A person smiling, they are wearing a black coat with a yellow shirt underneath.

Strike Hub

Information on any trade union action that may impact UAL students.

Current Action scheduled - how might this affect you?

Marking and assessment boycott 2023 (UPDATE)

The University and College Union (UCU) have announced that a marking and assessment boycott will commence from Thursday 20 April at 145 UK universities, including UAL.

A marking and assessment boycott will cover all marking and assessment, including that in writing, online, or verbally. The boycott will also cover any assessment-related work such as exam invigilation and the administrative processing of marks. 

It is important to note that not all UAL staff will participate in the boycott.


UAL have undertaken to mitigate this action in the following ways so impact on students is minimised or eliminated.

The mitigation will be –

  • Work to be marked or assessed by someone else. The new person marking the work will someone with necessary expertise, as approved by the Dean.


  • Progression – where a grades are not available due to the impact of the action, and a student has passed all other stage units, the Exam Board should refer to the UAL exceptional progression regulations to ensure students can be progressed to the next stage where possible.


  • Final Year - Where grades are not available for an undergraduate final year Exam Board due to the marking boycott and a student has passed all other level 6 units, the Board could consider the award of an unclassified degree using the exceptional award regulation. The classification would need to be confirmed by a reconvened Board as soon as the grades are made available.


  • Graduation Ceremony - All students who have passed units but have grades missing due to the marking boycott will be able to attend the Graduation Ceremony.


If you are concerned with how this may impact you, you can speak to your course team, your course rep or your college sabbatical officer.

Strikes (updated 01/03/2023)

The University and College Union (UCU) have announced that the strikes planned for 1st and 2nd of March have been suspended while talks continue.
However, an additional strike day of the 15th has been announced.

The confirmed strike dates are as follows:

March: 15th, 16th and 17th, 20th, 21st, and 22nd

On the scheduled days staff on strike will not be doing any work and may picket outside (this means demonstrating with banner and signs etc).
Staff who intend to strike are not required to let UAL ahead of time. This means you may not find ahead of time that there is disruption. In practice, many staff will let students know to minimise disruption for them, but this is not a requirement.

On strike days: 

  • Students might have lectures cancelled and be unable to access other services that staff usually facilitate.
  • Staff won't do other work like plan classes or mark students' work.
  • There might be staff and supporters standing on picket lines around university buildings, raising awareness of their strike and encouraging people to support the strike by not using the university on strike days.

On the days that staff return and are working, leadership can ask staff to prioritise different tasks in their contract. For example, if a staff member has been on strike Monday - Wednesday, when they come in on Thursday, their boss might ask them to focus on marking, or on organizing a particular event.

UAL leadership may ask staff to reschedule teaching that was missed, but in practice this is often not possible.

Marking and Assessment Boycott

A marking and assessment boycott covers all marking and assessment processes that contribute to summative assessment decisions for students/learners, whether final (i.e. graduation/completion) or interim (i.e. progression decisions).

Once the boycott is live, UCU members should cease undertaking all summative marking and associated assessment activities/duties.

If industrial action impacts marking of work, this may mean that someone less involved in your programme may end up marking your assessments, or that the marking is delayed which could impact when exam boards take place.

If someone else marks the work, sometimes students feel that the mark they received may have been less accurate due to the marker being less familiar with the subject area.

Student who feel they were unfairly impacted by this (or may have been) can appeal, and can be supported and guided on this process by the Arts SU Advice Service.

Post-graduate students who teach and go on strike

If you are a PG student teaching at UAL and you take industrial action, you may be eligible for the UAL hardship fund (subject to the usual application rules etc).

What is UCU and why have they voted to strike? 

The University and College Union (UCU) is the largest trade union for academic and professional staff in post-16 education, representing over 130,000 staff such as lecturers, administrators, technicians, etc. across the UK, including staff at the University of Arts London, where there is an active UCU branch (UAL UCU).

The strikes come after UCU members voted 'yes' to industrial action last month in two national ballots over attacks on pay and working conditions as well as pension cuts.

In the pay and working conditions dispute, the union's demands include a pay rise to deal with the cost-of-living crisis and action to end the use of insecure contracts. Employers offered a pay rise worth 3% this year following over a decade of below inflation pay awards. A third of academic staff are on some form of temporary contract.

In the pension dispute, UCU is demanding employers revoke the cuts and restore benefits. The package of cuts made earlier this year will see the average member lose 35% from their guaranteed future retirement income. For those at the beginning of their careers the losses are in the hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The UK university sector generated record income of £41.1bn last year with vice chancellors collectively earning an estimated £45million. UCU said the sector can more than afford to meet staff demands.

What is Industrial Action?

Industrial action covers a few types of temporary, collective actions that staff can take if they are dissatisfied with how their employers have dealt with issues in the workplace when negotiations over these issues have failed. It is the last resort with the hope of bringing employers back to negotiations to meet staff demands. These actions can be:

  • Strikes: Staff stop working during the pre-agreed, temporary strike period. The strike stops at the end of the agreed period or when demands are met, whichever is sooner. Staff lose pay during the time of the strikes.
  • ASOS (Action Short of a Strike): Staff only work during hours outlined in their contract on the tasks they are contracted to complete. Hence, staff would not work overtime or do additional work out of their contract. This might not sound impactful on paper, but staff in higher education have large workloads and are often expected to go beyond their contracted hours. Therefore, not doing so counts as a refusal to do some work.

How can students support the strikes?

Trade Union laws can be confusing and difficult to understand, so the National Union of Students (NUS) has prepared advice on supporting the strike action as a student. You can read it here.

If you want to contact James Purnell, Vice Chancellor (email), here's a handy template from NUS to do so.

Making a Complaint

We understand that although students may personally support the UCU strike, they may also have concerns about missed teaching, upcoming assessments and disruption. This is a normal concern to have and we empathize that many of you may be feeling worried, even if your classes have already finished by the time strike action takes place.

Mitigation by course teams after industrial action may not take the form of a “like-for-like” replacement of missed teaching and learning. The intention is to ensure that the agreed learning outcomes of your course can still be delivered. 

If a suitable arrangement has not been met with your course team or you remain dissatisfied as a result of the impact of the industrial action, you are entitled to raise this issue through UAL's complaints procedure. You can read more about this here.

We are advising students doing so to consider the points below:

  • Where possible UAL should try and mitigate the impact on delivering your agreed learning outcomes. Please keep in mind that strike action may be sporadic in nature.
  • What mitigation has been offered by your course team to help you out during this time?
  • What measures have been communicated to you and how?
  • What support has been offered by your course team? Have you been linked to any university services e.g. wellbeing or the Students’ Union?
  • Is the nature of your discipline/studies particularly affected by the disruption? 

How can the Students’ Union Advice Service support you in making a complaint? 

  1. We can advise you on the process.
  2. We can help you to put forward an argument in your complaint enquiry form.
  3. We can read over any documents or emails you would like to include.
  4. We can accompany you to any meetings or Complaint Review Panels.
  5. We can support you in referring your case to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator if relevant.

Your Representation

We are always here to ensure your academic interests and experiences are represented during your time at UAL. This also includes strike action and any experiences/disruption this may bring to you. There is a wide range of feedback mechanisms you can explore in raising your voice and experiences such as:

  • Contacting your course rep – do feedback any issues to your course rep of whom will be able to raise this with the course team in subsequent course committees. This could be around assessments, access to facilities, timetables and teaching. Do note that raising an official complaint will need to be conducted through the UAL complaints process. If you do not know who your course rep is please email coursereps@su.arts.ac.uk  
  • Feedback to Arts SU – if you would like to raise any feedback with any issues or experiences you are having, you can always email this to info@su.arts.ac.uk  

Contact the SU Advice Service

Email us

Usually the fastest way to contact us is to email using our contact form.

We always aim to reply within 5 working days, but often reply much sooner.

We generally answer in chronological order but if your issue is very time sensitive please mark your email 'Urgent' and we will try to get back to you as soon as we can.

Email us

Book an appointment (new clients only)

If you prefer to speak to someone directly, and you have not spoken to us previously about the issue, you can book an appointment with an Advisor.

If you already have an Advisor assigned to you and you would like to speak to them please just email them directly - this will be usually be much faster than using the booking form!

Book an appointment