The University has released a statement on its website stating that it has taken the decision, along with YUSU and the Graduate Student’s Association, to use pay with-held from staff during the strikes to pay for the cost of gown hire. This will only be for students graduating in July 2018 and January 2019.
The decision comes just a week after Newcastle University sent out an email to their students, offering payment for gowns as an apology following the strike disruption. Fol-lowing an investigation from URY News the initial responses were somewhat distorted compared to the outcome. The Vice-Chancellor of the University, Koen Lamberts, took a while to respond and had Professor John Robinson send the actual reply, stating that: “The subsidising of gowns is one possibility that has been proposed, but this is alongside others and we are taking care to ensure that student representatives are satisfied about the prioritisation of spend. So I’m not able to give you a definitive answer on that particular possible use of the money.”
However, in discussions with YUSU President Alex Urquhart, some very different opinions were given, with Urquhart initially telling URY News that “the University isn’t planning on [paying for gowns] and no, I probably wouldn’t want them too. Quantifying contact time to an amount of pounds and pence would be a pretty arbitrary thing to do”, with Urquhart going on to call it a “hollow gesture.”
Many students have expressed their pleasure with the gown payments, as it means they get some apology for lost time, while it has been reported that the remainder of the unpaid wages will be used to fund student welfare, which given the recent upgrade of the Open Door service, this may be useful for students. A duty practitioner was introduced, and students can at-tend a ‘Drop in’ service until 10pm every weekday evening.
As aforementioned, the finances will come from the unpaid wages of University staff who went on strike. From the mid-to-end of Spring term earlier this year, several weeks of strikes meant staff across 64 UK Universities went unpaid. The situation has been re-solved for the meantime, with the UCU voted in record numbers for a 64 per cent acceptance of the USS’ proposal; ending the industrial action.