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UCU marking boycott: What does this mean for students?

The UCU has called members to stop summative marking and assessment duties from the 20th April


The Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) has announced that marking and assessment boycotts will go ahead from Thursday 20th April, which will affect 145 UK universities, including the University of Cambridge.

This confirmation comes after UCU members voted to reject UCEA proposals in the pay and conditions dispute occurring on the 17th April.

This boycott is set to continue “until the disputes are settled, or UCU calls off the boycott, or at the end of the industrial action ballot mandate (usually six months after the industrial action ballot closes)”, according to the UCU website.

In response to the boycott, the UCU has said they “have given every opportunity to the employers to resolve the pay and working conditions and/or USS pensions dispute”. Students are encouraged to “contact the vice-chancellor or principal to raise the impact of the industrial action on their studies.”

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “University staff have been clear that they want a better deal, and it is in the interests of employers to make an enhanced offer and prevent serious disruption hitting graduations.”

What does this mean for students?

This means any work submitted from the 20th April will not be marked by those taking part in the MABs, including examination marking, coursework, practical work, scientific experiments and presentations for example.

However, this will not target the examination of dissertations at a postgraduate level.

Picketers outside the Sidgwick Site during a Michaelmas UCU strike (Image credit: Felix Armstrong)

The first major effect of the boycott has been seen within the MML faculty with the confirmation of the cancellation of MML/HML Oral B examinations in an email sent to students on the 18th April.

The email said the cancellation has been made with the concern that it would not have possible to ensure that “all students are examined in an equitable manner across all languages.”

Staff have reassured students that the decision has been made “after careful consultation and consideration” and that any alternatives to the already agreed arrangements would have been “highly stressful to all concerned.”

With regard to Oral A examinations set to take place later in term, the email confirms that no decision has yet been made since it depends on the development of the UCU dispute.

Nonetheless, the MML faculty then sent out an email, seen by The Tab, stating that students should “submit all assessed work as normal” as a follow up confirmation from the initial email regarding the boycott.

Image credit: Felix Armstrong

An email from the University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education sent to all Cambridge students on the 21st April said: “The University is working to put measures in place to mitigate this situation, and is working with faculties and departments.”

When contacted for comment, The University of Cambridge added that “the Educational Quality and Policy Office has been advising the MML Faculty to ensure students are supported and learning outcomes from their programmes will continue to be delivered over the course of their time at Cambridge.”

This is a live story and will be updated as more information becomes available.