCEA))?

Who should I contact if I have a query that isn’t answered here?

Students can raise and track a query through Student Enquiry Centre Online, email, or talk with their school or institute (contact details can be found here).

If you would like to request an update or addition to these FAQs, please contact

Communications with students

The Principal Professor Colin Bailey and other members of the senior leadership team provide regular updates on the planned industrial action.

Title and linkDate
Message from the Principal: Industrial action Thursday 5 December
Message from the Principal: Industrial action update 25 November-4 December 2019 Friday 22 November 2019
Message from the Principal: Industrial action 25 November-4 December 2019 Monday 11 November 2019