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UCU declares Marking and Assessment Boycott

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

All you need to know as union members will refuse to mark assessments and exams from 20 April

By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

Photo Credit: Andrew Cardno

After the University and College Union (UCU) failed to reach a deal with employeers over pension and pay/conditions disputes last month, the powerful higher education union has announced plans to begin a marking and assessment boycott (MAB) from 20 April.

What did the Aberdeen UCU have to say?

Aberdeen UCU released the following statement on Monday evening:

'AUCU members are truly dismayed that it has become necessary to include an assessment boycott in our industrial action. As teachers--and colleagues-- of our students we are well aware of the difficulties that this will cause. That is why we have declined several times to implement a marking and assessment boycott (MAB) since we first voted for industrial action last autumn.

We had hoped that our University, and UCEA, the national universities' bargaining agency, would realise how badly they have let both students and staff down, and that they would come to the table with a reasonable solution to solve the dispute. In particular we are aware of the hardship this action may cause final year students and international students.

Academics are scholars and educators first, and not assessors. 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.

What was put on the table as a final pay offer represents a 19% decrease in our pay in real terms. Our University argues that they cannot afford pay-rises and that they are running a deficit. But in reality this is a deficit on paper alone, created by the fact that the managers set unrealistic goals of an exponential rise in student enrolments this year. Our enrolments have increased, and our cash intake has increased.

There might not be enough money to pay for a rebuilding of the King’s College Campus, or to pay increases in the salaries of senior management - but investing in the frontline staff who do the teaching and assessments is critical to the functioning future of our University.'

AUCU members will be happy to reach out to students to give them advice on how to communicate their situation to George Boyne who is leading the national negotiations. Further AUCU members will be teaching and giving advice on research and on making essays stronger and more convincing, as always.'

What is a marking and assessment boycott?

UCU members have been instructed to 'cease undertaking all summative marking and associated assessment activities/duties.' This means UCU members will NOT mark any papers, essays, or exams which will contribute towards students' final grades.

Who will be affected?

All UCU members are expected to participate in the MAB. As such, students whose lecturers or tutorial leaders (in team taught courses) participated in strike action in February and March, should expect disruptions to the marking of their work. Of special concern is final year students who have submitted dissertations, and international students whose visas depend on marks being submitted on time.

How long will the MAB last?

The boycott will last until one of three things occurs:

  1. UCU and employeers reach an agreement.

  2. UCU calls off the MAB.

  3. UCU's six month industrial action mandate expires.

Will graduations be affected?

In late February, the University told The Gaudie that they did not expect graduations to be affected by the industrial action.

Speaking to The Gaudie today, a University spokesperson said: 'UCU members are still being consulted on whether or not to support the announced action. While we do not wish to pre-empt the decision, the University understands the pressures around final year and international students and will do everything it can to ensure that all students are able to progress.'

What about international students?

The University told The Gaudie in February that they did not expect international student visas to be affected by industrial action. However, some international students who rely on marks to maintain their right to stay in the UK may be affected. UCU has instructed members who assess such students to 'contact UCU head office for further advice.'

What has AUSA said?

Student Council passed a motion in late January that affirmed the right of UCU members to strike, but also stated that AUSA would not support a marking boycott. Citing the effect such action would have on international and final year students, VP for Communities Camilo Torres Barragán told councillors, 'We cannot put lecturers’ interests ahead of students’ interests, even though they are very similar.’

In a student council meeting last month, Torres Barragán said that AUSA was working with the University to ensure that final year students and international students reliant on marks for their visas would be prioritised in the marking of any assessments.

What steps has the University taken to mitigate the MAB?

The University has not announced any mitigating action thus far. However, students should NOT expect any drastic measures such as grade inflation or a no-detriment policy at this time.

Do you support the boycott? Are you concerned about your final marks? Tell us here


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