Angry students demand millions of pounds in compensation over University of Sheffield strike action

Sam Dickinson.
Sam Dickinson.

Angry students are demanding millions of pounds in compensation from the University of Sheffield as payback for time lost in lecture halls during strike action by tutors.

Lecturers in Sheffield will join colleagues at more than 60 institutions across the country in staging 14 days of walk outs in February and March in a dispute over pensions.

Firth Court.

Firth Court.

READ MORE: University of Sheffield pledges to minimise disruption to lectures during wave of strikes

But angry students have launched an online petition demanding the university pays money back to students as recompense for lost lecture time.

The campaign calls for university management to pay £300 compensation to each student affected by the action. Union officials claim the strike will affect 28,715 students - meaning the university would be left with a whopping bill of more than £8 million.

Sam Dickinson, an English literature student who launched the petition, which has more than 4000 signatures, said: "We pay tuition fees of £9000 a year so we think this figure is fair.

"It seems like a lot of money but it is just a fraction of what the university makes per year in fees.

"And the strike will mean thousands of students miss out on important lecture and seminar time with important exams just around the corner in March.

READ MORE: BREAKING NEWS: Sheffield university strike to hit lecturers for up to four weeks

"We are essentially paying customers so we want compensation for this time lost. I will miss 12 lectures and seminars because of the strike."

The 21-year-old added that students do actually support the principle of the strike and explained that their ire is directed at university management.

He said: "We respect tutors' right to strike and they deserve a fair deal. If the powers that be had given them a fair deal in the first place then we would not be in this position."

The university's students' union has also pledged its support for tutors and will be holding a day of action on Friday.

The dispute centres on a proposal by Universities UK, which represents higher education institutions, to end the defined benefit element of the Universities Superannuation Scheme pension scheme.

READ MORE: University of Sheffield staff to begin strike action this week

The University and Colleges Union claims this would leave a typical lecturer almost £10, 000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set-up.

There are around 1, 300 UCU members at Sheffield made up of lecturers, researchers, student advisors, librarians and admissions staff.

The strike action will be held on February 22 and February 23, followed by three further days between February 26 and 28, four days in March from the fifth to the eighth, and a full week between March 12 and March 16. There will be picket lines outside Firth Court, the Hicks Building and the Arts Tower.

A University of Sheffield spokesman said: "USS, like many pension schemes, is facing challenges and we understand that changes to the scheme are necessary for it to remain affordable and sustainable. Following a series of over 35 consultation meetings, a joint negotiating committee of Universities UK and the Universities and Colleges Union, representing the collective employers and members respectively, voted through a proposal.

“We recognise that statutory timescales have pushed the USS trustee and the national negotiators towards this decision, however we will continue to encourage the employer representatives to undertake talks to provide a long term solution for the scheme which works for all parties."

He accepted that while there will be 'some disruption' this is not expected to be significant and there are plans in place to reschedule any cancelled lectures.