As some of you may be aware, UCU have announced that their members will be taking part in a marking & assessment boycott (MAB), having started on 20th April. Here is our statement.
What is a Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB)?
As some of you may be aware, UCU have announced that their members will be taking part in a marking & assessment boycott (MAB), having started on 20th April. MAB is a form of action short of a strike (ASOS) which would mean UCU members will not be undertaking marking or assessment-related activities to pressure universities to make an offer which ends the pay erosion, casualisation and equalities issues facing staff in higher education.
This is likely to have an impact on students. We encourage you to look out for information from your departments, and we continue to lobby the University to ensure that students are as minimally impacted as possible. Please see here for FAQs provided by the University.
Why is there a MAB?
This action is not taken lightly, with many staff members feeling very upset that the dispute has reached a point that will cause this disruption to students. However, they feel that there is no other choice if the University is to be an environment they feel able to work in. This action follows the rejection of the offer made to UCU by the University College Employers Association (the body which collectively represents Universities as employers), which included a pay offer of just 5-8% — against a 25% real terms pay cut over the last decade — and no further progress on issues of casualisation and equality. On the latter, we note that Warwick has the third worst ethnicity pay gaps amongst the Russell Group. We maintain that staff teaching conditions are students’ learning conditions and we continue to offer our support to UCU staff who are taking action.
What pay deductions are happening for UCU Members involved in the MAB?
We condemn the University's decision to make 50% pay deductions from staff for participation in the MAB, particularly as in many cases, marking makes up only a small fraction of their time and responsibilities in their roles. We also note that many UCU members are also our own members i.e. Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs). We are particularly concerned with the impact of these deductions on many GTAs, who will in effect face a 100% pay cut for participating in the MAB. These graduate students are amongst the most overworked staff within Higher Education, which relies on their hourly paid contracts to deliver a significant proportion of teaching work. We will work with UCU and the University to ensure GTAs concerns are addressed, and we hope to find some resolution to this in the meantime.
How can this MAB come to an end?
We will continue to offer our solidarity with UCU in their industrial action. We firmly believe that the only way to end the disruption is to end the dispute through a satisfactory offer made to UCU. We call on the University employers to meaningfully address the concerns of staff to ensure that no students need to wait to receive the accurate outcomes of their degree.
What are we doing to support students?
We are seeking clarification from the University with regards to the impact of the MAB on disabled students and international students, to ensure that these groups are not disproportionately impacted by the industrial action. The continued delivery of reasonable adjustments should be a priority for the University, as should assurance that international students due to graduate this year will not face adverse impacts to their visa status based on delays in marking. We have confirmed with the University that all formally approved reasonable adjustments should be applied in all cases. Any concern that this does not appear to be the case should be immediately raised with your department.
As always, our SU Advice Centre is available for free, impartial advice and the team will be able to support you with any concerns you have about exams, job offer security, graduation or anything else you may be worried about. Additionally, please speak to your academic reps where particular courses, departments or faculties are affected. You can find your academic rep here.
What are your rights?
The Office for Students (OfS) states:
“All students have a contractual relationship with their university, which means they are protected by consumer protection law. This means that universities must continue to offer the service they have promised to students, even during periods of industrial action.”
OfS says that students could expect their university to do the following:
- The university should be proactive in resolving issues related to missed teaching. If teaching time is lost, it may be appropriate for catch-up teaching to be offered at a later time, missed course content to be delivered in a different way, or for partial refunds to be offered to affected students.
- The university should take steps to ensure that students are not disadvantaged in assessment by any disruption. It might be appropriate for coursework deadlines to be extended or moved, or for certain topics to not be examined if they have not been delivered in time.
- The university should explain clearly any changes made to how the course is delivered and how they will affect students. Providers should keep students informed of the impact of ongoing disruption and give students reasonable notice of any new arrangements.
- Universities and colleges should consider the needs of all students in responding to industrial action, particularly those who may be more affected than others, or may have difficulties accessing replacement learning.
More information on your rights can be found here on the OfS website.
We will also be writing a letter to the Vice-Chancellor, which we will be publishing for students to sign their name to. Details of this will be shared at a later date.