When industrial action takes place in higher education providers (or in placement settings such as hospitals or schools) it can cause significant disruption for students. We understand that this can be a worrying time. We hope the guidance below may be helpful to you if you have been affected by the marking and assessment boycott or other industrial action.

How do I know if my university or college is involved in industrial action?

Your higher education provider should tell you if it is involved in industrial action. If the industrial action is affecting a number of higher education providers you may also be able to find information on the UCU website.

What might “industrial action” look like?

When provider staff are in dispute with a higher education provider as their employer, they have the right to take action in support of their position. The OIA does not have any powers to stop industrial action going ahead.

It is possible that teaching and supervision might not take place on the days of industrial action. Some access to facilities such as libraries, laboratories, IT provision could also be affected. Marking of assessed work may be changed, delayed, or cancelled.

What will industrial action mean for me?

The impact will be different at different higher education providers and may be different across different faculties and departments, depending on which members of staff are taking action.

Your higher education provider should keep you informed about what is happening, so it’s important to check their website and your email or Virtual Learning Environment for regular updates. Members of staff who are taking industrial action aren’t obliged to tell the higher education provider in advance when they will be taking action, so you may get updates at short notice.

Be careful not to make assumptions, for example that your classes or assessments will be cancelled or that submission deadlines that fall within the period of industrial action will be extended. You may still need to follow the usual process to ask for an extension if you need more time to submit some work, if for example a tutorial was delayed because of the industrial action. If you are in doubt, ask a member of staff in your department or contact your students’ union for advice.

I am unhappy about the way industrial action is affecting my studies. What can I do?

Talk to your provider and tell them what you are experiencing. If the provider hasn’t already told you, ask them what they are planning to do to address any disruption that has affected you. It can be helpful to keep a record of exactly how the industrial action affected you as this may help your provider understand your concerns more quickly.

If you think that you have been affected in the same way as other students, for example, your course cohort, you may be able to ask a course representative or students’ union representative to talk to your provider on behalf of the group.

If you think the industrial action has affected your academic performance you may need to follow your provider’s process for requesting additional consideration (this may be called the mitigating or extenuating circumstances process). You may also need to make an academic appeal. You may be able to get advice about this from your students’ union or other student representative body.

How can I complain if I have been affected by industrial action?

Your higher education provider will have a complaints process that you can use to raise your concerns. It will usually be available on its website. If you are not sure how to find this or what to do first, your students’ union or other student representative body can often provide some advice and support.

If a number of students have all been affected by industrial action in the same way (for example, a group of students on the same module or course) you may be able to complain as a group.

You might not be able to complain before the industrial action takes place. Your higher education provider may ask you to wait to see exactly how your studies were disrupted and whether it can take action to put the situation right. It should also tell you if you need to follow a special complaints process or make an academic appeal.

When your provider has given you its final decision about your complaint or appeal, you can complain to us if you are not satisfied.

Will I get a refund of tuition fees?

Your provider may do several things to try to ensure that you are not disadvantaged because of industrial action. They may be able to re-schedule missed teaching or offer a different way to deliver the content. Providers may also take the industrial action into account when deciding how to carry out assessments and when making decisions about progression and awarding qualifications You might not be entitled to a financial remedy if the provider is able to take steps to put things right another way.

Your provider might offer you a financial remedy, particularly if it is unable to take any other action to put the situation right.

You can see more information about our approach to putting things right for students affected by industrial action in these case summaries.

I have to meet attendance requirements for my visa. How does industrial action affect this?

Home Office Student Sponsor Guidance (June 2021) confirms that if an “expected contact” such as a lecture, seminar or individual supervisory discussion can’t go ahead because of industrial action, this should not be recorded as an unauthorised absence. You may also be able to find information on the UKCISA website.

I need some extra help. Where can I go?

We understand that uncertainty around industrial action can be worrying for some students. If you need some additional support, your students’ union or other student representative body may be able to help you, or direct you to other sources of help. You may also be able to access help from your provider’s usual welfare and support services.

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If you have any questions on industrial action please contact us.