University isn't exactly a bargain. Parents and their kids accept that they are spending a small fortune to invest in the future. They have the best brains in the business focusing 100% on their education in order to give them the best start in life that money can buy.
So it's not going to come as great news to hear that their lecturers are planning industrial action.
The catalyst for university staff is that their pensions are subject to fairly sizable cuts, introduced on 1 October this year. The big changes include a cut in the university contribution from 16% to 10% and a move from a final salary pension to a career average pension.
This is a particularly big deal for some staff members, as some very senior posts are held for just four years. Academics are promoted to the post, then when they go back to their old job they keep their higher salary and their final salary pension is based on this much higher level. A career average salary would make the affect of the brief promotion much less dramatic.
Of course, there are still those in the private sector who would bite your arm off for a 10% contribution but the two-tier system is so entrenched that it's hard for lecturers to see this side of the argument.
There are about 40,000 members at 67 universities, and the action could have a dramatic affect on teaching.
They have threatened to 'work to contract' unless universities agree to negotiate, and haven't ruled out strike action. This will mean they won't cover each other's classes, attend staff meetings or do any additional duties. This presumably means stressed students will be left standing in corridors as lecturers refuse to offer them any assistance that doesn't fit with their contract. If this doesn't work it may escalate into refusing to assess students, which is fairly key if they are to receive a final degree mark, and it could then escalate again into strike action.
For students this is a bitter blow, and will rankle particularly for parents who have had to forgo paying into their own pension in order to afford to send their kids to university. It will also have a hollow ring for those students working their way through university who are acutely aware that what their lecturers are being offered is far more than they are being given in their jobs - the vast majority of which offer no pension.
Of course, students are no strangers to protests (pictured), and there will be plenty who are delighted at the prospect of a sit in. However, there will be many more who start to seriously wonder why they are paying through the nose for an education when all the lecturers worry about is their retirement.