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York and Reading uni are PAYING for graduation gown hires using wages from the strikes

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The University of York and Reading are paying for graduation gown hires using the withheld monies from the lecturers' strikes. 

In an email to students, York un reached the decision following consultations with York University Students' Union and the Graduate Students' Association. 

According to an email sent by Pro Vice-Chancellor John Robinson, he has agreed to 'pay the cost of gown hire for all of our graduating students in July 2018 and January 2019.'

A similar policy is in place at the University of Reading. An email sent last month states that as well as paying for the gown hire, the university are 'reviewing a number of different options for the use of the remaining funds' in consulation with Reading University Students' Union.

Reading graduate, Hannah Crofts said she was uncomfortable about the money coming from striking lecturers' wages:

"As I live quite far away from Reading I have other costs to consider like travel and accommodation, which makes graduation more expensive for me, so having the costs of my graduation gown covered is really helpful.

"However, it does make me feel slightly uncomfortable that the money is coming from striking staffs' wages. I do think it's also unfair on other students such as first and second years who won't receive theirs for free, as well as any third years who may defer their ceremony as they won't be eligible for having their graduation cap and gown for free.

"Realising how expensive graduation actually is I think university's need to provide extra support to ensure all students can afford to attend their graduation, whether that's helping them with costs for their gown or taking into consideration the timing of ceremonies so people don't have to pay for expensive accommodation."

The strikes affected 65 universities and lasted 14 days over a 4-week period. The decision to strike was made as a result of Universities UK's decision to move the Universities Superannuation Scheme, a pension scheme for academics and university workers, from a defined benefits scheme to a defined contribution scheme.

This would have led to losses of around £10,000 a year in retirement.

Students, who collectively lost almost a million contact hours as a result of the strikes, were quick to react. The majority of students blamed university employers for the strike, and many demanded compensation from their respective institutions.

While no university has committed to refunds, some redirected all savings made to support students. Goldsmiths University transferred strike savings to a Student Support Fund, while King's College London said its savings would "be ring-fenced as a fund which we can use to offset the impact of the strike on our students."

York University had similarly committed to "spending all withheld staff pay on initiatives that would benefit students", and stated that they remained committed to using the remainder of the withheld pay to support their continuing students.

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