Last updated: Tuesday 30 November 2021

We're sorry to inform you that industrial action will be taking place at the College in the form of strike action from 1 to 3 December 2021 followed by Action Short of Strike.

What is industrial action?

Industrial action, also known as a strike, occurs when an employer and a trade union (representing all or some employees in an organisation) disagree. A trade union then asks its membership to vote on whether it agrees with its position, and if so, whether it agrees that members should withhold their labour for a set period. Labour laws govern what action employees and employers can take during a strike.

What is this industrial action regarding?

As part of a broader national dispute, the Imperial branch of the University and College Union (UCU) balloted its members on the terms and conditions of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), one of the pension schemes available to College staff. USS is a separate entity from the College and offers pensions for many staff working in the higher education sector across the UK. This dispute is in relation to an ongoing valuation of USS, which you can learn more about on our explanatory webpages.
There are three other topics that other branches of the UCU have balloted their members on. These do not apply to the strike taking place at the College, which solely relates to pensions. 

What might this mean for me?

Of our approximately 8,500 staff members, there were 748 members of UCU who were entitled to vote. On a turnout of 55.9% (418 staff members), 71.7% (297) voted for strike action, with 28.3% (117) against. 86.3% (360) voted for action short of a strike (ASOS), with 13.7% (57) against. 

This may result in disruption to some educational activities, including: 

  • Lectures and seminars may be cancelled at short notice
  • Feedback and assessment may take longer
Not every part of the College will experience the same level of disruption. Trade union membership varies greatly across different departments and represents a minority of College staff as a whole. 
Every effort will be made to ensure disruption is minimised. Suitable alternative methods to ensure learning outcomes will be developed where required. 
We will continue to work with our UCU colleagues – as well as parties from across the sector – in outlining a more sustainable vision for our pensions.  
Leadership in individual academic departments will be in contact with students with further details of how timetabled teaching activities may be impacted.  

Learn more about USS

If you wish to learn more about the ongoing USS valuation, we have further information available on our USS webpages:

FAQs for students on industrial action

What is the College's position?

The College respects and will not seek to undermine people’s rights to take industrial action and to withdraw their labour.  

How will the College ensure the impact on my studies is minimised?

We will seek to mitigate the impact on your education in terms of teaching, learning and assessment, though there may be some variation in delivery.

Teaching and assessment will be prioritised. Suitable alternative methods to deliver teaching and learning will be explored.  

Will the College be closed during any period of industrial action?

No, the College will remain open as normal.

How will the money withheld from staff salaries be spent?

Departments will use funds from withheld salaries to support activities that benefit education and/or student experience during 2021-22, in consultation with student staff committees.  Departmental spending will be overseen by the College’s Education Committee to ensure funds are fully used for student support or experience. 

What is 'action short of strike'?

'Action Short of Strike' (ASOS) will take the form of some or all of:

  • working to contract
  • not undertaking any voluntary activities

UCU is required to inform the College if these are to change.

How will I be affected?

If College staff members choose to take part in industrial action they may strike - in which they will not work on the dates listed above -  or take Action Short of a Strike (ASOS). If a member of staff chooses to strike or take ASOS they may tell their department in advance, but they are not obliged to do so. This means that there may be changes to the delivery of your education at short notice.  

We're working with Heads of Department to mitigate the impact on your education in terms of teaching, learning and assessment. We're working hard to ensure that, as far as possible, teaching and assessment activities continue as normal. If your department becomes aware that one of its staff is taking part in the strike, we will make every effort to let you know.   Where teaching cannot be delivered as scheduled, it may be rescheduled, delivered by another member of staff, or delivered in a different format. 

During the strike it is important that you continue to:  

  • Be aware of any changes to schedules
  • Attend all lectures and other teaching sessions as scheduled
  • Submit coursework by the specified deadlines
  • Attend all scheduled examinations and other assessments 

We ask for your understanding if your department has to make last-minute alternative arrangements. Timetables are designed to even out the workload over the term, and this balance may be affected if lectures have to be rescheduled or rearranged. We encourage you to review forthcoming assessment deadlines and use any time released by postponed teaching activities for study, working on coursework or revision. 

Will my lectures, tutorials and exams go ahead?

Lectures and tutorials

We're working hard to mitigate the impact on teaching and assessment activities. Where teaching cannot be delivered as scheduled, it may be rescheduled, delivered by another member of staff, or delivered in a different format.


We will make every effort to ensure all your assessment activities go ahead and are staffed appropriately. However, your assessment may need to be rescheduled and you will be informed if this is the case. You will not be examined on any content which you have not been taught as a result of strike actionIf necessary, assessments will be adjusted to take into account the impact of the strike on teaching.


Do I have to submit coursework during the strike period?

You should complete and submit your coursework by the deadlines agreed as usual, even if your lecturer is taking part in the strike. In some instances, the potential absence of staff members due to strike action might make coursework impossible to complete by the agreed deadline. If this is the case, please contact your department.

Will my work still be marked?

Your work will still be marked and feedback provided using the same standards and to the same rigour as always. However, it's possible that marking and feedback may be delayed. 

Can disruption caused by strikes be considered as a mitigating circumstance?

The strike action is not a valid reason to apply for mitigating circumstances. If any of your teaching has been affected by the strike action, inform your department and this will be addressed on a case-by-case basis. We understand your concern and want to assure you that we are committed to minimising the impact of any strike action.

I already have extenuating circumstances and the strikes made my condition worse. What should I do?

If you’re already in touch with your department (via a personal tutor, senior tutor, department office, wellbeing adviser, etc.), please continue to seek their support and advice. In particular, if you believe that the strike action has exacerbated any mitigating circumstances, you should seek advice about submitting additional evidence in support of this through your department, using the standard mitigating circumstances process. This willensure that the Board of Examiners are fully aware and can act accordingly.

If you’re feeling any impact on your health or wellbeing and you’re not already in contact with your personal tutor, we strongly advise that you do so. Please visit the Student Support Zone webpage for further information.

I am a research student and my Early Stage Review, Late Stage Review or viva are scheduled during the strike period. What arrangements are being made?

It is possible that arrangements for the viva or reviews may be rescheduled. You are advised to discuss this with your supervisor if you have any concerns. If your supervisor is not available, there are staff within the department that have an oversight of research degree students. If you do not know who this is for your department, check with your departmental office.

I am a Tier 4 visa holder. Will industrial action affect my attendance record and visa?

UKVI Student Sponsor guidance confirms that academic activity/teaching cancelled due to industrial action should not be treated as an unauthorised absence and therefore should not affect your visa status.

Can I claim a reimbursement for missed teaching?

Your fees cover all aspects of your time at Imperial, and are based on the delivery of overall outcomes, rather than being payments for specific contact hours. Through our mitigation plans, we are taking all reasonable steps to ensure that any teaching and learning affected by industrial action will be provided and we are working to mitigate any impact on your overall student experience. 
Our focus is on your education and through our mitigation plans, we are aiming to ensure the impact of the strike on these outcomes is kept to a minimum.

Will I have to cross a picket line?

It is likely that there will be a polite picketing presence at some entrances to our campuses on the strike days. While pickets may ask you not to cross a picket line, they cannot stop you from entering the campuses or require you to engage in discussion with them. Those who wish to cross a picket line are allowed to do so. Pickets should consist of a maximum of six people on any picket line. Picketing at Imperial has always been conducted in a respectful way without any intimidation of staff, students or visitors and we're confident that this will continue.

Will there be an impact on College support services?

The College’s services and facilities are expected to operate as normal during any period of industrial action. If a member of staff chooses to strike or ASOS, they may tell their department in advance, and this will help us to plan to mitigate any impact on your access to support services.  

In some specific instances, the impact of industrial action may mean that services need to reduce of change their operating hours, rearrange appointments or there may be some variation in delivery. However, such instances are expected to be minimal and every effort will be made to ensure that services are accessible as normal.

If you have any questions not answered here, you should first get in touch with the teaching office of your Department or your personal tutor. If you still don’t have the information you need, you can email