Referendum: FAQ

Referendum FAQs

Thursday 18 November 2021 08:53


  1. How does this referendum impact me? 

This referendum will decide whether ICU supports the strike action or not. You can influence it by campaigning for or against, and by casting your vote. Once ICU’s stance has been decided, we will then lobby the College accordingly on the dispute. 

  1. Why doesn’t the Union already have a stance on this? 

Industrial action is likely to impact most students at Imperial and may affect certain students disproportionately. Therefore, the President, with the backing of all the Officer Trustees, has decided that the most directly representative way of deciding a stance on the issue is through organising a referendum.  

  1. How do I vote? 

Voting is open for two days on the Union website. It opens at midday on Wednesday 24 November and closes midday on Friday 26 November. Please login and navigate to the referendum website page, and then click vote.  

  1. Who is eligible to vote? 

All current students who have not opted out of ICU membership are eligible to vote. 

  1. I’m having trouble voting – how do I resolve this? 

We’re sorry to hear you’re experiencing issues. Please contact the elections team on  

  1. How do I find out the results? 

The result of the referendum will be posted on the Union website at 2pm on Friday 26 November. 

Industrial action 

  1. What is strike action? 

The College’s website states that “staff who choose to take strike action will not undertake any work” on an agreed number of days. This may include both research and teaching work. 

  1. What is action short of strike (ASOS)? 

From the College’s website: 

UCU has asked their members to take ASOS from 1 December until 3 May. ASOS will be comprised of staff members working to contract and not undertaking voluntary activities. 

The actions cannot be varied without UCU re-balloting its members. At the moment, this does not include an assessment and marking boycott. 

  1. Why are lecturers striking? 

The current calls for industrial action are predominantly in response to UCU claims of reduction in USS member staff pensions by 35%. UCU is also protesting pay disparities, the casualisation of academic and research positions, gender and race pay gaps – as well as increased workloads. These have been referred to as the ‘four fights’. Details on these broad issues are available on their website.  Imperial lecturers are only striking on the issue of pensions. 

  1. What was the outcome of the ballots at Imperial College? 

At Imperial College, the overall turnout for the UCU ballot on pensions was 55.9% of ICL UCU branch members, within which 71.7% voted for strike action and 86.3% voted for industrial action short of strike. The branch did not vote on the ‘four fights’.

  1. What are the dates for strike action? 

So far, UCU has declared 1st, 2nd and 3rd of December as the dates for industrial action. Should there be further dates announced, students would be informed of the same. 

  1. What is the College’s stance on this? 

The Quality Assurance and Enhancement Committee received a verbal update in 2020 regarding the agreed College position in relation to strike action. It was declared as the following: 

  • The College will respect and not seek to undermine people’s right to take industrial action and to withdraw their labour.   
  • The College will seek to mitigate the impact on student’s education in terms of teaching, learning and assessment, though there may be some variation in delivery.   
  • Teaching and assessment will be prioritised to ensure programmes are maintained, where necessary suitable alternative methods to deliver teaching and learning will be explored. 
  1. What is the position of the Universities’ sector? 

Imperial academic staff are only striking on the issue of pensions. Underlying that are concerns to do with valuation and employer and employee contributions in the future in order to keep defined benefits sustainable. These matters have come into dispute because the latest evaluation of the USS pension scheme estimated a £15.2bn deficit.1 In order to mitigate against this, the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) – a committee comprising of both UCU and UUK members – has suggested a package of reforms2, including a reduction in salary threshold for receiving certain benefits, reducing the accrual rates, and lower rates of increase to the pensions after an employee retires. If this is not agreed to, USS will revert to a fall-back position which could see employers paying 38.2% of an employee’s salary in contribution, and employees paying in 18.8%. This presents significant financial challenges to both the employee and the employer. 

  1. Are lectures cancelled during the strike action? 

Although strike action may have an impact on lectures/academic activities, not all activities are likely to be affected and neither would every staff member participate in the same manner. Therefore, you should follow the Imperial College information section to learn about the exact impact on your classes. 

  1. Which departments would be affected? 

The College maintains an updated information section on their website on the strikes. Previously in 2020 the College released a list of the affected departments, years and modules for each faculty. 

  1. If lectures are cancelled, do I receive a refund? 

Imperial College have not said that they will offer refunds at this time. 

  1. Will my graduation be delayed because of the strike action? 

Currently the strike action is scheduled for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd of December. Imperial members of UCU are also participating in ASOS, which is continuous from 1 December 2021 and will terminate no later than 3 May 2022.  

The College website would further update students should the industrial action continue over an extended period and affect graduation or other events in the future. Students are advised to regularly follow the updates here for more details. 

  1. I’m an international student, will my tier 4 visa be affected? 

  No. Strike action will not be treated as an unauthorised absence. 

  1. Where can I find out more information about the strikes at Imperial? 

The College maintains an updated information section on their website on the strikes. We recommend going through the overview as well as the specific section of FAQs for students regarding industrial action.  


  1. I have a strong opinion for or against the referendum question, how do I get involved with the referendum? 

If you would like to persuade other students to vote for or against the referendum, you can register to be part of the yes or no campaign. The campaigns will be required to upload 250 words on the Union website by Wednesday 24 November at 9am that set out the case for your campaign.  

Campaigners are also required to attend a briefing session on Tuesday 23rd November at 2.30pm. In this session, you will learn about the rules of campaigning during the referendum and the budget for campaigning. 

  1. Can I still campaign if I can’t attend the briefing session? 

Yes, you can still campaign if you can’t attend the briefing session. on Tuesday 23rd November at 2.30pm However, you need to sign up to be campaigner through this form. If you have not signed up you will not be able to campaign.  

Once your sign up has been received, you will then be given the contact details of the leaders of each campaign, and be sent the slide deck with the rules of the campaign.  

  1. I think campaigners are not acting fairly, how do I complain? 

You can check whether campaigners are acting within the rules for the referendum here. If you find that they are in breach of those rules, please go to and full out the form to initiate the complaints process. Complaints must be raised no later than the close of voting.  

  1. What happens if not enough students vote? 

In order for the referendum to be binding, there needs to be a turnout of 10% of the ICU membership. If that threshold has not been reached, the motion will go to Union Council. 

  1. What is the Union going to do with the results? 

The outcome of the referendum would be the Union’s public position on the matter of the current industrial action.  Beyond that, Union representatives would be expected to take additional actions to lobby appropriate stakeholders to advance the Union’s position.