Mike Ko Personal Portfolio


Home-School Education
Hong Kong

University of Durham
Bachelor of Science
United Kingdom

2017 - 2018
United Kingdom

    Lecturer Strike: Students as Collateral Damage

         University lecturers and tutors do not really make a great deal of money during their tenures, so the fixed income pension scheme they have with employers are perhaps the only bright side of otherwise unremarkable financial prospects. Yet this scheme used by the pre-1992 universities has become the target of cost-saving measures, as some estimates put the entire system at unpalatable deficits. So university employers proposed reforms to shift pensions towards stock investment-based models. Lecturers and other academic staff are naturally none too pleased about it. The University and College Union that represents them have now responded though a nation-wide teaching strike. During this month-long industrial action, their hope no doubt is to draw university employers back to the table and offer a more tolerable proposal. Though its scale in academics may be somewhat dramatic, this rebellion itself is not particularly exceptional in a country known for its conflicts between employers and labour unions. What might be more significant is how students have become the collateral damage of a labour dispute. Though the students themselves are generally supportive of the strikes, they are undoubtedly the victims of this incident.

         The immediate, obvious problem is the expensive tuition fees that students pay for an education that they are not receiving in full. Some have understandably petitioned for universities to refund part of the fees. This is an inevitable consequence of the strike, which could further pressure university leaderships to concede.

         The more important, long-term problem, however, is the strike’s effect on students’ education. Suspension of teaching over a month-long period has raised questions over academic assessments. Should coursework and exams leave out topics left out by the strike? What if these are on important aspects of the field? Would this jeopardise the academic quality of affected students and perhaps even their employability? Thus this strike is not like those in other fields or industry, where such actions simply amount to a denial of service for customers. Here, the futures of aspiring youths could be at stake. While the actual impact will only be revealed with time, there is potentially a moral issue over the strike.

         There have been claims by the striking academics that this strike is much more than a dispute about pensions. They are striking to protest against other ills in education, for the sake of both lecturers and students. That may be so, but one might still wonder: for just how long would these strikes persist when the pensions for these academic staff have been settled? Would they continue to endanger their positions and income to fight for changes on the behalf of students?

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