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Salaries from industrial action to be spent on “student focused projects”

Image: York Press
Image: York Press

The University of York has announced use of staff salaries withheld during last year’s industrial action to pay for a series of student projects in partnership with YUSU (York University Student Union) and the GSA (Graduate Student Association.)

Last year’s strike action led to severe disruption to teaching at York across the board. Last academic year, the University announced it would pay for the cost of student graduation gowns for 2018 and 2019 graduates.

This week, the University has announced that money from staff salaries during the strike action period, will be used for “student focused projects”.

In their email statement sent to the student body, the university stated these projects would, “be spent on initiatives that will directly benefit our current students”.

Projects will be ran alongside a partnership with YUSU.

The Yorker contacted current Union President, James Durcan, and asked what these projects will bring to students, Durcan stressed the importance of them being in line with the 2017/18 Equity of Provision report, established by Alex Urquhart (former YUSU President),

“Our work looked at the biggest obstacles facing students in terms of hidden costs, and while we are aware there is still more we can do moving forward we think the impact of what we have achieved cannot be understated.”

James Durcan

The Equity of Provision report aims to deliver uniform support to students across the University, by identifying unequal provision of resources between departments and colleges.

The Yorker contacted the University Press Office, who provided us with the following statement from a University Spokesperson,

“Equality of provision (EoP) will be one of the areas to receive funds from monies withheld from staff salaries during last year’s industrial action.
“Developed over the last 18 months through the Together York partnership projects, the EoP will address areas where students in different departments face additional costs to completing their university degree.
“Other projects that have or will receive monies include supporting student-led and partnership activity  in student mental health, raising sexual violence awareness, free gown hire for July 2019 graduations, the student hardship fund, the GSA summer programme and activities associated with this year’s Roses tournament.”

University of York Spokesperson from the Press Office

To address experiences of all students, these projects will be closely ran alongside the GSA.

The President of the GSA, Sehrish Shafi, told The Yorker,

“After the decision was made to withhold salary payments from those staff members that undertook industrial action, YUSU and the GSA made it clear that the money should be spent on improving the experiences of students at the University of York – both those that were affected by the industrial action and the generations of students to come after.

The GSA recognizes that many of the larger projects that will benefit later generations of students were not implemented in time for the affected cohorts. That is why we worked with the University and YUSU to ensure that there was a number of smaller projects that have already been implemented. This includes gown costs at graduation and support around study skills, including proof-reading. The GSA had input on all of the projects discussed in the University’s statement, however we can only comment on those projects for which the GSA is directly involved in the implementation.

We believe that the majority of these projects will benefit postgraduate students, and to a greater extent the overall student community. For instance, we know that the printing of dissertations and theses is a significant expense for postgraduate students and the free printing of dissertations will greatly benefit students. The costs of printing and binding multiple copies of a PhD thesis for a viva and final submission needs to be addressed. We welcome this funding, but recognize that this is not a permanent solution to the issue. Therefore, the GSA will continue to actively campaign to ensure e-submissions for all postgraduate assessments remains on the University’s agenda.

Sehrish Shafi

The Yorker also contacted the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Teaching, Learning and Students, John Robinson for further information.

This article was updated at 16:50, 14/03/19 to include received comments from Sehrish Shafi.