NEWS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

University of Exeter staff strike over pay, pensions and working conditions

The Exeter branch of the University & College Union (UCU) is taking part in a national eight day strike for fair pay and pensions, including equal pay for female and BAME staff, and against casualisation and increasing workloads.

UNIVERSITY OF EXETER  

Staff at the University of Exeter were among more than 40,000 lecturers and other academic and support staff who walked out on strike at 60 UK universities on Monday in protest over pay cuts, increased pension costs and deteriorating working conditions.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) began eight days of strike action after agreement could not be reached with university representatives over ongoing disputes which caused significant disruption on campuses across the country during last year’s strikes.

The UCU said it feared that universities had learnt nothing from last year’s dispute, accusing them of “playing games” after their representatives ruled out discussing pay and failed to make a serious offer at recent talks over changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme.

The changes will increase pension contributions while reducing benefits, leaving a typical scheme member £240,000 worse off.

At the same time the University of Exeter is the sixth most insecure employer in the Russell Group, and 23rd most insecure among 165 UK higher education institutions, with 64% of all academic staff employed on insecure contracts.

Striking University of Exeter history lecturers Dr Jennifer Farrell and Dr Gemma Clark Striking history lecturers Dr Jennifer Farrell and Dr Gemma Clark. Photo: @dr_j_farrell.

A post-doctoral scientist at the University of Exeter College of Medicine and Health said: “University spending on staff has fallen to record lows in the last ten years, despite student numbers increasing. This has resulted in massive workloads and pressures, despite real-term pay falling.

“We feel passionately about our research and our students, and demand to be treated fairly with respect, not given precarious or zero-hours contracts and a worse pension.”

Another St Luke’s academic added: “Overall pay has declined in real terms, but this hits women and minority groups the most due to the pay gap, which compounds the effect. As a non-UK citizen my position is even more precarious, as when my temporary contract ends, I only have two weeks before I have to leave the country.

“Casualised and temporary contracts mean my position is very insecure: I’ve had six contracts in the last five years and done teaching for free. There needs to be action on this!”

University of Exeter UCU strike picket at Streatham campus University of Exeter UCU strike picket at Streatham campus. Photo: @SabinaLeonelli.

Strikers emphasised that those affected included not only lecturers, but also researchers, librarians and many other professional services staff.

A university librarian said: “Ever since the significant reduction in staff numbers, combined with increasing student numbers, library staff are especially stretched and overworked. It is actually written in to the strategic goals of the department to minimise staff spend, which makes working conditions really difficult.

“Lots of professional services staff are on low pay grades compared to their workload, in addition to the use of precarious contacts and threats of redundancies.”

A post-doctoral researcher added: “It is frustrating to be on strike over pensions again, but I feel even more strongly about the way that the university treats staff who are on casual contracts and those who are precariously employed.”

University of Exeter UCU strike student supporters University of Exeter UCU strike student supporters. Photo: @martinredfern.

UCU South West regional official, Nick Varney, said: “Strike action is a last resort, but universities’ refusal to deal with these key issues have left us with no alternative. It is staggering and insulting that universities have not done more to work with us to try and find a way to resolve these disputes.

“We hope students will continue to put pressure on university vice-chancellors to get their representatives back round the negotiating table for serious talks with the union.”

Last month UCU members backed strike action across the UK. 83% of University of Exeter UCU members polled voted for strikes over changes to pensions and 77% backed strikes over pay and conditions.

University of Exeter UCU strike picket at St Luke's campus University of Exeter UCU strike picket at St Luke’s campus. Photo: @lcpilling.

A University of Exeter spokesperson said: “We know that strike action may be unsettling for many of our students, and we remain hopeful that the dispute will be resolved at a national level. We are working to mitigate the potential impact of industrial action and ensure any measures we put in place are the right ones for students and staff.”

Strikers at Streatham campus commented that university Vice-Chancellor Steve Smith’s pay appeared to reflect other priorities. He is due to receive £830,000 next year, the largest ever package in the sector.


The strikes will continue to Wednesday 4 December. Union members are also taking “action short of a strike” which includes working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues and refusing to reschedule lectures lost to strike action.

There will also be a free teach-out from 12-4pm at St. David’s Church this Friday 29 November facilitated by striking University of Exeter staff and student supporters.


 is a trade union official, political activist and former Exeter city councillor.

 is editor of Exeter Observer and a director of its publisher Exeter Observer Limited.

Recent stories
Exeter City Council government borrowing 2014-2022 bar chart

Council borrowing nearly triples in three years as property acquisitions and development loans mount

Extinction Rebellion UK tour bus outside Exeter City Council's Paris Street offices

World car free day ignored in Exeter as Extinction Rebellion challenges council climate inaction

The Gorge co-living block classic studio room floorplan

First Exeter "co-living" block comes on stream with rooms at £946pcm+

Summerland Street co-living block redevelopment site

Council paves way for 186-bed "co-living" block in Summerland Street

Exeter City Futures Exeter Development Fund presentation slide

Exeter Development Fund: rent extraction, unaffordable housing and gentrification, but not net zero


Help power our public interest journalism

More News
The Gorge co-living block classic studio room floorplan

PLANNING & PLACE

First Exeter "co-living" block comes on stream with rooms at £946pcm+

Even "affordable" rooms in six storey 133-unit Gladstone Road block would leave many local key workers living below minimum income threshold.

Summerland Street co-living block redevelopment site

PLANNING & PLACE

Council paves way for 186-bed "co-living" block in Summerland Street

Freedom of information request reveals intended scale of development after executive committee takes decision behind closed doors.

Exeter Article 4 Direction area July 2011 map

PLANNING & PLACE

St. James HMO conversion refusal overturned at appeal

Council failed to provide sufficient evidence to support 2012 planning policy introduced to limit impact of student occupation of residential housing stock.

All News
Analysis
Exeter City Council government borrowing 2014-2022 bar chart

ECONOMY & ENTERPRISE

Council borrowing nearly triples in three years as property acquisitions and development loans mount

Freedom of information request reveals five paragraph "outline business plan" for £55 million Guildhall shopping centre investment.

Stagecoach app showing Exeter bus service delays and cancellations

TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Bus back better? Exeter services expected to remain unfit for purpose without needed changes

Government underfunding and bus sector challenges limit scope for improvement but county council failure to upgrade routes and policy ambitions plus high housing costs make Exeter difficulties acute, undermining net zero aspirations.

Exeter City Futures website - vision & mission summary

CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

University emissions study confirms Net Zero Exeter plan redundancy

Council retains Exeter City Futures' services despite history of delivery failures and lack of capacity to support defined decarbonisation targets.

All Analysis
Comment
Extinction Rebellion UK tour bus outside Exeter City Council's Paris Street offices

CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

World car free day ignored in Exeter as Extinction Rebellion challenges council climate inaction

Protestors gathered outside council offices as CEO Karime Hassan posed for photo with construction company development manager at Princesshay promotion.

Exeter City Futures Exeter Development Fund presentation slide

PLANNING & PLACE

Exeter Development Fund: rent extraction, unaffordable housing and gentrification, but not net zero

Exeter City Futures' private debt-driven Liveable Exeter property development financing scheme is under fire from councillors who say it is based on insufficiently-evidenced assumptions and won't meet Exeter's housing needs.

E3 cycle route Chard Road modal filter

TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Exeter cycling & walking strategy five years late and counting

County council soft-pedalling on infrastructure plan which city council says will not form part of new Exeter Local Plan despite Department for Transport guidance.

All Comment
The Exeter Digest

Exeter Digest #16: Co-living costs - Summerland Street tower - Car free day ignored

Our essential newsletter also includes a selection of community and culture events and signposts our briefing on the new Exeter Local Plan.

Exeter Digest #15: Bus back better? - Net zero redundancy - Development fund under fire

Our bumper holiday newsletter also covers a St. James' HMO appeal, planning enforcement changes, scope 3 emissions failure, cycling and walking strategy delays and property development promotion as community planning participation.

Exeter Digest #14: Exeter beset - Alphington impacts - Magdalen Road - Community involvement?

Our essential newsletter also covers continuing Exeter Development Fund scrutiny, missing meetings minutes from Exeter City Futures and Devon Climate Emergency Response Group, Liveable Exeter confusion and local design code reforms.

All Exeter Digest
On the agenda
New Exeter Local Plan

New Exeter local plan draft consultation

A consultation on the outline draft version of the new Exeter local plan, which will guide development in the city until 2040, is currently taking place.

All topics

ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY   AIR QUALITY AIR QUALITY AIR QUALITY   COP26 COP26 COP26   COVID-19 COVID-19 COVID-19   CITYPOINT CITYPOINT CITYPOINT   CLIFTON HILL SPORTS CENTRE CLIFTON HILL SPORTS CENTRE CLIFTON HILL SPORTS CENTRE   CLIMATE CRISIS CLIMATE CRISIS CLIMATE CRISIS   CO-LIVING CO-LIVING CO-LIVING   CONGESTION CONGESTION CONGESTION   COUNCIL TAX COUNCIL TAX COUNCIL TAX   CROWN ESTATE CROWN ESTATE CROWN ESTATE   CYCLING & WALKING CYCLING & WALKING CYCLING & WALKING   DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT   DEVON CARBON PLAN DEVON CARBON PLAN DEVON CARBON PLAN   DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL   DEVON PENSION FUND DEVON PENSION FUND DEVON PENSION FUND   EAST DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL EAST DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL EAST DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL   EXETER AIRPORT EXETER AIRPORT EXETER AIRPORT   EXETER CATHEDRAL EXETER CATHEDRAL EXETER CATHEDRAL   EXETER CITY COUNCIL EXETER CITY COUNCIL EXETER CITY COUNCIL   EXETER CITY FUTURES EXETER CITY FUTURES EXETER CITY FUTURES   EXETER CITY LIVING EXETER CITY LIVING EXETER CITY LIVING   EXETER COLLEGE EXETER COLLEGE EXETER COLLEGE   EXETER CULTURE EXETER CULTURE EXETER CULTURE   EXETER DEVELOPMENT FUND EXETER DEVELOPMENT FUND EXETER DEVELOPMENT FUND   EXETER EXTINCTION REBELLION EXETER EXTINCTION REBELLION EXETER EXTINCTION REBELLION   EXETER LIVE BETTER EXETER LIVE BETTER EXETER LIVE BETTER   EXETER LOCAL PLAN EXETER LOCAL PLAN EXETER LOCAL PLAN   EXETER PHOENIX EXETER PHOENIX EXETER PHOENIX   EXETER PRIDE EXETER PRIDE EXETER PRIDE   EXETER SCIENCE PARK EXETER SCIENCE PARK EXETER SCIENCE PARK   EXETER ST. DAVID'S EXETER ST. DAVID'S EXETER ST. DAVID'S   EXETER TRANSPORT STRATEGY EXETER TRANSPORT STRATEGY EXETER TRANSPORT STRATEGY   EXETER CITY CENTRE EXETER CITY CENTRE EXETER CITY CENTRE   FREEDOM OF INFORMATION FREEDOM OF INFORMATION FREEDOM OF INFORMATION   FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE EXETER FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE EXETER FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE EXETER   GENERAL ELECTIONS GENERAL ELECTIONS GENERAL ELECTIONS   GUILDHALL GUILDHALL GUILDHALL   HARLEQUINS HARLEQUINS HARLEQUINS   HEART OF THE SOUTH WEST LEP HEART OF THE SOUTH WEST LEP HEART OF THE SOUTH WEST LEP   HOUSING CRISIS HOUSING CRISIS HOUSING CRISIS   LGBTQIA+ LGBTQIA+ LGBTQIA+   LIVEABLE EXETER PLACE BOARD LIVEABLE EXETER PLACE BOARD LIVEABLE EXETER PLACE BOARD   LIVEABLE EXETER LIVEABLE EXETER LIVEABLE EXETER   LOCAL INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY LOCAL INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY LOCAL INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY   LOCAL ELECTIONS LOCAL ELECTIONS LOCAL ELECTIONS   MAKETANK MAKETANK MAKETANK   MARSH BARTON MARSH BARTON MARSH BARTON   MET OFFICE MET OFFICE MET OFFICE   MID DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL MID DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL MID DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL   NET ZERO EXETER NET ZERO EXETER NET ZERO EXETER   NORTHERNHAY GARDENS NORTHERNHAY GARDENS NORTHERNHAY GARDENS   OXYGEN HOUSE OXYGEN HOUSE OXYGEN HOUSE   PARIS STREET PARIS STREET PARIS STREET   PARKING PARKING PARKING   PENINSULA TRANSPORT PENINSULA TRANSPORT PENINSULA TRANSPORT   PLANNING POLICY PLANNING POLICY PLANNING POLICY   PRINCESSHAY PRINCESSHAY PRINCESSHAY   PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT   PUBLIC CONSULTATION PUBLIC CONSULTATION PUBLIC CONSULTATION   PUBLIC HEALTH PUBLIC HEALTH PUBLIC HEALTH   PUBLIC REALM PUBLIC REALM PUBLIC REALM   PUBLIC TRANSPORT PUBLIC TRANSPORT PUBLIC TRANSPORT   RAMM RAMM RAMM   REFUSE & RECYCLING REFUSE & RECYCLING REFUSE & RECYCLING   RETROFIT RETROFIT RETROFIT   RIVERSIDE VALLEY PARK RIVERSIDE VALLEY PARK RIVERSIDE VALLEY PARK   ROYAL DEVON & EXETER NHS TRUST ROYAL DEVON & EXETER NHS TRUST ROYAL DEVON & EXETER NHS TRUST   SIDWELL STREET SIDWELL STREET SIDWELL STREET   SOUTH WEST EXETER EXTENSION SOUTH WEST EXETER EXTENSION SOUTH WEST EXETER EXTENSION   SOUTH WEST WATER SOUTH WEST WATER SOUTH WEST WATER   SOUTHERNHAY SOUTHERNHAY SOUTHERNHAY   SPORT ENGLAND LOCAL DELIVERY PILOT SPORT ENGLAND LOCAL DELIVERY PILOT SPORT ENGLAND LOCAL DELIVERY PILOT   ST. SIDWELL'S COMMUNITY CENTRE ST. SIDWELL'S COMMUNITY CENTRE ST. SIDWELL'S COMMUNITY CENTRE   ST. SIDWELL'S POINT ST. SIDWELL'S POINT ST. SIDWELL'S POINT   STAGECOACH SOUTH WEST STAGECOACH SOUTH WEST STAGECOACH SOUTH WEST   STUDENT ACCOMMODATION STUDENT ACCOMMODATION STUDENT ACCOMMODATION   TEIGNBRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL TEIGNBRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL TEIGNBRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL   UNIVERSITY OF EXETER UNIVERSITY OF EXETER UNIVERSITY OF EXETER  

More stories