University of Kent campus shopThe University of Kent campus

Striking Kent lecturers set to return to work this week

Lecturers from the University of Kent are likely to end 10 days of industrial action this week after their union moved closer to reaching an agreement following a row over pensions.

The university is one of more than 60 nationwide which has seen walk-outs take place over over the last month.

Their dispute centred on proposals to end the defined benefit pension scheme which they complained would leave them some £10,000 a year poorer.

But university leaders across the country are now backing down the plans and will instead increase pension contributions to nearly 20% of earnings over three years.

Lecturers union UCU and Universities UK, which represents vice-chancellors, have been in negotiations at conciliation service Acas for more than a week.

Kent vice-chancellor Karen Cox

In a joint statement, they said: “There is commitment between both sides to engage in meaningful discussions as soon as possible to explore risk-sharing alternatives from 2020, in particular collective defined contributions.”

Kent vice-chancellor Karen Cox has also put her name to a statement with the UCU and students urging all sides to resolve the situation.

It said: “Staff recruitment, retention, and trust will be undermined significantly; and motivation and goodwill among existing staff will be diminished and lead to a decrease in engagement.

“In turn, students will suffer from reduced access to the best and most dedicated professionals, and the UK will suffer from diminished research innovation.

“Ultimately, if we do not resolve this crisis, there is a real danger of a long-term contraction of the sector, and the loss of the reputation and standing of UK higher education globally with the resulting loss in jobs and national standing.”

Despite being affected by the walk-outs, students surprised many by supporting striking teachers.

But not everyone was sympathetic. Dick Stroud said: “Usual story. The poor sods in the private sector forced to fund the public sector so that they can receive their gold plated pensions.

“The sad thing is that most lecturers are not bright enough to work out what a wonderful deal they get. All this at a time when universities are churning out graduates that nobody wants to employ.”

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