An Imperial lecture hosted by Professor Robert Winston last week saw a low turnout amid a boycott by striking staff members.

The lecture, entitled “Is there still a place for old-fashioned medicine?” took place on Thursday 15th March, in the penultimate day of industrial action from members of the University and College Union (UCU).

Attendees of the event told Felix only 18 people showed up to the lecture, which had capacity for around 300. They told Felix attendance had been hit by staff members not attending, and that administrative staff taking part in the industrial action had not sent out their usual promotional materials.

Dr Toby Andrew, a lecturer from the Department of Medicine, who decided not to attend the talk, told Felix: “Professor Winston is a great speaker, and a very distinguished fertility researcher, so I would normally be one of the first in line to hear him speak. The reason I did not attend is because, along with my colleagues, we boycotted the meeting as part of the pension dispute with College. Staff are very angry that the College is dismissing defined benefit pensions as a ‘liability’, so we decided to boycott this and other meetings in response.”

The event was organised by the Faculty of Medicine as part of their Postgraduate Connections programme, which ‘brings together postgraduate students from across the Faculty’.

Professor Winston is Professor of Science and Society and Emeritus Professor of Fertility Studies at Imperial. He was made Professor of Science and Society in 2008, a position responsible for “developing paths for better engagement between scientists and the public”. He graduated from London Hospital Medical College, University of London, in 1964, and was scientific advisor to the World Health Organisation’s programme in human reproduction in 1975-77. He has presented a number of BBC series, including Child of our Time.

Stephen Hawking Lecture

Last Friday, UCU members organised a ‘teach-out’ lecture in honour of Professor Stephen Hawking, who passed away earlier that week.

Professor Fay Dowker, a Professor of Theoretical Physics in Imperial’s Department of Physics, delivered the lecture. She was supervised by Professor Hawking during her PhD on space-time wormholes, which she completed in 1990.

The lecture, which was on the life and work of Professor Hawking, was attended by a large number of students and staff. It was held in the Imperial College Union building to avoid breaking the UCU picket line.

Professor Dowker told Felix: “The UCU teach out on Stephen Hawking last Friday was standing room only, because hard work by students who supported the strike made the event happen at very short notice. They did a brilliant job of organising the venue, the stewarding of the event, the AV equipment, making the flyer, advertising and promoting it. No event would happen without this kind of work. UCU is immensely grateful for the students’ work.”

The industrial action taken by UCU, which ended last Friday, was in response to proposed changes the USS pension scheme. Universities UK, the governing body for UK higher education institutions, and UCU have been unable to reach a deal. If an agreement is not reached, more strikes could be potentially arranged during exam season.