The University Marking Boycott

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Megan Brown

The current marking boycott, introduced by University and College Union (UCU) members, has been ongoing since the 20th of April and has left many students without a final grade. 

This boycott was introduced back in April as university lecturers and other academic staff were left struggling due to pay cuts and working conditions, such as temporary contracts. Whilst the boycott was considered by academics as “a last resort”, the pay cuts and working conditions left academic staff with no choice, as universities fail to reach a resolution with UCU.

With many facing financial difficulties due to reduced pay and un-reliable temporary contracts, the University and College Union asked all UCU members in higher education to “cease undertaking all summative marking and associated assessment activities/duties” in the hope of gaining “a renewed offer on pay and working conditions” from the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA). 

These employment conditions affect the conditions in which students are learning in

Moreover, many hope that this demand is met, as it not only benefits academic staff directly but will ensure that students are getting the best out of their education. For example, a letter sent by the National Union of Students (NUS) to the UCEA expressed that “These employment conditions affect the conditions in which students are learning in,” and “How can we expect the UK Higher Education (HE) system to be internationally-renowned and provide high-quality support to students, whilst working conditions are being eroded year in, year out?”

Furthermore, as a consequence of the marking boycott, anxieties are rising as many students face growing uncertainties surrounding their academic future, as many will struggle to progress without graded dissertations, exams, and coursework. Despite students’ frustration, many are in support of the UCU’s decision to introduce the marking boycott, with students from Edinburgh University chanting “pay your workers” at their recent graduation. 

Universities are unlikely to see an end to boycotts like this one

To conclude, universities are unlikely to see an end to boycotts like this one, without significant change and renewed arrangements surrounding a pay raise for academic staff, as well as an end to temporary contracts or working conditions.

Megan Brown

Featured image courtesy of Unseen Studio via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

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