It is not for the Office for Students to get involved in the substance of the Universities Superannuation Scheme pensions dispute. However, we do have a clear remit to seek to mitigate the impact of any further action on students.
On Friday 13 April, UCU members voted accept the employers’ proposals on the USS pension scheme. This means that strike action is suspended – no further strike action is due to go ahead at this time. The guidance may still be of use to students who have previously been affected by this industrial dispute.
If industrial action resumes, we will be expecting providers to avoid or minimise the disruption on students. In terms of the process of registering providers, we will be assessing providers’ initial and ongoing compliance with their registration conditions in line with the provisions of the Regulatory Framework and the accompanying regulatory notices and registration guidance. This will include assessing providers’ compliance with the conditions that relate to the impact of the industrial action on students’ teaching, learning and assessment, including the conditions of registration relating to quality, standards, and consumer protection. We are also able to use our powers under the 1992 Further and Higher Education Act to protect quality and standards.
In particular, we will be expecting providers to make clear to students what the impact of the industrial action will be and how any disruption will be mitigated, in accordance with their responsibilities under consumer protection legislation. Students should be told where to go for advice, and who to contact to discuss the impact of the industrial action on them.
As students are examined and assessed, we expect higher education providers to exercise appropriately their responsibilities for maintaining standards. It is essential that academic standards are not put at risk and that the value of qualifications is maintained.
We have published guidance to help students and universities understand their rights and responsibilities.