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Information for Students

Information for Students in relation to Industrial Action

Queen’s is one of 150 universities whose University and College Union (UCU, a trade union) members will take part in industrial action.

This page is intended to answer the most common student queries arising from the industrial action and will be updated regularly.

  • 1. What is the University doing to mitigate the impact of the marking and assessment boycott on our students?

    The University and College Union (UCU) has confirmed the commencement of a marking and assessment boycott by their members at 145 UK universities, including Queen’s University Belfast, from Thursday 20 April 2023. This is an extension of the current Action Short of Strike (ASOS).

    Full information and guidance for students on what the University is doing to mitigate the impact of the marking and assessment boycott is available on the My Queen’s website.

    This remains primarily a national dispute regarding the USS pension scheme and national pay negotiations that the University cannot resolve unilaterally. We will, however, continue to use our influence to shape and inform the national debate and to work with colleagues in our local branch of UCU to address their concerns around workload and casualisation.

    Please be assured that maintaining the integrity of our awards and supporting you to achieve the assessment outcome you have worked for are of paramount importance. The University has in place longstanding regulations which mean that we will work to ensure you can progress or graduate, knowing that you have achieved the learning outcomes and with confidence in the value of your degree.

    What this means for assessments

    We expect that the impact of this action will vary across the University and will be very limited in some areas. Many students will not be affected at all.

    It is anticipated that the majority of assessments will proceed as planned. Students should therefore continue to prepare for and submit any form of assessment scheduled during this industrial action as normal.

    As far as possible, in assessments, students will not be expected to demonstrate learning against material that has not been delivered as a result of industrial action. Where necessary, adjustments to assessments will be made to facilitate this and Boards of Examiners will take account of the general impact of industrial action.

    The Supplementary Study Regulations for Taught Programmes have been invoked to give Boards of Examiners a framework in which they can determine student progression and awards in the current context.

    Please read the full information and guidance for students on what the University is doing to mitigate the impact of the marking and assessment boycott on the My Queen’s website.

    Exceptional circumstances

    If, during the assessment period, you are impacted by circumstances unrelated to the industrial action, the University has in place an exceptional circumstances process to ensure that you have the opportunity to have these taken into consideration. Further information is available in our Guidelines for Students on Exceptional Circumstances, which continue to apply during this period.

  • 2. What is the industrial action about?

    UCU have voted to take industrial action in relation to changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), a national pension scheme, and also in relation to pay and working conditions. Unite the Union is also taking industrial action in relation to pay.

    This is primarily a national dispute that the University cannot resolve unilaterally. However, we will continue to use our influence to shape and inform the national debate.

    Responsibility for resolving the pensions dispute lies with members of the Joint Negotiating Committee (UUK, who represent the sector employers, and the UCU who represent employees). The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) are responsible for resolving the dispute relating to pay and conditions with UCU.

  • 3. What is the University doing to address staff concerns about issues such as workload, casualisation and equality?

    This is primarily a national dispute that the University cannot resolve unilaterally. However, other matters such as casualisation, workload and equality are of equal importance to staff and have emerged as prominent topics in the debate at both a local and national level.

    These are issues that the University does have greater influence over and a range of interventions that have already been underway to improve working conditions for our staff, with more changes planned. These include:

    • While, since 2017, we have narrowed the institutional equal pay gap from 20.4% to 18.1% (2020), we recognise there is more to be done. We are committed to building on this work with the publication of a new Equal Pay Audit later this year.
    • We have worked closely with local UCU representatives in recent years on the Extended Workforce Project to undertake a fundamental review of all atypical contracts ensuring that contracts and pay rates are appropriate for the type of work. We have embedded the QWork operating model to engage casual workers. The Extended Workforce Project has also initiated work to pilot a review of the employment status of teaching assistants in AHSS, following which the review will be extended to all teaching assistants.
    • A working group, led by Interim Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Stuart Elborn, established to review our approach to workload allocation is progressing. An academic work planning system, Simitive, has now been procured. This will deliver a platform that will enable the allocation of work in a transparent and fair way, providing schools and Faculties with information for future workforce planning. It is expected that Simitive will be available in Semester 1 2023-24.
    • Queen’s has in place a single, holistic Mental Health Framework (“QUBeWell”), to support the mental health and wellbeing of all students and staff, having invested £600k in this area.
    • A new Staff Health and Wellbeing team has been appointed to development a new Staff Health and Wellbeing Plan for the University.
    • As a University, we have a very strong reputation, both locally and nationally, for our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace and on campus generally. Both our People and Culture Plan and a new institutional Equality Scheme Action Plan shall set out our commitment to engage with, and listen to our staff, on important issues such as these. We are recognised among the top UK universities for gender equality practices by the flagship accreditation scheme, Athena SWAN Charter, and we are committed to progressing other work in respect of racial, LGBTQ+ and disability equality.
    • Following the review of the pilot year, we have developed new guidance in support of agile working which was launched in March 2023. This includes new Hybrid Working Guidance, which sets out three staff categories, with suggested proportions of time working on campus. We have also developed new Communication and Accessibility Guidance to ensure that we all embrace digital working, and embed good practices in our day-to-day work, wherever we may be based.
    • A one-off exceptional payment of £1,000 was made to staff in the July 2022 payroll in recognition of their dedication during the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, with our more regular casual workers receiving a recognition payment of £150.
    • A cost-of-living payment was made to all staff (except senior management) and students totalling £7.69 million in January 2023.
    • A new financial assistance scheme was developed allowing staff to secure an interest free loan.
  • 4. What is industrial action?

    Industrial action is a general term for legal actions taken by members of a trade union in dispute with their employer. The most common form of action is strike action. During strike action, some staff refuse to work and may join picket lines – a form of protest where people gather at a location to draw public attention to their cause.

    This can sometimes lead to some teaching activity being cancelled on days when University teaching staff are taking part in industrial action. Classes and lectures may in some instances be cancelled at the last moment or with very little or no notice. This is because, under UK law, anyone undertaking industrial action does not have to notify their employer in advance.

    If your class is cancelled, you should still come to the University to study and use our range of facilities such as the library, One Elmwood - the Student Centre - and Students’ Union as normal.

    Staff on picket lines – which, in this case, are likely to be located outside University buildings – should not prevent you from entering a building or accessing any part of the campus to attend class or take part in your other activities. No staff member wants to disrupt students’ education and all staff taking part in the strike action remain committed to supporting you as a student.

  • 5. Will the University be closed on the days of the strike?

    No. Throughout the period of industrial action, the University will remain open and we will endeavour to ensure that all of its services will remain available to you, other than those provided exclusively by staff taking part in the strike.

  • 6. How will my studies be affected?

    We expect the impact of the action to vary across the University and to be very limited in some areas. The majority of students will not be affected at all.

    However, the nature of industrial action is to try and cause as much disruption as possible. Staff who intend to take part in the strike action are not obliged to inform the University in advance. It is therefore unlikely that we will be able to inform you in advance of those lectures, classes or meetings that will be affected, or replace the teaching that may be missed.

    The University will make every reasonable effort to mitigate the impact of strike action and ensure that you are not disadvantaged.

  • 7. What should I do if I arrive for a lecture/class and no member of staff turns up during the period of strike action?

    Unless you have been informed otherwise, it is possible that the lecturer/member of staff is taking part in the strike action. You should wait for 15 minutes and if no member of staff arrives, you should inform your School Office by phone or email (see contact details below).

    When contacting your School Office, please bear in mind that they are likely to be dealing with a high volume of student enquiries so may not be able to respond quickly. It would be appreciated if you could be succinct when informing the School about a class or lecture that has not gone ahead and use the subject line ‘Cancelled Class’ with the module code. If you wish to raise subsequent concerns about the impact of the industrial action, please do so with a separate communication to help the School manage the volume of enquiries efficiently.

    Once you have informed the School Office, you are recommended to use the time for self-directed study.

    You should not assume that any subsequent classes/lectures/tutorials etc. that day/week will also be cancelled. You should continue to attend as normal.

    All University facilities will remain open and available during the period of strike action.

  • 8. What is the University doing to minimise disruption to students?

    We are making every effort to ensure that students are not adversely affected more than is unavoidable and are closely monitoring the impact of the industrial action. We expect the impact of the action to vary across the University and to be very limited in some areas. Many students will not be affected at all.

    Unless advised otherwise, students should attend lectures and tutorials as normal.

    If activities are, or have been, cancelled, the University will make every reasonable effort to mitigate the impact. While it is unlikely that it will be possible to ‘replace’ the teaching that has been missed, our priority for all students will be the delivery of required learning outcomes of the programme.

    Schools will be in direct contact with affected students when the full impact of the industrial action is known.

  • 9. Will I be entitled to a refund of fees if lectures or classes are cancelled?

    The University will make every reasonable effort to mitigate the impact of strike action, ensuring that students are not disadvantaged and that the wide range of excellent facilities that the University provides will remain open and available to you. Therefore, no form of reduction in fees or compensation is currently being considered. This includes University accommodation fees as all student accommodation and associated services will remain open and available throughout the period.

  • 10. Will students be entitled to an extension if deadlines fall within the period of industrial action?

    Unless informed about a specific change of date by your School, students will not be automatically entitled to an extension if their submission or dissertation deadline falls within the strike period. You should plan on the basis that deadlines set will apply as normal.

  • 11. I am an international student. Will this strike action affect my Visa Status?

    Student Route visa conditions are not affected by the strike action. The strike action may result in the cancellation of some of the expected contact points we use to check your attendance. If expected contacts, including lectures, do not happen due to participation of teaching staff in the strike action, then this is through no fault of your own. We will log this so it does not have any detrimental impact.

    If you have any questions about missed contact points during the strike, please contact

  • 12. What should I do if I feel the strike action has had a serious detrimental impact on my studies or my assessments?

    The University is making every effort to minimise the impact on students of the planned industrial action. Schools will endeavour to deal with the individual concerns of students who may be affected by strike action. However, if you remain dissatisfied with the steps that have been taken by your School to mitigate any impact, you may address these concerns through the Student Complaints Procedure or the Academic Appeals process, as appropriate.

    Full details are available at:

  • 13. Can I join the strike as a student or choose to not cross picket lines?

    If you decide to support the strike and choose not to cross picket lines or attend the University on strike days, that is your own choice. However, if you miss classes which do take place as scheduled on those days, this will count as unauthorised absence and it will be your personal responsibility to catch up on missed material.

  • 14. What is the University doing with the money it saves by withholding pay from staff members who choose to go on strike?

    Staff members who go on strike will have their pay withheld for the number of days in which they take part in the action. This money will be used to fund initiatives to support students.

  • 15. Who should I contact if I have queries or concerns about the industrial action?

    If you have any queries which are not covered on this webpage relating specifically to your course, assessment, cancelled classes etc., please direct them to your School Office (details below).

    Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

    School of Arts, English and Languages (0)28 9097 3238
    School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics (0)28 9097 5028
    School of Law (0)28 9097 5122
    Queen's University Management School (0)28 9097 4200
    School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work (0)28 9097 5941/5117

    Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences

    School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering (0)28 9097 5418
    School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (0)28 9097 4639
    School of Mathematics and Physics (0)28 9097 5293
    School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (0)28 9097 4147
    School of Natural and Built Environment Archaeology, Geography and Palaeoecology

    PGR students:

    Archaeology, Palaeoecology and Geography (UG and PGT):
    (0)28 9097 3350
    Architecture, Civil & Structural Engineering and Planning

    PGR students:

    Civil Engineering (UG and PGT):

    Architecture and Planning (UG and PGT):
    (0)28 9097 4006
    School of Psychology

    Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences

    School of Biological Sciences UG students:

    PGT students:

    PGR students:
    (0)28 9097 5787
    School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences School Office
    (0)28 9097 2215
      Biomedical Sciences
    (0)28 9097 2677
    (0)28 9097 2450
    (0)28 9097 6268
    (0)28 9097 2619
    School of Pharmacy
    School of Nursing & Midwifery (0)28 9097 2233