AUT Lecturer Strike

Today I’m working at home. Not because I would normally, but because my lecturers are on strike. I normally have 3 lectures on a Tuesday. Its an interesting conundrum though because I was asked yesterday if I supported the strike, and I had to think quite carefully before I could provide an honest answer, and even then, it wasn’t a straight foward one.

I love my course, and lecture attendance is all part of the learning process, so I was a little disapointed to find that students would be missing out; after all, the exam content isn’t going to change, and there aren’t enough empty lecture slots left this term and staff with free time to reschedule all missed lectures today, so unless I learn it by myself I would get behind with respect to the exam.

On the reverse side of the coin however, I value the teaching that my lecturers provide and am very grateful for them imparting their knowledge and experience to me, and so I firmly believed they should be paid well for the job they do. It is clear from what staff have said, and from the statistics available however that staff are not paid as well and as fairly as they should be. Not only that but they are not put on a pay scale that gives new graduates a suitable enough incentive to want to go into teaching in univeristies. This can only be to the detriment of the furtherment of many fields of learning.

Problem is, this isn’t the whole story. In addition to a strike today, there is an assesment boycott starting from tomorow. This means that work I submit will be left sitting there, unmarked and without feedback. While for me this isn’t so bad (most of my work is formative right now), this applies to all work from all students, including the exams of finalists. In the case of those students, it really does mean their graduation or at least the release of their exam scores will be delayed. A pain for many, a huge issue for others who need those grades to go onto further study or research or for those who’s future employers want a certain degree class to accept them.

So what is my position on the whole issue? Well, I’m quite happy to support today’s strike, I believe my lecturers deserve better pay, and there is nothing that a few hours in the library won’t fix when you have missed a few lectures.

As for the assessment boycott, sorry, I don’t back it one bit. If I was graduating this year, I would be worried in a big way. Ok, lecturers pay isn’t as good as it should be, and it’s an issue that has to be urgently addressed, but for people about to graduate, the AUT are potentially delaying the result of 3-4 years worth of very hard work. Is that fair? No ones denying lecturers don’t work hard and deserve better pay, but what about the students who work hard an deserve their degree? Two wrongs don’t make a right I’m afraid; student support on AUT pickets can only help lecturer’s cause, but when degrees don’t come when they should do, I think expecting that support is expecting a little too much.

 

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4 Comments

  1. Mary L Said,

    March 7, 2006 @ 2:13 pm

    After 7 years of training (3 yrs BA, 4 years Masters and PhD), I’m on a starting salary as a university lecturer of £12,000. I have no job security, and work long hours (all through the year) with high pressure to publish and a massively competitive job market. My contemporaries in other professions earn a greal deal more than me. I do the job because I love it, and because I care very much about the education of young people. Higher Education – in humanities and science – is essential to a developing society, and this should be reflected in higher salaries.

  2. Neon Said,

    March 8, 2006 @ 10:50 am

    I’m interested to know what the consequences of the assessment boycott would be? I’m not sure that students are going to be negatively affected to the extent that you fear, Kieran.

    Couple of questions for ya Kiers:

    I’m asking because I don’t know 😉 (not having all the details):

    Does the assessment boycott delay the assessments by more than a day?
    Does the easement boycott change how the papers/exams are assessed? Would the lecturers need to rush their assessments?
    Do some students graduate before the summer (between now and sometime in July)?
    Is the boycott just likely to affect when the results are published, or the actual graduation day as well?

    I recall waiting impatiently for results to be published and checking various lists, but I don’t think a day or two would have made much difference. At one time you had to come in to campus to find your results, then Unis offered to post you results by mail and now they make them available on the Net. Students have more options now than in the past and should appreciate that.

    I would be more concerned if my grades were affected rather than having to tolerate a relatively minor delay for a worthy cause. All IMHO :).

  3. Kieran Said,

    March 8, 2006 @ 2:49 pm

    Mary L, I hear you, and for someone who has worked so hard to get where they are, and who gets paid so little for so much, I admire your continuing commitment to the furtherment of higher education.

    It is sad to see people like yourself not getting their just reward for their hard work; one of the reasons I was in support of yesterday’s strike.

    I hope that for people like yourself the action pays off, because you deserve better.

    ——————————

    Neon, in response to your questions (to the best of my abilities)

    “Does the assessment boycott delay the assessments by more than a day?”

    Yes, it does. Assesment will stop for as long as it takes in theory for a breakthrough to occur. Unlike the strikes, its an on-going issue. Obviously the union, or some members do back down after a short period of time, but in the past it has gone on for a lot more than a few days.

    “Does the easement boycott change how the papers/exams are assessed?”

    The method of assesment wouldn’t change.

    “Would the lecturers need to rush their assessments?”

    Rush, no. But obviously the longer it goes on for, the more delays enter the system. Unless you mark on priority after the boycott, a first come first served system may take quite a while to clear a backlog of more than a few days of marking. Especially where summertive coursework is concerned.

    “Do some students graduate before the summer (between now and sometime in July)?”

    Some students complete assesments before that date; some assesments take longer to mark and consider. As for graduation as in a day, no, there are only two official degree days a year AFAIK.

    “Is the boycott just likely to affect when the results are published, or the actual graduation day as well?”

    Leeds uni issued a warning to it’s students that both may occur, citing students on postgraduate courses as most likely to suffer with both a delay in results AND a delay in graduation, so it must be a reasonable amount of an issue…

    ——————————

    As to your overall points, I do agree in a way, I just think that not enough is done to dispell worries of students if what you say is the case.

    The uni sent out an e-mail to all students warning about possible disruption, and very few lecturers have openly said anything about it not affecting students much. This has led to the students union sitting on the fence on the issue, and several student groups having concerns either about marking, or on the reverse side of the coin about lack of support for the action.

    Studnets need to make informed decsions about who/why to support, and indeed how much they have cause for concern for their own work. At the moment, information relating to this effect from both the Uni, SU and AUT is very sketchy, hence my mostly hypothetical comments about the potential for problems.

    I am in no way saying it WILL happen or even that it WONT but that the potential is there, and thus as a student it is worth mentioning 🙂

    In terms of student facilities, I won’t argue; they are much better, and I enjoy making the most of them, and apreciate they are there to use. Truth is though it’s not related to lecturers pay. Online results etc. are usually managed by software bought in by outside the uni, or even if it is built/maintained on site, it is rarely by staff who lecture.

    Lord how I love a good debate 😀

  4. Petition the boycott Said,

    April 25, 2006 @ 4:29 pm

    There’s a growing push for the boycott to end – an online petition is growing in influence at http://www.aut-boycott.co.uk/ Please sign it and encourage others to do so as well.

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