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Durham says final years will graduate even if only half of exams are marked amid strike chaos

Students say they feel ‘left in the dark’ as Durham attempts to claim it can’t resolve the dispute


Durham University has told students they will graduate this year even if only half of their final year assessments have been marked, amid the ongoing UCU marking strike.

In a wide ranging email that has caused anger and confusion among some students, the university’s pro-vice-chancellor for education said “no student will be disadvantaged [by the boycott] in their ultimate degree classification”.

Professor Tony Fawcett added: “We expect that many students will either be unaffected or see limited impact from the marking assessment boycott.”

The email comes 13 days into the marking boycott which began on Thursday 20th April.

Final year student, Lily told The Durham Tab: “How can the university guarantee that our degree classification won’t be affected? The marking and assessment boycott has meant we’ve not received summative feedback that was designed to help us in the final exams, which start next week. This is undeniably a disadvantage.”

In this afternoon’s email, the university aimed to reassure students by reminding them not all lecturers are members of the UCU and of those who are UCU members, not all have agreed to take part in the boycott.

However it’s clear the university is unaware just how many staff are taking part and said: “Our sincere hope is that the number of staff taking part remains low and that you will not be affected.”

The university’s plan if you are an affected final year student is to award you a degree as long as half of your final year units have been marked this year.

The pro-vice-chancellor said: “Under our regulations, we can award degrees to students where the significant majority of marks of assessment credits are available.

“In cases where some assessment marks are missing, a degree will be awarded where the programme learning outcomes are met if marks for at least half of final year assessments are available.”

The university will take a similar approach with students in lower years to make sure they can progress to the next year of study as well as to postgraduate students who graduate later in the summer.

The university will take a similar approach with students in lower years to make sure they can progress to the next year of study as well as to postgraduate students who graduate later in the summer.

Students who are missing marks will receive an interim transcript which the university said can be used as evidence pending your final degree classification.

You will only receive your full degree classification once all your assessments have been marked and the email does not outline when the university expects that to take place.

Congregation ceremonies will go ahead as planned this year so that students are able to “celebrate with their families” however the email added: “If we do not have all marks available prior to congregation, we will confer degrees separately when marks are present. This will mean you will formally graduate either in person or in absentia.”

Lily argued for most final year students completing dissertations, they won’t meet the threshold for having half of their final year assessments marked. “Many dissertations were due after the boycott started, and with many exams and summatives still to go, many of us won’t know our degree classifications for the congregation ceremonies – it will feel like a premature celebration,” she said.

The email sent to all students this afternoon did include a link to a Frequently Asked Questions site and told students it would be updated over the coming weeks as well as links to the university’s mitigation policy.

Some students were still left confused by the email. Final year student Craig said: “I don’t understand it well enough to know what’s actually going to happen, it’s so vague.”

Acknowledging the anger of students, Professor Fawcett wrote: “We sympathise with the frustrations of those of you who have urged us in recent weeks to resolve the dispute. The UCU mandate is at a national level and local settlement is therefore not an option.

“For now, we will continue to do all we can to support you through this period. Keep checking our FAQ pages for guidance.

“Our library and our study spaces remain open, and our Student Support services are also available should you need to access them.”

For one student however, they felt this was an attempt for the university to shift responsibility for the disruption. “The university is clearly trying to shift the blame onto the lecturers when we all know they have the power to resolve it.

“They just don’t care enough about the students to pay them thousands a year to actually do so.”

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There’s going to be a UCU marking boycott from 20th April