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  • Writer's pictureThe Gaudie

Fast-track marking policy passed by University Senate

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

Senate also called on employers to return to the negotiating table and work with UCU to end marking boycott.

By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

Members of the University's Senior Management Team, including Vice Chancellor George Boyne, at the meeting

Wednesday afternoon

The University of Aberdeen Senate has voted to fast-track marking protocols in a bid to ensure more students can graduate with degree classifications this summer.

After employer and union representatives reached an impasse over pay and conditions negotiations, UCU members have refused to mark final assessments for the last five weeks.

The motion passed 48-26 (with 7 abstentions) at a meeting of the Senate Wednesday afternoon.

The newly minted protocols remove previous requirements for assessments to be marked twice, while lowering the amount of assessments needing to be marked in order to gain course credit (from 75% to 70%).

The policy instructs University leadership to communicate the new marking criteria to the academic schools as soon as possible.

As we reported last week, Aberdeen UCU strongly criticised the motion, arguing that it was a 'dangerous game' to play with students' futures.

A University spokesperson told The Gaudie: 'The marking and assessment boycott is part of a national dispute and we are making every effort to minimise disruption for our students.

'As part of that effort, the University’s academic body Senate has approved temporary additional measures to support the small numbers of students affected by the boycott to graduate. These minor amendments will not impact academic quality and standards.'

Senators weigh in on new protocols

Miles Rothoerl, a third year Politics and Philosophy student and member of Senate, told The Gaudie that the new policy helped to provide some clarity on students' futures.

'The policy adopted by Senate today isn’t a silver bullet. Some will still graduate without knowing their final grade and international students, who face a particularly vulnerable situation due to their visa status, don’t feature explicitly. Nevertheless, it does bring some much-needed clarity to all of us. It makes provisions to reduce the number of students affected and lays out what those that are can expect. Particularly considering the very limited mitigations in place before, this is a clear step in the right direction, but it’s essential we keep pushing to get the shortcomings addressed.'

However, not all Senators believed the policy was a good idea. Law School Convenor Tómas Pizzaro-Escuti explained why he voted against the motion. He said:

'The main issue with Fast-track marking policy, as a few Senators pointed out, is that academic rigor is undermined and so is the “ quality” of the degrees. For instance, Dr Alessandra Cecolin, pointed out that certain regulatory bodies will not accept these degrees, this affect Physics for example.

In my view, the Senior Management was too eager to bypass the strike and therefore unintentionally sacrifice academic integrity. For instance, how will these degrees affect the rankings of the University?

I think more effort should have been placed in trying to find a compromise between Senior Management and the UCU. I think AUSA could have taken a more active role in this dispute, especially because its outcome have a negative consequence for the students. Had AUSA showed more support to the UCU, joining the strike, for example, it is likely that the University would have acceded to the lecturers demands.

The dilemma in today’s debate can be summarised in a question, is a bad degree better than none?

I think not. The exams would be marked sooner rather than later and the students would have, in that case, degrees suited for an ancient Scottish university.'

Senate calls on employers to restart negotiations

The Senate also passed a motion calling on employers organisation UCEA to restart pay and conditions negotiations with the UCU.

However, Vice Chancellor George Boyne, who also serves as the chair of UCEA, noted the vote did not indicate an official University position on the boycott, as such powers are reserved for University Court.


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