University staff in Tayside and Fife began a major 14-day strike yesterday in one of the biggest actions ever taken in the UK higher education sector.
Dundee and St Andrews Universities are among 13 institutions in Scotland and 74 across the UK affected by the action.
Staff are walking out in two disputes – one over pensions, and another over pay and working conditions.
Both local universities said they were working to minimise disruption for students.
Among the concerns is a rise in casual contracts with no guarantee of a minimum salary.
Sharon Sweeney, a lecturer in community education at Dundee University, said the contracts were affecting people’s lives.
She said: “In any given month our workload can change. That could mean you lose half your salary.
“Work can be pulled from you with perhaps short notice.
“Your work can also start in September for the academic year and end in May.
“It’s like students that don’t get any loan for the summer.”
One Dundee University lecturer, Tommy Perman, announced his resignation as the strikes began.
He said he was “unwilling to continue working in a system that is toxic and exploits staff and students alike”.
Mr Perman said he had experienced significant stress which had affected his physical and mental health.
He added: “I absolutely love teaching so I am very sad and very angry that it has come to this. We all deserve better.”
A Dundee University spokesperson said: “It is unfortunate that the union have chosen to revive strike action when negotiations around the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension in particular are still ongoing.
“We contribute to those negotiations as a member of Universities UK, and in good faith that a resolution can be found.
“The vast majority of classes and lectures are still taking place across the University, and for many students there will be no impact.
“For those who are impacted, we are doing everything we can to mitigate the effects and support students in their learning and assessment.”
On Mr Perman’s resignation, the spokesperson added that the university was “aware of a number of concerns” raised by a member of staff and that these matters were being addressed.”
A spokesperson for St Andrews University said: “Students should not be penalised because of this national dispute.
“It can only be resolved by meaningful negotiation at a national level to reach a settlement that is fair to staff and sustainable for their institutions.
“In St Andrews, we will take all possible steps to avoid or minimise disruption to classes and coursework, and we hope that our staff will exercise their right to take industrial action in ways which reflect their deep commitment to our student community.”