Royal Holloway lecturers on why they’re taking industrial action
Interviews by Kyle Hoekstra
I want to protect my pension and the quality of higher education. I’m Douglas Cowie, a lecturer in the department of English. My motivation for being out is to protect my pension, which obviously matters significantly to me, and to protect the quality of higher education at this institution and in this country, which also matters more to me than my pension in some ways.
I see this is as an attack on the future. My name’s Daniel Elphick and I’m a Teaching Fellow in the Music Department. That makes me a non-permanent member of staff, so in terms of the pension cuts, staff on non-permanent contracts are affected especially hard. So my motivation for striking today is essentially about the future of academia. I see students, especially PhD students who are considering careers in academia, and this really undermines their confidence. So that’s my position as somebody really early on in their career. I see this is as an attack on the future.
The principal is the only person who can stop the protest. I take issue that he put out a statement earlier this week which said “our” pensions. Our principal has a pension of seventy-thousand pounds. His pension is not our pension. For him to claim that his pension is grouped in with ours is an insult.
It’s already hard enough starting out in this field. My name’s Ben, I’m a phD student and I teach modern European history in the History Department. There are a lot more established academics here but I think it is really important that people really early in their career, whether they’re teaching fellows or phD students, do contribute. Because if we are going to end up with permanent jobs, we’re going to be affected by it even more than everyone else, potentially. And it’s certainly hard enough to make your way in this field early in your career already.
We’re not the most intimidating group and having more than five of us in any one place would be quite nice. But I don’t believe the principal is going to change his mind about the strike. The strike can end if people like him tell the UUK to go back to the table. Other vice chancellors have changed their minds and have come out and said it should go back to the negotiating table.
I support the strike. I’m Dr Jessica Chiba from the English Department. I think that my small sacrifices are worth it in the grand scheme of things, if everybody else is going to get fairer pay and pensions. I’m very early in my career but lots of people are striking – yesterday there were a lot senior professors and chairs, including various heads of departments.
This is really, really important. I’m Simon, I’m from Physics and I’m a senior researcher there. I’m about mid-way through my career. Strike action is really, really important. I’ve never seen the staff here so upset about what’s being done to them. I think people like me took up a career in university education because we thought: ‘OK, we’re not going to get rich, the pay is enough but it’s not great. But at least we get a decent pension, so things balance out.’ If that’s being pulled away from us, we feel like we’ve been tricked and being sold down the river.
I’d like to see the principal show some leadership and care about his staff, rather than his new buildings and his own fat pay-packet and pension. The universities where the vice-chancellors are showing leadership stand out as really impressive. It’s not too late for him to stand up and do that as well.
*Interviews have been edited for clarity.