You are:

  • News

HEIs report mixed levels of support on first strike day

22 February 2018

HEIs report mixed levels of support on first of UCU's planned strike days over USS

HE institutions are reporting that the first day of UCU’s planned strike action today (22 February) at 56 institutions* is having a mixed impact. Since the UCU membership in the institutions is varied in its density - only 12%* of active USS members in HE voted to support this strike - this is not unexpected. However, HE institutions are disappointed by UCU’s move to industrial action and they will continue to do all they can to ensure students are protected from any form of disruption.

Claims of widespread disruption would certainly be questioned by many of the 56 HE institutions being targeted today, with nine out of ten** HE institutions in the sample UCEA has contacted reporting a “low to moderate” support.

A large number of HE employees are not taking part in the strike action starting today and HE institutions are running as many of their operations as possible. While some staff members will have wanted to use this first day of action in particular to demonstrate their concerns about future pension changes as well as to show support for their union’s call for action, we know that there are staff who understand the significant funding challenges facing the USS and why benefit reform is needed. There are staff members who will have decided to acknowledge the scheme’s formal negotiating and decision-making processes*** and be choosing to engage with the forthcoming official USS consultation process to make their voice heard, and have no wish to see disruption to their institutions and their students.

A UCEA spokesperson said:

“We know that employees who are offered USS membership in these 56 HE institutions will feel strongly about the changes being proposed to their future benefits. As expected there were pickets at most of the 56 HE institutions targeted by UCU’s strike call but HE institutions are reporting being operational today and that they have put in place arrangements to ensure that their students will face as little disruption as possible. Seeing any industrial action is naturally disappointing given the student experience is a primary concern for all HE institutions. Each autonomous HE institution is focused on managing this period of disruption as best they can and protecting their students’ interests.

“Universities UK (UUK) represents all 350 employers participating in USS and with the scheme facing significant funding challenges UUK, on behalf of all employers, continues to work to make the scheme sustainable while offering the very best pensions that can be afforded. After months of discussions, the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC), the formal and legally established forum for deciding on changes to USS, reached a decision on benefit reforms, which will now be subject to consultation with affected employees and their representatives.”

*21,685 UCU members at 60 HE institutions voted to support strike action in January 2018
Active USS membership in HE institutions: 184,088 (other: 6,458)
Therefore the number of UCU members voting in favour of strike action represents an estimate of just 16% of academic staff in those HE institutions and 12% of active USS members in HE. UCU did not achieve support for strike action in four of the universities where they balloted, even on a repeat ballot, and chose only to ballot at 67 HE institutions where they organise and where the majority of academic staff are members of the USS. Many universities are therefore completely unaffected by this action.

**UCEA has contacted one-third of the 56 HE institutions targeted today, asking about the levels of support and impact of the action taking place on this first day of UCU’s planned 14 day of strikes. Half of those HE institutions provided an assessment of impact at this early stage with 1 reporting a high impact and 9 reporting a ‘low to moderate’ impact.

UCU’s website includes a list of institutions at Journalists should note that UCU is counting the Institute of Education separately in its numbers. It is part of University College London.

***The Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) is the formal negotiating and decision-making machinery in USS and is made up of equal representation from UCU and Universities UK. After months of negotiations, the JNC decided on 23 January in favour of a revised proposal put forward by Universities UK. ‘The functions of the JNC are to approve amendments to the rules proposed by the trustee, to initiate or consider alterations to the rules and to consider any alterations proposed by the advisory committee arising out of the operation of the rules. The committee also has powers, under the articles of association of the trustee company and under the scheme rules, in connection with the appointment of independent directors and with the remuneration of directors.’


UCEA is responsible for providing advice and support to its 172 member HE institutions in all employment matters, including matters such as industrial action.

Universities UK represents the 350 employers that participate in the Universities Superannuation Scheme.
Universities UK’s USS Pension Reform resources are available on their pensions section at alongside facts, Q&A, modelling and other communications.
For further information: Please contact Andy Fryer, Head of Communications and Membership ( or Marc Whittaker, Communications and Events Manager ( Call 020 7383 2444.