Hazy Oxford skyline from South Park by Ian Wallman
Hazy Oxford skyline from South Park by Ian Wallman

Industrial action and students

Page updated 1 March 2023

Industrial action - information for students

Industrial action is currently taking place at universities around the country including Oxford.

While recognising our colleagues’ right to strike, we are working to minimise disruption for students - and in particular we are taking all reasonable steps to ensure no student is disadvantaged in examinations and assessments.

This page provides information about the industrial action, and what it means for Oxford students.

Why is industrial action happening?

The University and College Union (UCU) Oxford has voted in favour of industrial action over the national pay settlement and USS pensions. You can read more on the University’s web page, the UCU website and the Universities & Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) site.

When will industrial action take place?

Strikes will take place on 1, 9-10, 14-16 February 2023 and 15-17, 20-22 March 2023.

In addition to the strike days, ‘Action short of a strike’, intended to be continuous, which started on 23 November 2022, continues and will terminate no later than 20 April 2023.

What is ‘action short of a strike’?

Action short of a strike involves staff working to contract, not covering for absent colleagues, and not undertaking any voluntary activities.

Will teaching and other services be affected?

While the right to strike is not restricted to union members, we do expect the majority of teaching to go ahead as planned. As context, only around 12% of eligible staff at Oxford are members of the union. It’s also important to note that the industrial action relates only to University (not college) duties – college tutorials will therefore be unaffected. 

Some teaching may be affected in departments and faculties, where reasonable steps are being taken to mitigate the impact on students.  You should attend all teaching within your department or faculty as normal, unless the department or faculty advise you of alternative arrangements. It is possible that other University services such as libraries could be affected throughout the industrial action period. Any changes to usual provision will be advertised locally.

Will any cancelled teaching be rescheduled?

Wherever possible, departments and faculties will put in place alternative arrangements to make sure students do not miss out on learning opportunities. Your department or faculty will notify you of any rescheduled teaching or alternative provision as appropriate.

What will happen if I choose not to attend scheduled teaching?

We expect the majority of teaching to be unaffected during the strike. When teaching goes ahead and you choose not to attend the University will not put in place any alternative arrangements or mitigation.

Will exams take place, and should I attend?

Examinations during the industrial action will go ahead as scheduled. If necessary contingency plans will be put in place to ensure that they take place. In the event of examinations taking place during industrial action, it is important that you attend all examinations and assessments as normal, according to the timetable issued to you.

Will any disruption be considered when it comes to assessments and examinations?

We are putting in place measures to minimise the disruption for students, and addressing any impact on teaching and learning.

If you believe you have been negatively impacted by any changes to planned teaching, and that the alternatives provided have not been sufficient, you may wish to make a mitigating circumstances application, such as an extension request, or a ‘Mitigating circumstance notice to examiners’. These will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

If you apply for mitigation, you will need to do so as soon as possible after you have sat the affected papers or submitted the work. Supporting evidence and an explanation as to how your performance in your assessment or exam was affected will also need to be provided. Departments and faculties are keeping track of the impact of the strikes, as well as rescheduled teaching and alternative provision, so they will be able to provide you with written confirmation of the circumstances to include in your application. Further information is included in the University Student Handbook, and the Oxford Students website.

If you would like to discuss this further, you should speak to your College Office in the first instance. They will provide you with the appropriate forms and guidance and submit the application on your behalf.

I’ve got a submission deadline coming up – what should I do?

You should complete any assessments according to submission dates already published, unless told otherwise. If a deadline is extended due to industrial action, then your department or faculty will advise all students in your cohort. If you need to apply for an individual extension (for illness or other urgent cause), you should consult your Senior Tutor or College Office and make an application before the deadline has passed.

I'm a DPhil student - will this affect me?

You should assume that interactions with your supervisor will be as normal, so you should contact them in the usual way. If there is any disruption to your supervision you should let the Graduate Studies Assistant in your department or faculty know so that appropriate contingency measures can be considered.

Am I likely to have to cross a picket line?

UCU members are picketing some University sites on strike days. Depending on where the picket lines are situated, it is possible that you may encounter them. You cannot be prevented from crossing a picket line, and the UCU has issued guidance to its members about picketing.

How will monies withheld from those on strike be used?

Any money the University collects during the days of strike action will be used for student support.

Will I be able to claim for a refund on my course fees?

We are taking steps to minimise disruption throughout the industrial action. There will be continued learning opportunities, facilities and support during this period, and throughout students’ time at Oxford. This means the University will not be issuing refunds.

If you believe that the alternative arrangements put into place during the period of disruption were inadequate, you may wish to make a complaint to the relevant department or faculty. Evidence will need to be provided as to why this was inadequate and the impact this has had on your studies. These will be considered on a case by case basis.

Who do I contact if I have further questions or concerns?

If you have questions about teaching or supervision in your faculty or department, you should speak to your Academic Administrator or your Supervisor or Course Tutor in the first instance, or to your Head of Department/Chair of Faculty Board.

If you have a question that they cannot answer, or is not covered by the information on this page, please use the 'was this page useful' feedback option on the Oxford Students website homepage and submit your comments. This will be passed on to the appropriate person and we may update this page as a result of your query.