Edinburgh final years could be graduating without having dissertations marked amid lecturer strikes

‘It smacks of vindictiveness’

Dissertations written by final year undergraduate students at Edinburgh University could go unmarked due to strike action, according to plans unveiled by the university.

The University and College Union (UCU) has been engaged in a continuous nationwide marking and assessment boycott since 20 April. UCU members are being encouraged to refuse to mark any work submitted by students as part of a dispute over pay, working conditions and pensions.

The University of Edinburgh told The Tab that in response it intends to introduce “a range of temporary variations to provide greater flexibility to marking assessments”, including making final year students graduate even if their assessments, including dissertations, have not been marked.

The plans are not yet finalised, and depend on the outcome of negotiations between national-level university employers and the UCU.

Students in all year groups would be affected by the university’s decision, with decisions about progression to the next year of study or graduation based on a small selection of work submitted before the boycott began.

Students and staff at Edinburgh have expressed outrage at the proposals which could see extensive research undertaken by students go untouched.

Some courses have coursework deadlines and exams in the coming weeks, meaning students who are currently revising or completing assessments do not know whether these will be marked at all.

Nearly 500 lecturers at the university have signed an open letter saying they are “dismayed and alarmed” at the response to the boycott.

“We are especially troubled by the impact on final year undergraduates, who may find a large proportion of their honours assignments do not contribute to their final degree classification. For some, this includes their dissertation, which ought to be the capstone of their degree”, it reads.

Fraser MacDonald, a Lecturer in geography, explained his decision to sign the letter: “It seems as if they’d rather relax examination standards – devaluing the degrees of 2023 graduates – if it helps management pay staff less.

“They have miscalculated here. Corporate tactics won’t prevail because the university ultimately depends on collegiality and reputation and you can’t disregard both without there being consequences”.