Industrial action

Information and updates on industrial action at the University of Bristol.

Industrial action can take the form of a strike, where a trade union member does not attend work on a specific date/s, or action short of a strike (ASOS) which is defined as only working contracted hours and carrying out normal duties, but not volunteering to do more.

Not all members of staff are members of a trade union, and not all trade union members participate in strikes. The University remains open on strike days and many arrangements, including teaching and student services, operate normally.

We respect the right of our union member colleagues to act where they feel strongly about the issues that affect them. We also appreciate that the dispute may cause anxiety for our students. We are doing everything we can to mitigate the impact of industrial action on your student experience. 

Industrial action dates

University and College Union (UCU)

UCU has a mandate for Action Short of Strike (ASOS) until 30 September 2023.

A marking and assessment boycott started on 20 April and finished on 6 September 2023. 

Strike days: Cancelled

There is no local strike action planned.

The following strike days have been cancelled:

Monday 25, Tuesday 26, Wednesday 27, Thursday 28 and Friday 29 September 2023.

Marking and assessment boycott (MAB) and results

On 7 September UCU ended the marking and assessment boycott meaning any staff participating in the boycott have returned to marking work. 

We know some schools have had little to no participation in the marking and assessment boycott, but some areas have experienced greater impact.

Find out more about what this means for your results.

Wider industrial action

Impact on services

We expect all University services to remain open during industrial action, including libraries, student support, Residential Life and wellbeing services. 

If individual appointments have to be cancelled, we will let you know in advance.

Impact on teaching

Attend all your classes as usual, unless you hear otherwise. 

We will contact you through your University of Bristol email as soon as possible if we become aware that any teaching is cancelled. However, staff are under no legal obligation to inform us ahead of time, so there may be occasions when we cannot provide advance notice. 

Not all lecturers and tutors are UCU members, or they may not take industrial action, so many classes will take place as normal. 

Lost teaching time

It is possible that any missed teaching can be rescheduled, but this cannot be guaranteed. We have an agreement with UCU that we will not be asking UCU members to make up for lost teaching time. However, we appreciate that some colleagues may choose to do so to support their students. 

Impact on assessments

You should expect that all assessments and exams will take place as planned and submission dates for assessments will not be changed.

Impact on PhD or research degree vivas

If you have a viva that is scheduled for a strike day, you should assume that your viva will go ahead unless you hear otherwise.

Student visa holders

The industrial action should not affect your student visa. Unless you are told that a specific class or contact point has been cancelled, you should attend as normal. 

Any classes or contact points which are cancelled as the result of industrial action will be recorded as an authorised absence with a note to say that this is due to industrial action. 

If you have any concerns about the impact of the industrial action on your visa, contact our International Student Visa Advisers

Mitigating the impact of industrial action on your studies

Your school will continue to monitor any teaching or assessment activities that are affected by industrial action and make the necessary arrangements to minimise the impact upon you as much as possible.

We will only have a full picture of the impact after strike action has ended and can then consider appropriate measures in mitigation. The impact will vary across schools, programmes and even between individual students taking the same unit. As a result, mitigations can take various forms:

  • providing alternative learning opportunities
  • substituting teaching activities
  • revising the format and/or content of your assessments
  • extending coursework and project deadlines
  • changing the weighting of a particular assessment in your overall results.

Anything we put in place needs to be fair to all our students, practically feasible and in keeping with the standards that underpin the quality of your degree.

The Board of Examiners will know the full details of the impact of the strike and will ensure that any mitigation is fair and reasonable in its decision-making. The Board can also apply further mitigation if necessary. Your academic outcomes will be safeguarded.

If you have further concerns, contact

Extension requests for PGR students

If you are nearing your final submission deadline and your supervisor is not able to provide support on your final draft because of industrial action, you may  request an extension in the normal way.

Extensions linked to a strike will be automatically approved for an appropriate length, considering funding body or visa requirements. This will be treated separately from any two-week extension requests allowed to cover unforeseen circumstances near the final submission deadline.

Exceptional circumstances

If any courses are affected by industrial action, we will address this on a unit-by-unit basis, not via individual exceptional circumstances claims.

If you’re already in touch with your school (via a personal tutor, senior tutor, school office, wellbeing adviser etc), continue to seek their support and advice.

If you believe that the current situation has exacerbated your circumstances, you should seek advice about submitting additional evidence to support your exceptional circumstances through your school or department. This will ensure that the Board of Examiners are fully aware and can act accordingly.

All students can access our online wellbeing resources or get in touch with wellbeing support.

Industrial action reimbursement fund 

Students who experience disruption due to the industrial action are eligible to claim from the industrial action reimbursement fund for costs incurred, for example, childcare, subsistence and travel.

Apply for industrial action reimbursement.

Student complaints

Withholding fees

Tuition fees

Student fees cover all aspects of the provision to students (not just a ‘cost per class’) and are based on delivery of the overall learning outcomes for students in any given programme. These education outcomes are delivered and accessed in a variety of ways. They also contribute to other areas including, pastoral, social and extracurricular provision, buildings, facilities, research, technology and software and libraries.

If you withhold tuition fees, then you will not be able to graduate while the debt is outstanding. We will follow our standard processes to pursue payment.

Residential fees

Residential fees are not the same as tuition fees; they may include all gas, electricity and water rates, plus internet and a bus pass.

If payment for residences is withheld, we will put in place our standard measures to enforce repayment. You will still be able to graduate.

Raising concerns

We aim to resolve complaints informally wherever possible.

Before making a formal complaint, contact your school office to find out what mitigations have been put in place for any lost teaching/education, or to find out when the mitigations are likely to be known.

We may not be able to advise you about mitigations immediately as first, we will assess the impact the industrial action has had, which may take some time.

Formal complaints

If you have contacted your school and found out what mitigation is, or will be put in place, and you feel that your concern or complaint cannot be resolved by the school, complete the industrial action complaint form.

If you have further queries about the complaints process, email so we can help you. 

Formal complaints will be considered in accordance with the Student Complaints Procedure (PDF, 179 KB).

We understand that the impact of industrial action will vary between students. In reviewing your complaint we will consider whether we have a full picture of the impact of industrial action and what appropriate measures in mitigation were put in place. We may not be able to ascertain this until the industrial action has ended and therefore it may take us some time to be able to respond to your complaint. We will keep you updated on the timeframe in which you should expect to receive the outcome of your complaint. 

You can also seek independent support from the SU's Academic Advice service

Academic appeals

All your results go through a formal meeting of the Board of Examiners who make key decisions about your results. It is possible to appeal some of these decisions in specific circumstances, and within set timeframes. Find out more about making an appeal, including the grounds on which you can appeal.

Bristol's position


The University participates in a national bargaining arrangement to agree the annual pay award. As one of 147 employers in the scheme, we are represented by UCEA, who negotiate with all the unions on our behalf.

With our union colleagues, we have made progress on issues like closing the gender pay gap and reducing casualisation in our workforce.

The negotiated pay award for 2022/23 was not agreed by all unions representing HE staff. However, it was felt to be fair and reasonable collectively by employers and was implemented in Bristol in August 2022. The pay award ranged between 3% and 9% depending on pay grade. In addition, a significant percentage of staff also received an annual incremental award.

Negotiations for the 2023/24 pay award ended in February. The final award was also not agreed by unions. This new pay award amounts to an increase in salaries of 5% - 8% depending on pay grade.

In addressing the other elements of the pay claim, we have been working closely with our Union representatives to make progress. At the national level UCEA have also proposed terms of reference for negotiations on these issues with a view to reaching sector wide agreements. The Unions have been consulting on whether they wish to enter those negotiations, a condition of which would be the suspension of further industrial action.

USS pension scheme

The USS Trustee proposed significantly increased contribution rates based on a valuation of the scheme made in March 2020. The increased contribution rates would make the scheme unaffordable for many members and university employers. The valuation of the scheme and the subsequent recommendations from the USS Trustee are disputed by UCU.

We have had direct conversations with the USS Trustee and lobbied hard through UUK, who sit on the Joint Negotiating Committee alongside UCU and the USS Trustee, to keep the scheme affordable and to challenge the scheme governance and seek reform. 

We supported the proposal put forward by Universities UK (UUK) which recommended lower contribution rates for members than those proposed by the USS Trustees, and we were supportive of employers paying a higher share of contribution increases to help conclude the current scheme valuation. The UUK proposal was legally accepted by the USS Trustee in March 2022.

However, the proposal included cuts to pension benefits for USS members. UCU rejected the proposal and put forward an alternative plan which was not supported by the Joint Negotiating Committee.

We are one of 340 organisations that are part of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), so any changes would need to be agreed by USS and the Pensions Regulator. For Bristol, every 1% additional contribution to the scheme would cost around £1.5m.

Universities UK (UUK, representing employers) and UCU negotiated for many months on how to address pension costs and retain benefits for members. In March they issued a joint statement regarding their aims in light of an anticipated improvement in the valuation of the pension fund.

We continue to protect staff benefits by working with our Staff Pension Working Group and the local UCU branch to advocate keeping cost increases to an absolute minimum, and only where necessary.


Contact or phone +44 (0)117 428 3000.

Edit this page