The UCU may have have paused strike action, but this is not the 'breakthrough' the university claims.Daniel Hilton for Varsity

The pause of the strikes is great news, but a simple ‘pause’ is not good enough. Cambridge is responsible for stopping them entirely, and making sure we don’t miss out on any more of our fee paid education. Although I supported the strikes, I was still infuriated by them. What incensed me about them is that they shouldn’t have happened in the first place. In an already short penultimate term of 8 weeks, 18 days of the 56 days which I pay for (40 if you rule out weekends as non-teaching days), which I am increasingly in debt for – were about to be denied to me, despite the University of Cambridge being the literal golden goose. Glutted with wealth and riches, Cambridge is still unwilling to expend its resources on the people that matter: the people that make up their institution.

The week before the strikes started, I had a stomach bug so bad that I was forced to miss a whole week of university. This was dire. The roughest part – apart from surviving solely on the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast – the occasional Lucozade, and a prayer) – was that I couldn’t truly rest. I couldn’t relax as I was so anxious about falling behind, consequently making me even more unwell. I knew I was missing a valuable week of teaching and lectures with only months to go until my anxiety-inducing finals, which determine whether I get a place on my MA or not. Imagine my outrage then, when bed-ridden and desperately trying to force myself to eat a piece of dry toast, I realised by email that I was yet to miss more teaching when the strikes were announced. 

'Universities are businesses – and as a business, Cambridge University is a terrible model.'

Pre-pause, adding my sickness days to the eighteen planned strike days resulted in a total potential sum of 25 missed days of the term’s teaching. That is nearly half the term. That is nearly a whole month. This is not just unfortunate, but ridiculous. I’m not the academically strongest student in the English Faculty, at the best of times. Consistently ending up in the bottom quarter in the tripos rankings here over the past two years, I need all the in-person teaching I can get.

It's infuriating. And I can only imagine, with empathy, how much more infuriating it must be to be an employee here, not just a student. Or, in the case of PhD supervisors, both of these things. My mum was a university lecturer for many years, so I know from her experiences how overworked, underpaid and undervalued academic faculty members are.

Everybody knows that the golden myth that universities are like intellectual meadows in which young learners are nurtured is a bold-faced lie. Universities are businesses – and as a business, Cambridge University is a terrible model.

The beauty of learning does not lie within this institution's core values. You’d think the central focus of Cambridge would be the chance for young minds to be educated and nurtured by some of the brightest academics in not only the UK, but in the world. Think again. Cambridge could be this. It could be glorious. God knows, it has the money to do this. Instead, they treat these academics – their staff – these great minds with the potential to educate and stimulate the next generation, as though they are second-rate citizens. In a climate where you’d assume knowledge would equal currency, the smartest among us are paid merely tokens for their genius and hard work.


Mountain View

Breaking: UCU strike action put on pause

A good business values its employees. Cambridge is not a good business. Universities everywhere need to do better, but Cambridge – one of the richest ones in the world – should be responsible for leading the change. We must get angry about the strikes, even though they have been temporarily ‘paused’ – it’s the only way we can stop them. We must demand better treatment for all: students and staff, from our university. 

We should do so not despite, but especially because it’s a high stress environment. We all work hard to be here. We crunch our spines over laptops and strain our eyes translating antiquated text daily for hours and hours. We stress, study, and save money because we want this education. We are desperate to be educated. And we’ve paid for it. So educate us.

'I am striking from hearing the repeated lies this institution spreads on its glossy social media'

I am on the side of our supervisors, professors and lectures. Because they do this too, tenfold, and I believe those that work in education are the best of people: they care about helping students to learn, to improve and they pour hours of tireless work into doing so. If we think that we are working hard, know that they are working harder: often also juggling families, mortgages, mouths to feed at home and second, part-time jobs to help keep the heating on this winter. And it’s not fair.

I for one, am still on strike, I am striking from hearing the repeated lies this institution spreads on its glossy social media and in its false advertising. Cambridge is not on our side. Despite us all paying to attend, many of our families crippling themselves financially to do so. They promise us learning. They promise us inclusion. They promise us good ‘customer service’ in return for our money. Well, then: where is it? Instead of ‘pause’ Cambridge University needs to click ‘play’ on our education and pay their staff what they are owed.