Staff and lecturers at the University of Warwick recently announced that they were going to strike for a total of 18 days this term in February and March. There have been mixed reactions from students alike, but one thing is for certain: students at Warwick are taking advantage of their empty schedules.
Strikes are ongoing among 70,000 staff at over 150 universities in the UK, and, in response to the widespread disruption, UCU General Secretary Jo Grady said: “Today our union came together to back an unprecedented programme of escalating strike action.”
She added: “University staff dedicate their lives to education and they want to get back to work, but that will only happen if university vice-chancellors use the vast wealth of the sector to address over a decade of falling pay, rampant insecure employment practices and devastating pension cuts. The choice is theirs.”
Investigations run by The Boar have suggested that a majority of students at Warwick support the strikes, ostensibly to further the UCU cause but the additional time off doesn’t exactly hurt.
Speaking to a third-year History and Sociology student who plans to visit Rome this week, she explained that: “The reason I’ve decided to go on holiday now is because it feels like there’s no time like the present.”
She added: “In general, it’s really disheartening knowing that so much of my learning opportunity has been taken away by the strikes. I support the strikes and I understand why they are striking, but it’s majorly inconvenient because it’s my final year, and my last term has been cut down by 3 or so weeks.”
A lot of my social media has been about travelling, and I felt inspired by other Warwick students who were also away
– Warwick Liberal Arts Student
Typically, a 48-hour trip to Rome is a luxury afforded for only those who are fortunate enough to have the funds, but discussing her trip, the student said it cost her and her friend £35 return for the flights, and £70 for two nights’ accommodation.
In a similar tone, a Liberal Arts student contacted me to explain that she had spent the week in Venice with her boyfriend because the costs for flights, accommodation, and food were lower than that of her weekly costs in Leamington Spa. She added: “All my classes for the week were online or cancelled so I didn’t just want to sit at home in Leam. A lot of my social media has been about travelling, and I felt inspired by other Warwick students who were also away.”
Although the strikes have inspired thoughts of travelling, it seems that the supposed mundanity of Leamington Spa has roused Warwick students to take to the skies.
In conversation with a third-year Law student who recently visited Paris for 24 hours, the topic of strikes was not as relevant as the repetitiveness of a Leamington night out. In comparison to Warwick, the student said: “Paris was so fun, we went sightseeing, went to a couple of restaurants, and a club. Call it an extreme night out if you want to, because we were there for genuinely 24 hours.”
On the strikes, she said: “I am lucky because not a lot of my professors are striking, but I had this holiday booked before the strikes were announced.”
The student added: “Honestly, we wanted to get away from Warwick and the UK for a bit. We were sick of sitting around in Leamington Spa doing the same thing on repeat. This is one of our last chances to do spontaneous things before we go into the corporate world.”
Likewise, a History student I spoke to described his getaway to Barcelona as “one of our last chances to go on holiday before we have to start thinking about our exams.”
“A lot of my friends had their classes cancelled, so we made the decision to visit a sunny and vibrant city. Studying in the UK is cold and demanding, and it motivated us when we got back to Warwick because we saw how life could be in the future, and it’s something to work towards.”
This is one of our last chances to do spontaneous things before we go into the corporate world
– Warwick student
The strikes and change in student schedules might have acted as a catalyst for the visible increase in student getaways, but speaking to those who actually travelled reveals that Leamington and the monotony of campus life have played a key role in incentivising the rise in travel.
Therefore, despite the UCU announcing on Friday 17 February that they would be pausing the next seven days of striking to continue making significant progress in constructive negotiations, you can expect to see more insta-holidays for days to come.
As these huge European metropolitan cities slowly continue to welcome students who have attempted to escape the quietness of campus, it is potentially time to ask ourselves how we can change our perspectives.
By leaving the country, students are making subtle yet bold statements. No longer are professors the only ones striking against the unchanging conditions of campus; now students have also joined in protest, equipped with their resistance to remain in Warwick’s orbit.