Strikes 2023


SOAS SU stands in solidarity with those undertaking strike action. On this page you can find out more information about the strikes, how you can support those undertaking strike action and how you might be affected.  



Update, 20th February 2023: Due to significant progress with university employers UCU and UNISON have paused strike action until the 2nd of March. This means that teaching will go ahead and campus will be open as usual. SU Staff will be working on-site and the Coffee Pod and Shop will be open. 

What is UCU and why are they striking?

UCU is the University and College Union. It is a national union representing over 120,000 academics, lecturers, trainers, instructors, researchers, managers, administrators, computer staff, librarians, technicians, professional staff and postgraduates in universities, colleges, prisons, adult education and training organisations across the UK. Click here to go to the UCU website

Most universities will have their own branch that represents the members at that university. Last year when UCU undertook a national ballot on whether to undertake industrial action UCU members at SOAS voted to undertake this action. 

UCU members at SOAS are striking over pay and working conditions and the USS pension dispute.  

Visit the SOAS UCU Twitter here. 

What are UCU's demands in relation to the USS Pension dispute?

UCU members demands in relation to the USS pension dispute are: 

  • UCU members demand employers to revoke the massive cuts which they imposed on members of the USS pension scheme, and put pressure on USS to restore benefits to 2021 levels as soon as possible. 

  • UCU also want UUK to put strong pressure on USS to ensure that the next and all subsequent valuations of the financial health of the scheme to be evidence-based and are moderately prudent. 

You can find out more about the pension dispute here. 

What are UCU's demands in relation to the Pay and Working Conditions dispute?


UCU members demands in relation to pay and working conditions are: 

You can find out more about the pay and working conditions dispute here.  


  • an increase to all spine points on the national pay scale of at least inflation (RPI) + 2% or 12% whichever is the higher 

  • nationally-agreed action, using an intersectional approach, to close the gender, ethnic and disability pay gaps 

  • an agreed framework to eliminate precarious employment practices by universities 

  • nationally agreed action to address excessive workloads and unpaid work, to include addressing the impact that excessive workloads are having on workforce stress and ill-health 

  • for the standard weekly, full-time contract of employment to be 35 hours, with no loss of pay.  

What is UNISON and why are they striking?


UNISON is a national union representing more than 1.3 million members across public services in the public and private sectors. SOAS UNISON branch is the recognised trade union for professional and support staff at SOAS. Click here to go to the SOAS UNISON branch website.  

UNISON members at SOAS and a number of other UNISON branches at other higher education institutions have voted to take strike action over the 2022-23 pay dispute. Click here to go to the SOAS UNISON branch website



What days will there be strike action?


UCU have called on their members to participate in 18 days of non-consecutive strike action across February and March. UCU Members will be participating in national strike action on the following days: 

  • Week 1 - Wednesday 1 February   

  • Week 2 - Thursday 9 and Friday 10 February  

  • Week 3 - Tuesday 14, Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 February  

  • Week 4 - Tuesday 21, Wednesday 22 and Thursday 23 February  

  • Week 5 - Monday 27 and Tuesday 28 February and Wednesday 1 and Thursday 2 March  

  • Week 6 - Thursday 16 and Friday 17 March  

  • Week 7 - Monday 20, Tuesday 21 and Wednesday 22 March 

UNISON Members will be participating in strike action on the following days: 

  • Week 1 - Wednesday 1st February,  

  • Week 2 - Thursday 9th February and Friday 10th February 



What is Action Short of a Strike (ASOS) and when will it be happening?

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What days will there be strike action? 

UCU commenced Action Short of a Strike on Wednesday 23rd of November and will continue until further notice at institutions across England, Wales and Scotland.  

Action short of a strike consists of the following until further notice: 

  • working to contract 

  • not covering for absent colleagues 

  • removing uploaded materials related to, and/or not sharing materials related to, lectures or classes that will be or have been cancelled as a result of strike action 

  • not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action 

  • not undertaking any voluntary activities. 

As of January 2023, the union has not called for a marking and assessment boycott as part of action short of a strike however this could change, and UCU have stated that they are intending to ballot their members on whether to hold a boycott.  



Will my Lecturers, Tutors, Advisors and other academics who support my learning tell me if they are going on strike?


Maybe, staff members undertaking strike action do not need to tell SOAS in advance of undertaking action. We know that academics normally will tell their students and for wellbeing reasons the university have asked members of staff who are striking to let students know via Moodle or Department Offices. 



Does SOAS SU support the strikers? 


Yes, SOAS SU has a long history of supporting industrial action. This mandate has been consistently upheld by students in democratic decision-making bodies, mostly recently in 2021 when students voted to stand in solidarity with both UCU and UNISON.  

SOAS SU is supporting the strike by: 

  1. Giving full and public support on industrial action undertaken by UCU and UNISON. 

  1. Requesting that the SOAS Director and Chief Operating Officer lobby UUK and UCEA to end the pensions and pay and working conditions disputes respectively.  

  1. Keeping students informed and how they can take action to influence these negotiations to a fair resolution for UCU members. 

  1. Lobbying the university to ensure that any pay deducted is placed in a hardship fund for students.  

  1. Supporting students during the strikes, providing welfare and advice for those who need it. 

  1. Respecting the picket line. 

  1. Developing, in coordination with SOAS UCU, UNISON and others, forms of solidarity action. 

  1. Gaining assurances from SOAS Senior Management Team that no student will be adversely impacted by the strike when it comes to graduation and continuation in their studies. 




How can I support staff who are striking? 


  1. Write to the SOAS Senior Leadership Team, UUK and UCEA asking them to meet the demands of the unions.  

  1. Get involved in events, such as teach-outs on days that strike action is taking place. You can keep up to date with any events on the SOAS UCU Twitter

  1. Get involved in SOAS Justice for Workers (a student-staff campaign). 

  1. Follow UCU and UNISON on social media and get involved in the digital picket. 

  1. Let your lecturers and other students know that you are supporting the strike. 

  1. If you can, don’t cross the picket line 



What is a picket line, and can I join it? 


A picket line is a form of protest. It is a boundary established by staff outside of their place of work in order to increase awareness and support for their cause, this will include asking people not to enter campus in solidarity with those on strike. At SOAS the picket line will likely be by the precinct during working hours on strike days. Keep an eye on the SOAS UCU Twitter for more information. 

In accordance with the Code of Practice on Picketing students who are not also a member of UCU cannot be part of the picket lines as an official picket. This means that they cannot be identified as an official picket would be, for example with a UCU armband. Students cannot engage in the activity of an official picket, including persuading employees of the workplace to not enter. They also can’t physically prevent someone from entering their place of work or study – or act in a way which would constitute a breach of the peace.  

Students should also be mindful of SOAS’s Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures. 

Students can hold solidarity demonstrations near picket lines and engage with other students about the issues of the strike. You can also stand with staff on or near a picket line, but it should be clear you are not an official picket – it’s best to have a chat to the picket line supervisor (who will be easily identifiable) when you get there to say you are there to show solidarity and ask what is most useful for you to do! This could include bringing picketers a hot drink to show your support. There may also be other organised activities near the pickets that you can join such as teach-outs.  



Will the strikes be disruptive?


Probably, the purpose of the strike is to stop the normal function of the workplace. This means that many of your lecturers and seminars will likely be cancelled. You might also find a reduction in the number of support staff available on strike days. 

By going on strike UCU members are making a case for greater investment in staff to the university, UUK and UCEA. The aim is not to create disruption for students and strike action is often a last resort when all other avenues of negotiation have been explored. 



Can I still come onto campus during the strike?


Yes, while the SU encourages students to show solidarity with those undertaking strike action by not crossing the picket line on strike days, campus will still be open including the JCR. 

If you do come onto campus you will likely need to cross the picket line. It is your personal choice as to whether you want to cross the picket line. You must not be prevented from crossing the picket line. 



What SU services, facilities, outlets and support will be available on strike days?


SU spaces will be accessible during strike days for those that need to come onto campus, however the SU shop and Coffee Pod will be closed.

In solidarity with those undertaking strike action, SU Officers and Staff will normally be working off-site on strike days. However, you can still access them for support and guidance online.  


Can I still attend/run a club or society event during the strike?


Yes, you may choose to cancel or not attend events that are taking place on campus during strike days during working hours, or you may choose to move events to off campus venues in solidarity with those undertaking strike action.  

If your club and society would like to rearrange any bookings to outside of working hours, or to another day please follow the normal room bookings procedure.  



Can I still access support services during the strike?


Yes, support services will still be available during the period of strike action, however some of their activities may be disrupted due to the strikes. You may also choose to access these services remotely during strike days in solidarity with those undertaking strike action. You can also contact the SOAS SU Advice Caseworker for any support. 

SU Officers and Staff will still be working through out strike action, you can contact us by clicking the links. 



Do staff on strike get paid?


No, when staff go on strike they forfeit their pay for each day that they undertake strike action. This is a very difficult decision for those undertaking action and is often why strike action is considered a last resort after all other avenues of negotiation have been explored.  



I am on a Student Visa, will I be penalised for not attending classes?


If your class is cancelled due to industrial action, in line with UKVI guidance this will not impact your attendance and will not count as an unauthorised attendance. 


Can I complain and get a refund due to strike action?


It is not standard for universities to provide refunds due to strike action as fees cover a wide range of services and facilities. If you feel that your learning has been impacted, you may be entitled to compensation by making a complaint to the university. We recommend that you keep a detailed record of how you have been impacted by the strike, this could include your wellbeing, student experience and learning. You should keep evidence including the number of teaching hours missed, any administrative and access issues, access to online resources, any associated costs, the impact on your progression, as well as mental and physical health. If you wish the SOAS SU Caseworker can support you with making a complaint to the university.  

If after making a complaint to the university you are dissatisfied with the outcome, you may escalate this to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education. There is no guarantee that compensation will be awarded but the OIA have in the past awarded in favour of students.  


What about my assessment deadlines, mitigating circumstances and exams?


The University has produced the FAQ’s which can be accessed here


What if I don't support the strike?


As the SU we stand in solidarity with those striking but we recognise that not all students do.  

Regardless of your position we are still here to support you, this may include making a complaint to the university for compensation or with issues you experience at the picket lines. You can contact the SOAS SU Advice Caseworker for any support. 


Where can I study if I don't want to cross the picket line?


If you wish to stand in solidarity with those on strike by not crossing the picket line on strike days, but still want to find a quiet place to work why not head to: 

  1. British Library 

  1. Wellcome Library 

  1. Holborn Public Library 

  1. National Art Library 

  1. The BFI Reuben Library 

  1. Barbican Library 

Click on the links to find out more about opening times, location and admission.  


Does SOAS have the power to grant higher wages to staff and faculty?


Pay negotiations take place through national pay bargaining process agreed between representatives from the trade unions (including UCU, Unison and two others) and UCEA (University and Colleges Employers Association), rather than at a local department or institution level.SOAS is a member of UCEA, and UCEA conduct pay negotiations on behalf of their member institutions. So, the decisions on pay come through UCEA, but their members are not passive bystanders to what UCEA do: UCEA “is the voice of HE employers on pay and reward” (from ‘our work’ on the UCEA website).Updates on the pay negotiations including the official letter from UCEA are online here; the UCU updates on negotiations are here. Updates from UCEA are here.However, around the UK institutions at a local level have increased staff pay through other methods. At Glasgow University they moved all staff up by one spinal point on the payscale. That meant a permanent pay increase while still being part of national pay bargaining structure. London Weighting is a portion of pay to mitigate against the high cost of living in London, and that is not part of national bargaining – it is decided locally by each individual institution. So increasing London Weighting is a SOAS-management decision. 


How can I give the SU feedback on my experience during the strike?


Students can email with general comments and feedback. If you want to raise a welfare issue or concern please email the SU Advice Caseworker at If you have any concerns that have not been answered here, please add it to our





Previous Strike Action

The academic and professional services workers unions on campus, UCU and UNISON, are taking part in national strike action over a number of days in early 2022:

  • Monday 14th February - Friday 18th February
  • Monday 21st February - Tuesday 22nd February
  • Monday 28th February - Wednesday 2nd March
  • Monday 21st March - Friday 25th March


SOAS Students' Union stands in solidary with UCU and UNISON, as voted for by our members.

To help support our students during these strikes we've created and collated a number of resources which we encourage you to check out below.


2022 Strikes Booklet

Our 2022 Strikes Booklet is a great resource to learn more about the UCU and UNISON strikes! Read through it to find out:

  • Alternative study spaces
  • Alternative faith spaces
  • Asnwers to some frequently asked questions
  • Why are staff striking?
  • What does striking and picketing mean and look like in practice?
  • How will the strikes impact students?
  • How can students support the strikes?


2022 Strikes FAQs

In addition to the 2022 Strikes Booklet, we've put together a 2022 Strikes FAQ document to help answer some of the questions you might have about the strikes.


If your question isn't answered in either our booklet or FAQ, use our Padlet below to ask us directly!

Share Your Questions, Concerns and Suggestions About the Strikes

We know that there can be a lot of uncertainty during strike periods, so we've set up a SU Strikes Padlet for you to:

  • Ask us any questions you have (e.g. "will there be access to the library during strike days?")
  • Raise any concerns you have (e.g. "I have to go into SOAS on a strike day, will I be okay crossing the picket?")
  • Suggest things which may help other students during strike dates (e.g. alternative study spaces)

2022 Strikes Teach Out Schedule

On strike days we are organising teach outs on the picket line so that students can come along and learn more about different topics while simultanesouly showing support to strikes.


View the full teach out schedule now!



A Video Message From Striking Staff

UCU and UNISON workers have made a video message for students to help explain why they are taking strike action - we recommend watching this to learn more!


Angry about the strikes? Staff are too! Check out this video update from striking staff

Write to SOAS Management

Angry about the strike? Write a letter to SOAS senior management asking them to take action to stop the strike!


Use our Strike Email Template to show your solidarity and demand they take action.

Student Strike Solidarity Group

If you would like to stay in the loop about strike action, and help with some of the organising, please join the SOAS Student Strike Solidarity WhatsApp group!

NUS Student Walkout / Teach In

The National Union of Students (NUS) is planning a Student Walkout / Teach In.


Not sure what a Walkout / Teach In is? The NUS is describing this event as: 'We’re tired of asking for scraps from these governments: we all want to see a radically different education, and we want to build a movement that can win it. That means we need to build the type of education we want first – and that’s what we’ll do here.'


We can all fight for a better education system!

Photos From Term 1 Strikes

Strikes and picket lines might sound scary or intense, but they're actually great community building moments.


Check out these photos from the term 1 strikes to get a better idea of what you can expect if you come down to the picket line on strike days.

This webpage was last updated on: 21 Feb 2023 12:48