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Cambridge students face delays in graduating amidst UCU marking boycott

Regent House has voted against emergency powers that could have protected students from the consequences of the boycott


It has just been announced that The Regent House at the University of Cambridge has voted against the introduction of special measures which would have aimed to alleviate the consequences of the UCU’s marking and assessment boycott.

These emergency powers would have allowed some students to graduate without papers being fully marked and would have permitted further delays in marking. Nonetheless, even under these proposed measures of mitigation, there would have still been an inequality, for example finalists whose grade remains heavily reliant on their final year marks would not have been as protected as was hoped.

This means that students could be forced to graduate later than expected, with the boycott 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).”

This news arrives in response to the introduction of the MABs from Thursday 20th April, which is currently affecting 145 UK universities, including the University of Cambridge.

Picketers on King’s Parade during a Michaelmas UCU strike (Image credit: Felix Armstrong)

The first major effects have been seen within the MML faculty with the cancellation of MML/HML Oral B examinations on the 18th April and then of MML/HML Oral B examinations on the 9th May in emails sent to students. The faculty has ensured students that any alternative would have been “unfair” and “highly stressful.”

Lorena Gazzotti, vice-president of the Cambridge UCU, told the BBC prior to today’s announcement, that “students are worried about the impact of the marking and assessment boycott, but they are also very understanding about why staff have been obliged to take this measure.”

The Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bhaskar Vira, has informed all students, Senior Tutors, and Heads of Institutions today (16/05) in an email of this update and advice surrounding the situation, declaring that the “impact on students is regrettable.”

Whilst students are reassured that “every effort” will be made “to get work marked”, it means that more students will consequently experience extended delays in having their work assessed, with the boycott scheduled to last until the end of September.

Professor Vira also stated previously to his email update today that his focus “is to try to get the maximum amount of marking done for the maximum number of students.”

“UCU and Proud” (Image credits: Felix Armstrong)

His email reassures students that the university has set up an “Exams Emergency Task Force” with the aim of advising faculties on how to best manage the situation in the form of student support and upholding academic standards.   

He maintains his advice from a previous communication to “focus on revision and preparation” and to “submit all your work” because it “will be marked.”

A certain attention has been drawn to the situation of international students with visas set to expire. It has been reaffirmed that the university is “working hard” to resolve such an issue and further updates are to follow. In the mean time, if students require advice, they should contact the International Student Office.

The Pro-Vice-Chancellor remains hopeful that universities and the UCU “will resume talks to bring the boycott to an end.”

The University of Cambridge and the Pro-Vice-Chancellor have been contacted for comment.

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