Academic staff at Keele University commenced three days of strikes earlier this month, beginning on Wednesday 1st December and ending on Friday 3rd.

The university was one of 33 institutions to strike over issues relating to pension cuts and pay. Staff at an additional 25 universities supported strike action over one of these issues, meaning 58 universities across the country took part overall.

Strike action was approved in November by members of the University and College Union (UCU), which represents over 130,000 staff at universities and other higher education institutions. According to the Stoke Sentinel, 205 UCU members at Keele voted on the ballot; 149 of them voted to approve the walkouts, meaning the strikes had the support of nearly 75% of Keele staff.

The university had last seen strike action in February 2020, when students were hit by fourteen days of cancelled lectures and seminars. This action was also related to pensions.

Credit: Tom Guilbert-Newell (@Tom_KeeleSU on Twitter), KeeleSU’s Activities and Community Officer.

The main catalyst for the UCU ballot was the decision by Universities UK, which represents employers involved in the pensions dispute, to slash retirement benefits for academic staff. Jon Parker, a Politics lecturer at Keele, stated on Twitter that his pension had been cut by 35%.

Universities UK defended themselves in a statement released on the eve of the strike, saying that only a minority of its members voted to support strike action.

Striking staff received widespread support from the Keele community. The SU’s full-time officers were present at marches and several students joined staff on the picket lines in a show of support. Outside of Keele, an NUS poll indicated that the vast majority of UK students – around 75% – supported the UCU’s action.