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  • Writer's pictureThe Gaudie

'It’s not our fault': Students share fears of imminent marking and assessment boycott

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

Latest escalation of national dispute will see UCU members refuse to mark or assess finals, leaving 4th year and international students in the lurch

By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

Photo Credit: Aberdeen UCU Twitter

Beginning on Thursday, members of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) will commence a marking and assessment boycott, refusing to mark or submit any summative assignments; including dissertations, exams, and other forms of assessment. The boycott is the latest escalation of a national dispute over pay and pensions between UCU, which represents 70,000 academic staff, and employers at universities around the UK.

Students have expressed concern over the boycott, fearing the detrimental effects it will have on final year students awaiting dissertation results.

A 4th Year English Lit student told The Gaudie: ‘It’s not our fault they don’t get paid enough. The majority of students support their reasoning, including me, but not marking final year dissertations is a joke. What are we paying for?’

Likewise, a 4th Year DHPAH student commented: ‘I've been very supportive of all the UCU industrial action, but I feel the impact this will have on final year students and international students is just too high for me to support this measure. I empathise with the struggles of UCU staff at the university, but this harms students not the institution.’

A 4th Year Politics and IR student added: ‘I have had sympathy and support for the lecturers for striking over pay and pensions for every year of my 4 year degree, but boycotting marking assessments during the last term of our undergraduate degree when we need our grades to graduate and process admissions for graduate school makes my blood boil…’

A 4th Year History student remarked: ‘I wonder what they think this will achieve. Ultimately, I think this is hurting the students, and the management probably won't really care too much. It just feels like students get hurt by the industrial action, and it doesn't seem to help staff with how long the industrial action has been going on. I sympathise with the staff, but I think the industrial action only really affects students, it just doesn't seem to be working.’

Students have also expressed concerns over the effect the strikes may have on international students, some of whom rely on timely marking to pay off loans or maintain their right to stay in the UK.

One student commented: ‘Students pay huge sums of money including English and International students to get an excellent education. This is a step too far by the union and students' interests are clearly now behind lecturers’ interests which is wrong. This is also causing a lot of unnecessary mental stress for students like myself who have exams in May.’

Another student shared how the boycott would affect them personally. They told The Gaudie: ‘Generally speaking I support workers' right to strike and understand that an effective strike must cause disruption and inconvenience. However, taking action that directly impacts students in a way that feels almost targeted doesn't get my support and I fail to see how it would be the most useful course of action for UCU either. In addition to visas, some international students also need grades in time for bursaries and student loans (e.g. I personally would face debt collection measures for the student loans of the entire year if I couldn't submit my grades and progress reports in time)…’

A Masters student who began in January added: 'I vehemently oppose this boycott. International students are already at the receiving end when it comes to unfair treatment (paying more than twice the fees to that of a local for example)... to learn of this boycott is very disturbing to say the least. Why should students pay a price for no fault of theirs?'

Aberdeen UCU told The Gaudie their members were ‘truly dismayed’ that a marking boycott was needed.

In a statement, the union blamed the University and UCEA (the employers’ bargaining agency) for failing to provide a ‘reasonable solution’ to end the dispute.

‘Academics are scholars and educators first, and not assessors,’ the statement read. ‘Our primary job is to make sure that our students have the best preparation for whatever they face be they exams, essays, or their work after University. If assessments are critical to the functioning of the University then it is up to the University managers to realise that they have to invest in this activity.’

The University has yet to release any information on any provisions for international or final year students. Per a spokesperson, the University will share information about plans to mitigate the effects of the boycott with students and staff this Wednesday.


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