An estimated 1,000 Cambridge staff took to the picket lines across 14 days of strike actionMathias Gjesdal Hammer

Following a heated debate last term, CUSU Council will vote tonight on whether to support a motion calling for reimbursement to students affected by missed contact hours throughout last term’s strike action.

The motion, proposed by Christ’s JCR Vice-President Oliver Jones, resolves that the students’ union lobby the University to “recognise this claim for financial compensation.” He also proposes to mandate CUSU sabbatical officers to push for the implementation of refunds, and that CUSU mobilises students in favour of financial compensation.

He noted that King’s College London has already “agreed to refund tuition in relation to the UCU strikes,” as the University has set up a fund to reimburse students for missed lectures and classes.

The question of strike refunds has emerged as a nationwide issue following the 14 days of industrial action last term, with over 1,000 students across the country having joined a class action lawsuit to claim compensation. The group litigation order, backed by law firm Asserson, will sue a number of universities, and suggests an approximate compensation of £500 per student.

In a council meeting last term, student representatives clashed over whether to support an amendment which demanded that “the University reaffirm its commitment to paying withheld staff wages into a student hardship fund,” as some felt that the missed wages should be given proportionally to those most affected by the strikes.

A letter from Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education Graham Virgo confirmed that the University will create a student hardship fund from withheld pay, but has provided little detail on the structure of the fund.


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CUSU’s failure to set a stance on student refunds is embarrassing

Another subset of students wanted to see all students receive equal and direct payouts, with conflict over whether international students should be refunded proportionately more, as they pay fees substantially higher than those of home students.

Cambridge UCU branch secretary Waseem Yaqoob touched on the proposed refunds in an interview with Varsity, saying: “It all depends on how the demand is framed, from the perspective of an industrial dispute and strike action. Money refunds would be very disruptive for universities, and would make them think twice about trying to push through reforms that would cause this kind of disruption.

“So my inclination is to say if framed so as to attack the system of fees, rather than to reinforce it, it could be very powerful. [...] I think if these demands are pressured, more university students will also realise how much universities also see them as an asset simply to be competed for.”

More recently, a University spokesperson told Varsity that they will “consult further with trade union and student representatives about the general uses of these funds.”