A number of UK universities that offer optometry are listed on the University and College Union (UCU) website having voted to support strike action alongside dates for suggested strikes to take place.
University staff at 64 universities across the UK are striking over pensions. Of the 11 UK universities that offer optometry as a degree, strike action is expected to take place at the University of Manchester, the University of Bradford, Aston University, Cardiff University, Ulster University and City, University of London.
University staff began striking on 22 February, with action expected to continue on various days throughout March unless an agreement is reached. The strike is in protest against changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme, which will affect the pensions of academics.
While a number of institutions have said that they respect the right of every member of staff to take strike action, they have confirmed that they are working to minimise the impact on students and their studies.
A spokesperson for the University of Manchester told OT that the optometry department had not been significantly affected by the strike action, adding that no clinical training has been cancelled.
The spokesperson emphasised: “While the university aims to minimise the impact of the industrial action on students, it also recognises the rights of individual members of staff to take industrial action. The university will be open as usual during the action and academic and support activities will continue to operate as normal.”
The spokesperson encouraged students with any concerns about the strikes to contact the university directly. “Students should continue to attend scheduled teaching unless they have been informed by their school that it is not taking place,” they said, adding: “Students with questions about how their exams and coursework may be affected should talk to their school.”
Aston University said it would be difficult to measure the full impact of industrial action on the optometry department at this point. “This is because staff are not required to declare they are participating in strike action while it is still underway,” a spokesperson explained to OT. “However, based on the information we have available, we expect the impact to optometry teaching to be minimal,” they added.
Ulster University acknowledged that the strikes have led to some disruption at the university as a whole, but told OT: “We are continuing to do everything possible to safeguard both the student and staff experience during this time.”
A spokesperson for City, University of London, confirmed that “all students have received communications from the [university] President and from their respective schools with practical information and details of who they can contact for advice.”
We have been working hard to put contingencies in place to minimise any impact on students’ education and university experience,” they added.
Last month, universities minister, Sam Gyimah, said that students whose courses have been disrupted by the university strike should receive compensation for lost classes.
Responding to whether or not the University of Manchester would be considering reimbursing students, the institution explained: “Since the university charges a composite fee for our courses, we cannot reimburse individual students for specific elements of missed teaching and assessment.”
Responding to the same question, a spokesperson for Aston University told OT: “If, after the strike has concluded, students still believe and can evidence that their degree performance or future prospects have been affected, notwithstanding the mitigating action the university has taken, the position of compensation will be considered on a case by case basis at that point.”
Cardiff University highlighted that it is and will continue to take steps to minimise the impact of strike action. This includes re-scheduling or using alternative methods for delivering learning opportunities.
A spokesperson for the university reassured: “We have sought to reassure students that we are – and will continue – to work hard to ensure that the impact of the industrial action on students is minimised, students will not be disadvantaged by strike action and will be able to progress or graduate as expected.”
OT has also contacted the University of Bradford for comment.
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