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Over the last few weeks, news of more strike action has arrived. People have differing opinions; some believe that the lecturers are making something out of nothing, whilst most people I’ve met are on the lecturers’ side and are saying that the strikes are justified. But I haven’t met anyone yet who’s not frustrated by the strikes.
The University of Kent is a private institution. While, yes, the Office for Students (OfS) exerts some control over the university, for the most part it is financially autonomous. There is a pay scale they have abide to. However, there are 50 different levels on that scale giving ample flexibility.
In the three years I’ve been here the university has not been run well. When the strikes in my first year happened, I was told I was lucky. The implicit expectation being that these didn’t happen too often and once it was over there wouldn’t be a dispute for a few years, outlasting me. In that time, I have seen the renovation of parts of Parkwood, I’ve seen the first year of Templeman uninterrupted by construction as well as the new tennis courts by the pavilion. This is without mentioning the countless other, smaller projects around the university. Meanwhile, staff members have been laid off and according to the university’s own website 'Vice-Chancellor’s current total annual rate of remuneration is £277,100 (2018/19). This includes an allowance in lieu of pension contribution.’ This is a figure given before expenses.
The evidence of this discontent is in the University of Kent’s rapid descent in the university rankings. Firmly a top 20 university when I started, most rankings now place UKC in the 40s on their list. Many of these rankings are based on student reports and survey answers showing their disillusionment with management.
We are customers. We actually have all the power. Education is a service and it’s one we will be paying for. This should be something that unites us all. None of us want the strikes and the University, as a business, is the one that has unwisely spent money on extras without making sure they were paying the education staff properly. This should have been their priority.
The new facilities are great, but I’d rather see investment in the people who are actually going to affect the outcome of my degree, the people who teach me and grade me. I don’t want that to be second rate. If you have respect for yourself as a consumer you should too. You’re paying after all.
Overall, we should all have more respect for ourselves as consumers and complain. Otherwise the university is spending your money on things other than your education. They’ll appease with small concessions like gym membership reforms that Emily Window fought for earlier this year. But let’s not forget that we’re all here to get an education. These strikes are disruptive. If we want to stop it, we have to complain.
You don’t have to take the side of the lecturers, you don’t really have to have an opinion on that, it’s a staff dispute. Complain about the disruption, that your money that has been wasted, or, just outright say that you’re not getting the product you were promised. Complaining about this is not about taking sides, it’s about being vocal consumers and not rolling over and taking it.