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"I’m Afraid My Degree is Worth Less": Marking Boycott Casts Pall Over Graduation Ceremonies

Students express concerns over missing feedback and sped-up marking process

By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

Photo Credit: University of Aberdeen

Despite graduations being in full swing, many final-year students have yet to receive feedback on their dissertations and other assessments.

This comes as striking lecturers have eschewed marking or assessing final papers since the end of April. 

Students speak out against missing feedback

"Nancy," a graduating DHPA student, told The Gaudie that she only learned that her dissertation had been marked by a non-specialist after nearly a week of fighting for answers.

Nancy had received a significantly lower score than anticipated, which initially led to confusion.

"I had to fight really hard to even get to see my feedback," Nancy said. "Originally, I got the mark and assumed that my supervisor did not like my work."

"Then, it turned out: they did not grade it, they may never get to grade it even after the strike, someone graded it who shouldn’t have, it won‘t be double graded to ensure fairness, and I won‘t get feedback."

Nancy has appealed to the University to overturn the marks.

Similarly, a graduating English & History student told us that they did not know who had marked their dissertation. 

The student said: "My dissertation was marked, but my other course this term wasn't. I have no idea who marked my [dissertation] since there's no feedback. I was told they calculated my degree classification without the unmarked course and awarded me '30 compensatory credits [on a temporary basis].'

" I really don't know how to feel about it."

Another English student weighed in, commenting: "My dissertation was reallocated to someone unknown to mark- although I've been reassured that my mark has been moderated and I have received fair feedback. My other 30 credit course will not be marked until after the MAB.

"I've been given 30 compensatory credits and if my degree classification changes in an upward direction following the marking of this course I will receive an updated degree transcript."

A final-year History student added that they were "particularly keen" to receive feedback ahead of beginning postgraduate studies next year.

The student said: "We have been told that we will receive the feedback once the boycott is over but as we all know that could be months down the line. I am particularly keen to get feedback on my dissertation, especially as I am going on to do a masters and I think dissertation feedback would be useful to look upon in my early masters assessments."

"John," a student in the School of Social Sciences, faced a similar experience to Nancy after receiving his dissertation marks.

He told us: "The topic of my dissertation could definitely be described as being 'fairly niche.' Realistically, the main person who is qualified to mark it is my dissertation supervisor.

"However, due to the assessment boycott, it was marked by someone who was not specialised in that field. There is a large discrepancy between the rest of the marks I have received across my degree and this dissertation mark."

"This has potential to change my degree classification," John added.

MAB could have been resolved in early May

Local UCU bosses presented University management with a list of demands in early May- which if approved, would have seen striking lecturers stand down and begin to mark papers.

However, substantial talks between University chiefs and union leaders did not begin until early June, when the two sides met for one hour to discuss working papers on casualisation and workload.

At the time, branch officials commented that had the University engaged with their demands when originally presented, the boycott could have been ended in time for graduation.

However, union bosses told us:

"It is regrettable that so much time has passed, and it is now too late to remedy the situation for students this academic year..."

New marking policy has led to student concerns

At the source of many students’ anxieties is a motion passed in the University Senate last month, which dropped double marking requirements in a bid to speed up grading ahead of graduation.

Some students fear that the new system has lowered the "quality" of their degrees in the eyes of future employers or masters’ programmes. 

Speaking to The Gaudie after the marking policy was passed in late May, law student and senator Tomas Pizarro-Escuti said: 

"The main issue with the fast-track marking policy, as a few Senators pointed out, is that academic rigour is undermined and so is the “quality” of the degrees… is a bad degree better than none? I think not."

Several weeks later, students continue to have similar concerns. "I'm afraid my degree is worth less," one final-year student told us.

However, University management took a different tone, as a spokesperson lauded the 'hard work' of staff in ensuring students could graduate on time.

The spokesperson said:

"Despite the boycott, we have been able to ensure that almost all students will be able to graduate as planned this summer, or progress to their next level of study.  

"Work is ongoing to ensure that the small number of outstanding cases will be resolved in time for our Summer Graduations.

"This has been achieved as result of the combination of a great deal of hard work by staff within our Schools and Academic Services and the temporary additional measures approved by the University’s academic governing body, Senate."


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