For months now, we postgraduate students at the School of Advanced Study, just like other university students in the UK, have watched our institute staff, supervisors, colleagues, and friends take to the streets to fight for fair pay, fair working conditions, and the full amount of pension to which they are entitled. With these talks still unresolved, we have decided to add our voices to the cause with this formal statement. We therefore declare that SASiety, as the student association of the School of Advanced Study, University of London, has and always will, fully support the ongoing UCU industrial action.
As we have done thus far, any events on strike days will be postponed, including our popular study sessions, coffee get-togethers, and other SASiety events both at Senate House and online. We also won’t post anything to our website and social channels on strike days (except this statement) as a sign of solidarity. The outcome of these talks and strikes will not only affect current university staff, but the future of us PGRs as well. In fact, there is a UCU campaign that postgraduate researchers should be recognized as members of staff, following examples from several European countries in which doctoral students earn a living wage from their research institutions. The manifesto can be read here.
As Postgraduate Researchers, we currently represent our institutions at conferences, we publish, and we network helping to increase the university’s visibility and outreach. However, we often do so out of our own pockets, whilst also contending with living expenses, and in some cases having to pay tuition fees as well, without earning a living wage in return. As SASiety, we also plan seminars, symposiums, conferences, and even balls. We moreover collaborate with the School of Advanced Study’s Doctoral Centre, SAS Central, and careers service. Our aim has always been to create an inclusive transdisciplinary student hub for all School of Advanced Study institutes and centres. We love being your SASiety: it is both a privilege and an honour. But everything we offer is the result of volunteering our time while also pursuing our doctoral studies.
The UCU campaign calls for PGRs to be paid for time contributing to staff meetings, projects and initiatives, which still wouldn’t be much, but it would be a start. Considering the potential impact of fair compensation as PGRs and full autonomy, including decision-making freedom relating to our budget, SASiety could unlock its full potential and make an even greater impact on the student community, while also being able to fairly compensate members for their time and hard work on behalf of the School of Advanced Study’s student population.
In the UK, universities place high emphasis on retaining the post-graduate experts they have trained, as Early Career Researchers, Fellows, and Lecturers. The University and College Union’s work and strikes are vital to ensure fair conditions, fair pay, and well-deserved pensions across academia. The School of Advanced Study, in so many ways, is a beacon and an advocate for the arts and humanities in the UK. During this February’s School of Advanced Study graduation, Senate House UCU’s VC Anasuya Sengupta eloquently pointed out the poignancy of graduating on a strike day, with staff and students coming together to celebrate these milestone academic achievements even while they strike for what should be commonplace across UK knowledge institutions.
A reballot has been launched by UCU, which might lead to further strikes during the rest of the academic year if talks are not resolved satisfactorily for the union members. As of right now, further strikes are planned for 15th, 16th and 17th March, as well as 20th, 21st and 22nd March 2023. Consider following UCU on Twitter for up-to-date news about the strikes and negotiations.
Postgraduate students who want to work in academia are eligible for a free student membership of the UCU. Select “student membership” from the menu on the sign-up form. If you’re a SAS student and you want to support the union, make sure to select Senate House as your institution and follow the prompts.
We lend our full support to our mentors, colleagues, and friends who are taking to the streets to ensure fair pay and fair treatment for all, and applaud the progress that has already been made.
The SASiety Committee