THERE were “more picket lines than ever before” in the longest strike in education history as university staff staged the first of a series of walk-outs

Set to cause “major disruption” to more than 25,000 students lecturers abandoned tutorials in favour of protesting against what they say are unnecessary changes to their pension scheme

Professor Catherine Pope, UCU branch secretary, said: “We have had more picket lines than we’ve ever had. I don’t know exactly how many people are out today but there are more than 2,500 of the 6,000 university staff who are eligible for the pension scheme.

“We have never had a vote turn-out like it. Nearly 88 per cent were in favour of striking. I have never seen a branch made so active. We don’t agree that there are these massive holes in the pensions.”

Maths lecturer Nick Wright added: “I’m maths – so I understand the numbers. Lecturers will be losing around £200,000 over the course of a retirement with these changes. Strike action is the last resort. We do feel for the students, but this is in support of education.

"We're here to show how seriously we are taking this. The universities are proposing to get rid of the defined benefit scheme and replace it with a scheme which depends on the performance of the investment. So what we get would not be guaranteed. It means we will have a worse pension than people who work in the new universities like Solent.

“It will harm the university sector as a whole and that’s not good for students either. The unis have had six months to come up with a better offer.”

Students were also running their own picket line in support of their lecturers – but English and history student Molly Adams said the cost of the strike to fee-paying students is estimated to be between £300- £700. She said: “I’d rather my lecturers were paid fairly though than losing that money.”