Many Penn students studying abroad in the United Kingdom have missed up to five weeks of classes due to teacher strikes and remain unsure whether or not Penn will give them course credit or reimburse them for missed lectures.
On Feb. 22, members of the U.K.’s University and College Union began a month-long strike program to protest changes to their pension plans. Lecturers canceled classes for weeks at 64 universities and turned down a temporary agreement proposed on March 13. While the strikes ended last week, professors are planning two more weeks of strikes for the exam period in April and May.
Penn Abroad Director Nigel Cossar wrote in an emailed statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian that, while it is too early to identify how many students were affected by strikes, Penn is “working with students to collect important information about their courses and which have been affected, before any decisions are made.”
He added that solutions would involve “[working] with each student based on their individual circumstances.”
Student opinions have been divided, with many students supporting their professors but calling for tuition reimbursement for canceled lectures. In response to student petitions, King’s College London announced that it would be refunding students using money saved from striking lecturers’ salaries. However, Penn students studying in the U.K. pay Penn tuition, so they will not be affected by this policy.
Because many London colleges have 10-week terms, some Penn students have missed almost half of their semesters. College junior Tyler Williams, who is studying at the University College London, said that all four of her courses were disrupted due to strikes and that one class was canceled for five weeks. Similarly, Wharton junior Hannah Liu, who is studying at King’s College London, said that two of her four classes were canceled for the entire month.
Liu said that she had hoped to use the semester to take electives and explore subjects she wouldn’t have studied otherwise.
“I was really excited about doing something new that I was interested in in a new country,” she said. “So I guess I’m a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to fully take advantage of that.”
As of now, it is unclear what Penn’s response to the strikes will be, and students are unsure whether they will receive credit for the courses they took. Some are also concerned that future strikes will impact their exams.
Williams said that she was “kind of concerned” that Penn wouldn’t give her course credit and that as of now, Penn hasn't made a statement in either direction.
Wharton junior Madeline Dalzell, who is studying at King’s College London, shared these concerns. Dalzell said that one of her classes was canceled for almost four weeks, and that “it will definitely be disruptive if I don’t end up getting credit for the class.”
Penn students also hope that the University will consider refunding them for the classes they missed.
“Especially if the King’s College students are getting a reimbursement, I definitely feel that I should also be able to take part in that,” Liu said.
Williams added that she hopes Penn will take the disruptions into account when calculating students’ grades.
“I would want them to take into consideration that a lot of material that we’re being assessed on, we didn’t learn properly,” Williams said. “Hopefully that will be reflected when grades come out and are translated from the U.K. system to the American system.”
Penn Abroad has been in touch with students in the U.K. through emails from Senior Global Programs Manager Greta Kazenski and Bianca Leggett of the Cornell-Brown-Penn U.K. Centre.
On March 12, Kazenski sent an email to let students know that “Penn has not forgotten about you and is monitoring the situation closely.” However, she added that she did not have updates about how Penn will be dealing with credits. Kazenski also sent a survey to students on March 28 to determine how many classes they had missed.
Dalzell said that the initial email was only sent after strikes had been going on for two and a half weeks.
“I remember being a little frustrated that they hadn’t reached out earlier,” she said.
Despite the strikes, students said that they still found their study abroad experience worthwhile.
“My motivation for study abroad was more social and cultural than it was academic,” Liu said. “I definitely still got that.”
Williams added that the canceled lectures had given her an opportunity to travel.
“I’m definitely not complaining about it,” she said.
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