Toope's statement came in response to demands made by students occupying Old SchoolsAndy B

Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope this afternoon issued a statement to members of the University in response to the striking academics and demands made by students occupying Old Schools.

One significant shift was his announcement that the University will not expect academics who have gone on strike to reschedule teaching time without compensation. This marked a change from a letter sent to staff by the University of Cambridge Department of Human Resources prior to the strike, which threatened to “withhold pay at the full daily rate” if staff refused to reschedule cancelled lectures and classes.

At the time, Dr Sam James, Cambridge UCU vice-president, described this threat as a form of “bullying”.

Toope also said that the University had not deducted, and does not plan to deduct, pay from staff on days when action short of a strike is taken. Refusing to reschedule missed lectures and classes is considered to be action short of a strike.

In a statement to Varsity, the occupiers described Toope’s response to their demands as a “major victory for the occupation and striking workers”, and stressed that Toope’s decision to not deduct pay for action short of a strike “set a crucial national precedent”. However, they noted they are “disappointed that Toope’s commitment to the defined benefits scheme remains ‘interim’, rather than permanent”.

They also added that they are “disappointed that it has taken four weeks of strike action and an occupation of Old Schools for the Vice Chancellor to reach this stage.”

The occupiers pledged continued support for “staff fighting for a fair settlement” and said they “look forward” to the open assembly on Friday, which will begin “the vital process of democratising our university.”

In the statement, Toope also supported the introduction of an interim pension solution retaining Defined Benefit, along with the removal of the inflationary cap proposed in the rejected agreement.


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Student activists occupy Old Schools in support of strikes

In an email sent to the occupying students, Toope clarified that he had “already agreed to a 1-½ hour open meeting chaired by CUSU and with an official Cambridge UCU executive member also involved.” This was in line with the occupiers’ second demand: “to hold an open meeting with students and staff to discuss the handling of the pension scheme, and further issues of institutional accountability and democracy. This should include transparency around the university's investments, especially relating to staff pensions.”

Toope reiterated a promise not to impose any sanctions on those currently occupying Old Schools, which met the occupiers’ third demand, though he noted “we expect a peaceful and orderly departure, leaving the spaces in good order”.

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