University strikes cost £8 million a day

Embargoed: 00:01 Thursday 11 November 2021


The TaxPayers’ Alliance has found the cost of recent university strikes is equivalent to the tuition fees for 10,285 British undergraduates’ degrees.

Analysis shows that since 2018, the total cost of the 36 strike days is £285.4 million, equivalent to £8 million per day. The University and College Union (UCU) once again balloted this month over pensions alongside pay and working conditions for staff. The fresh wave of strikes come after students faced a year or more of online lectures and disruption, due to strike days and the covid pandemic.

The UCU, led by one of the top 20 best-paid trade union bosses, has pursued strike action over pensions despite concerns about the generosity of existing schemes. According to the latest Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, the higher education USS pension scheme is in the top 20 per cent of contributors. It is also in the top half of the most generous public sector schemes. 

The TaxPayers’ Alliance is calling on university union bosses to stop further disruption, in the interests of hard-pressed students and taxpayers. 


Key findings:

  • Members of the University and College Union (UCU) have approved strike action in response to the latest dispute over the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

  • Since 2018, UCU members have engaged in at least 36 strike days.

  • The total cost of the teaching time lost in strikes since 2018 is almost £178.3 million. If non-teaching staff are included in this figure, the number rises to £285.4 million. This equates to £8 million per day of strike action since 2018.

  • A further £29 million has been spent on trade union facility time by universities up to 2021.

  • In 2017, the maximum tuition fees chargeable in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland were raised to £9,250 per year. Since this time, almost all English higher education institutions have increased their fees to match this limit for at least some of their courses.


John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said:

“University union bosses cannot think that now is the right time for yet more expensive strikes.

“With learning set to be disrupted once again, students and taxpayers will be questioning value for money in the higher education sector.

“Union leaders must step back from constant strike action and be realistic about finding solutions to issues like unaffordable university pension pots.”


TPA spokespeople are available for live and pre-recorded broadcast interviews via 07795 084 113 (no texts)


Media contact:

Danielle Boxall
Media Campaign Manager, TaxPayers' Alliance
[email protected]
24-hour media hotline: 07795 084 113 (no texts)


Notes to editors:

  1. Founded in 2004 by Matthew Elliott and Andrew Allum, the TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA) campaigns to reform taxes and public services, cut waste and speak up for British taxpayers. Find out more at

  2. TaxPayers' Alliance's advisory council.

  3. The TaxPayers’ Alliance’s University Rich List 2020 found that 4,112 university staff took home over £100,000 in total remuneration.

  4. The TaxPayers’ Alliance’s Trade Union Rich List 2021 found that UCU general secretary Dr. Jo Grady received £136,647 in total remuneration.
This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience.  More info. Okay