More than 1,000 students sign up to compensation claim

University staff on a strike
University staff on a strike
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More than 1,000 students have joined a class action seeking compensation for disruption caused by walkouts by academics in a pension dispute, according to a firm of solicitors.

Members of the University and College Union staged a wave of strikes in February and March as part of a bitter dispute over changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), a major pension scheme.

The industrial action affected 65 institutions in total.

A website set up by specialist law firm Asserson for students interested in joining a group action to claim compensation for the disruption has seen 1,150 people sign up, the company said - adding that has enough to apply for a Group Litigation Order.

This would mean that all the individual claims can be grouped together and heard at the same time if a law suit goes ahead.

Shimon Goldwater, a senior solicitor at the firm, said that decision on how to proceed will be taken in the next few weeks, and it is likely that if a case is brought, it would be "a set of 10 to 20 universities that we would be suing".

Which universities are involved is likely to depend on which students come forward, he said.

Mr Goldwater also said that they could consider appealing to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) - an independent body set up to review student complaints, as a first step.

He claimed that if a class action suit was successful, institutions could have to pay out millions of pounds.

"Over 20,000 undergraduates attend each large UK university," he suggested. "Paying approximately £500 compensation each to 20,000 students would cost £10 million."

UCU called off further action earlier this month after members accepted new proposals put forward by Universities UK.

A Q&A for students on the pensions dispute, published by UUK after the agreement was reached, advises students who believe they were affected by the industrial action to go through their university's complaints procedure as a first step, and if a resolution is not reached they can take their claim to the OIA, or other ombudsman services.