Striking PhD students from the University of Strathclyde have received potentially misleading emails regarding funding status from university staff, leaving some 'in tears'.

A second year PhD student from the University of Strathclyde was emailed by a member of staff in the Humanities and Social Science Graduate school threatening to tell the their funding body about them striking from teaching with the possibility of their funding being retracted.

It read: "If you are going to be on strike for this sustained period, we will need to inform them and they may ask you to suspend your studies.

"Obviously if you are a member of the UCU (University College Union) you are entitled to strike, but staff engaging in the industrial action do so without pay. I just wanted to bring this to your attention."

The student, who is 24 but wishes to remain anonymous, made clear that they were striking from their role as a Graduate Teaching Associate, which is funded separately from their PhD which is funded by their funding body and not the university.

Speaking to The Glasgow Times, they said:

"When I received the email, I cried. It really sent me into a panic. You feel guilty for going on strike to start with, but I'm having to argue against someone that is supposed to be supporting me. It felt patronising, disheartening."

"For PhD students who also take up teaching roles, it's difficult - we are almost stuck in a limbo, both students and staff. The uni has seen that opportunity and have seen away of thinking that if someone isn't well versed in their rights, they might be easily encouraged into going back to class again.

Read more: UCU strikes begin across Glasgow universities

"If you weren't aware of your rights as a teaching associate, you would see that email and immediately panic and go back to teaching."

A UCU Scotland spokesperson said: “Universities should not be using these underhand tricks to stop staff from joining their colleagues, nor should they be trying to embroil external funders into their feeble attempts to score local propaganda points. Their energies should be focussed on working with us to try and resolve the disputes.”

Staff at 15 universities across Scotland are taking part in strike action.

The UCU and the Educational Institute of Scotland University Lecturers Association called the strikes in disputes over pay and conditions. 
A spokesperson from Strathclyde UCU said: 

"Strathclyde UCU are extremely disappointed that the University of Strathclyde have adopted intimidating behaviour such as this in an attempt to dissuade members - who are also PhD students - from exercising their democratic right to withhold labour.

"Threatening someone’s PhD funding - which is in place to aid someone’s learning, not as a salary - is not only immoral, but ridiculous given that these students PhD studies and teaching duties are completely separate issues. Instead of threatening members, the University should focus on addressing the multiple inequalities across this campus."

The UCU disputes - on pay, working conditions and pensions - are UK-wide and will take place across 14 days, affecting 74 universities across the UK. The strikes are the largest number since a two-day, nationwide demonstration in 2016.

In response, a spokesperson for the University of Strathclyde said: “Any postgraduate student who undertakes paid work at the University may choose to participate in the strike action in relation to this work.”