University marking boycott: How does it affect students?

UK university marking boycott impacts students’ grades as staff refuse to mark exams and assessments.

UCU members at 145 UK institutions take action over pay and working conditions, leading to a marking boycott.

The UCU marking and assessment boycott is a refusal by union members to mark university exams and assessments. Started on April 20, the boycott will persist until employers provide an improved offer on pay and conditions, as stated by the UCU.

What impact will the marking boycott have on students?
It should be noted that not all university staff are members of the UCU.

According to a survey conducted by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) on June 22, out of the 70 universities that responded, 50 stated that less than 2% of students would be affected and unable to graduate due to the marking boycott.

However, Jenny Sherrard, the UCU head of policy, criticized UCEA for attempting to minimize the impact of the boycott.

According to the union, the marking boycott has the potential to impact over half a million graduations this summer. However, each university is making individual decisions on how to mitigate the impact, so the effect on students will vary.

Acting Vice-Chancellor Anthony Freeling of the University of Cambridge has confirmed that students will not be able to graduate until all their work has been marked. He noted that the majority of the 4,500 students expecting to graduate would likely be affected by this.

Approximately 2,000 students at the University of Edinburgh will graduate without knowing their final marks, while Durham University has stated that a “significant number” of its students will experience delays.

Certain universities will enable students to progress to the next stage of their studies by considering predicted grades or marks obtained from other assessments.

The Department for Education has announced temporary plans that will allow trainee teachers to begin their postgraduate courses even if they have not yet received their degree results.

The marking boycott is taking place as a form of “action short of a strike” in response to a dispute over pay and working conditions. This action follows previous staff walkouts.

UCU members have staged strikes at 83 universities, primarily concerning pay and working conditions. In addition, members at five universities have undertaken walkouts specifically related to pensions.

Additionally, strikes involving both pay/working conditions and pensions have taken place at 62 institutions.

The unions have put forth a request for the 2022-23 pay round, which includes a pay increase of either the RPI measure of inflation +2% or 12% – whichever is higher, along with measures to eliminate zero hours and temporary contracts. The UCEA has offered an improved pay deal for 2023-24, ranging between 5% and 8%, which they claim is the most substantial offer of its kind in almost two decades.

However, the unions argue that it constitutes a real-terms “pay cut,” with 56% of participating UCU members voting against the proposal.

Although negotiations have reached an impasse, the UCEA has recommended that universities proceed with the implementation of the 2023-24 pay increase, retroactive to February.

While expressing its complete dedication to collaborating with the trade unions, the UCEA cautioned that additional industrial actions, such as the marking and assessment boycott, could jeopardize the progress of the ongoing talks.



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By Ryan

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