Staff and students respond to plans for strike compensation scheme

Image Courtesy of: Jeanne Bigot

Staff and students have responded to a goodwill compensation scheme for undergraduates and postgraduates who have been affected by on-campus strikes.

The scheme is designed to provide financial compensation to eligible students whose learning has been directly impacted by the most recent waves of staff strikes at the University of Kent over staff conditions.

UCU President and Sociology Professor, Iain Wilkinson, said: “Kent UCU was not consulted over the scheme and we were not aware the University would do this.

“We are opposed to compensating students in general for classes missed by the strikes, as we feel this reduces the value of University Education, encouraging students to see it in purely pecuniary terms.

Professor Wilkinson added: “High standards of education and student support cannot be delivered on the cheap or with a demoralised workforce.”

Kent branch UCU also believes that the money for the compensation scheme has been directly taken out of wages from staff that went on strike.

However, not all staff who partook in the strikes are against the prospect of compensating students.

One member of Kent UCU, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “Many union members saw it as part of our original strategy in the strikes to get students to lobby some kind of refund.

“Without student pressure, the University management would have no incentive to negotiate.

“This allows them to offer less education with lower spending for the same amount of fee collected.”

They added: “Students should ask whether this payment is entirely satisfying, or whether they would rather have had a University sector management willing to listen in the first place to the concerns of those who teach students.”

The email sent by University management to all students also does not clarify how much money students would receive.

The scheme also allows students to donate their compensation to a COVID-19 Hardship fund, which has been set up to help struggling students during the ongoing pandemic.

Amitesh Das, a Film student, said: “If the payment is anything less than £50, I’m giving it to the COVID-19 Hardship Fund the university has.”

The third-year international student does not believe that payments below this threshold would come close to the fees paid by many taking courses at the University.

International students pay £15,700 in their first year of study, and face a 3% increase on this figure for each year that follows.

The scheme has been announced at a critical time for the University of Kent financially, as the University has recently been revealed to be in a £60.1 million deficit.

In July, the University of Kent also announced they would be cutting 150 full-time jobs in an effort to cut staffing costs by 3%.

Final year students’ email accounts will not be deactivated until November 1 in order to allow adequate time for the payments to be made.

Students will find out if they are eligible for the Goodwill Payment Scheme before the start of term and the COVID-19 Hardship Fund will be provided to students by mid-September via their Kent email accounts.