Lecturers' Strike threatening to derail graduations this summer

(89 Posts)
MillyMollyMama Tue 25-Mar-14 13:26:42

DD has just phoned home to say one of her lecturers told the class she could be on strike when marking of the finals papers takes place. DD contacted a couple of friends at other universities and found some knew about the strike because the university had officially told them, but others had no idea at all about it. Does anyone know more about this any why it is not universally known about? Thanks.

ballsballsballs Tue 25-Mar-14 13:30:26

If you google 'marking strike' it's been reported in the Telegraph, the Guardian and the BBC, among others.

My understanding is that some lecturers will strike from April 28th. They will mark work, however won't release grades.

There's another thread here www.mumsnet.com/Talk/higher_education/a2024203-University-marking-strike

scaevola Tue 25-Mar-14 13:32:38

Is it definitely happening?

Here's a BBC article from last month when it was mentioned as a possibility. But as pay negotiations were due to begin in March, it did seem a bit premature to be making that threat. I haven't seen anything about how the March negotiations are getting on - has you DD heard something on that?

mercibucket Tue 25-Mar-14 13:42:18

yes it is happening unless pay increase happens. probably be called off last minute with 1 percent payrise or similar. all work will be marked but results not released

MillyMollyMama Tue 25-Mar-14 14:13:23

The lecturer did not give an indication as to how negotiations were going. This particular one already has had the class's work for 3 weeks, not yet narked, because she is preparing for her Easter lectures in the USA! Not a lot of sympathy with her I'm afraid!

ballsballsballs Tue 25-Mar-14 14:18:21

AFAIK it's going ahead. Our university SU (I'm a student) has an article on their website and a template letter to send to management.

Here's the union info on the marking boycott for students:

fairpay.web.ucu.org.uk/files/2013/10/marking_boycott_briefing_students.pdf

Students should feel free to complain to their Vice-Chancellors and uni management and encourage them to resolve the dispute; it's been going on for ages - the dispute is about the previous year's pay negotiations which started March 2013 - and it's the next year's round which are due to start this March.

Most universities will have contingency plans in place though, I'd be surprised if any students' graduations are actually delayed.

A whole three weeks and she's not marked work? That doesn't sound too awful on the face of it.

Admittedly, I think three weeks is longer than I would want to leave it and longer than I do, but it's not completely out of the ordinary.

Did the students get fair warning, or is this allowed under the guidelines in their handbook? If not, then it should be reported.

Sorry, I know that's not the main question but I admit I'm a bit chippy on this issue.

PolyesterBride Tue 25-Mar-14 15:00:05

It's a proposed marking boycott due to start some time in April. (I am in UCU, the union calling for the action.) It will only go ahead if the dispute is not resolved and will obviously be called off as soon as it is resolved

However if it does go ahead then yes it could affect graduations. The union has already called several strikes and held various negotiations so this is supposed to be an escalation of the action.

The action hasny started yet though so work should be being marked now. Not sure that three weeks is a massive delay though.

'Not sure that three weeks is a massive delay though.'

Especially given that it is currently Easter holidays (everywhere, AFAIK, but certainly in most places).

madeofkent Tue 25-Mar-14 15:09:46

My son is a student rep and he thinks the marking gets done, but just the results not released. His main tutor doesn't agree with it but has to go along with it, he tells the students how to cope in his absences and is really very good. However, he isn't in his final year, that must be quite hard.

With all of those student fees coming in, you would think they would pay the lecturers decent salaries. Having said that, my OH is a head of maths at a large school and hasn't had a rise for 4 years now.

Somanyillustrations Tue 25-Mar-14 15:15:46

Unsure of strike details, but just wanted to point out that the course handbook may contain details of expected marking schedules. Ours stipulates that all work will be marked within 3 weeks of hand in, so I would be fairly unhappy with lecturers attitude. However, if handbook states a longer time period, or none at all, then no room for complaint.

rightsaidfrederick Tue 25-Mar-14 15:30:51

The marking is NOT being done, if lecturers are sticking to the UCU guidance - they have specifically said that lecturers should not "mark and park". Furthermore, when the strike is over, they shouldn't work overtime to get the marking done faster either. So, expect there to be further delays even after the strike is ended.

fairpay.web.ucu.org.uk/instructions-for-the-marking-boycott/#should-i-mark-and-park-scripts-or-other-assessments

The threat of strike action wasn't premature - it follows several one day strikes and many rounds of negotiations. Announcing it 10(?) weeks before the start of the marking strike is meant to give unis time to sort their shit out.

mercibucket Tue 25-Mar-14 16:20:33

our local guidance is to mark and hang on to the results.

chemenger Tue 25-Mar-14 18:44:00

We work to a maximum three week turn around for coursework, if this can't be met the students have to be told and given a firm date for receiving the feedback. Any exceptions have to be made clear in course handbooks.

MillyMollyMama Tue 25-Mar-14 20:00:16

I think my DD felt the lecturer had time for her American audience but not for her own students in their final year. I think by year 4 the handbook is a bit of an antique and she won't complain! She wants good marks. She is on penultimate week of term. I think her university has kept fairly quiet about this although she lives with the student rep on the University Senate so no doubt info will be shared at some point! She also runs, anonymously, a very popular university blog with a huge following.

I'm sure that's not true, though. I mean ... it's not as if the lecturer said 'I'll be sipping cocktails on the beach instead of marking essays' - he or she most likely simply mentioned the America trip to remind students that they're not the whole part of the job. It is quite common for students to ask why marking can't be done faster over the holidays 'when you have nothing to do'.

By year 4 the handbook should still be perfectly current and if your DD hasn't consulted it but is complaining I think that's a bit off, really.

I do think the general situation is scary for students. Please don't get me wrong. But I am currently being paid the princely sum of £12.14 per hour to mark and return 12 essays, and if one of my students turned up complaining s/he felt the wait to get an essay back seemed too long, but hadn't taken the time to check the handbook, I would feel more than miffed (as it happens, the only comments I had from students about turnaround times were either positive, or were sensible questions about how late they could hand an essay in and still have it marked).

(And I mean, is complaining to you ... I did see you said she's not putting in an offical complaint about marking scales. Though, you know ... if no-one says 'actually, three weeks feels like a long time,' the university won't change their timescale because they will not have the feedback to do so.)

MillyMollyMama Tue 25-Mar-14 21:27:34

It is not stipulated in the Handbook. It just says "reasonable". I guess if the students think 3 weeks is a long time, then this is outside the norm for that lecturer. However my original question was not really about that but I am sure the lecturer is getting more than £12.14 an hour in the USA. I hope so. DD would complain if she felt strongly. We were just having a mum/daughter conversation.

From what I know from my US friends, the lecturer may very well be being badly paid over there. There's a lot of discussion about it, but this link is the most recent one I've seen: www.slate.com/articles/life/counter_narrative/2014/01/adjunct_crisis_in_higher_ed_an_all_too_familiar_story_for_black_faculty.html

It's pretty scary. Being paid under $25000 is really, really low.

However, I didn't know they were striking about this and I think probably the responses you're getting are people assuming it's the UK?

I'm sorry, but I do think 3 weeks isn't that bad, if there's not a stated limit - it is quite a long time, but it's not as if the lecturer didn't say what was going on.

I do wonder if you might get MN to change the title of the thread, because MN being a UK forum and there being a strike on here, you'll get people assuming it's about that.

MillyMollyMama Tue 25-Mar-14 22:02:00

I think you have misinterpreted what I said. The lecturer is giving lectures in the USA during her Easter vacation from the University in the UK. This, she explained to the students, is why she had not marked their work. I honestly hope her tour there IS well paid. I do not expect anyone with years of studying and experience to be underpaid. It just seemed that her final year British students were at the bottom of her pile. That is all.

You're right, I did get confused.

I dunno how she'd be paid for the US trip. I wouldn't be paid at all, FWIW. I'd be quite lucky to get expenses, though that's another moan. If she's a full time lecturer I expect she does get expenses, but I would guess the trip itself is just folded into her normal wage - because after all it's a basic part of her job, isn't it?

I get why you're feeling worried given the strike looming. Please don't think I don't get that. I just think that three weeks to mark work is not particularly bad, and if for some of that time it means an undergraduate class doesn't take priority - well, what's so wrong with that? Surely there are elements of your job that are important, but which you sometimes have to delay doing because something else is equally important and more urgent?

rightsaidfrederick Tue 25-Mar-14 22:06:43

Her first and second year students are probably at the bottom, not that that makes your daughter's situation any better!

MagratGarlik Tue 25-Mar-14 23:16:00

At my old university (staff, not student), 28 working days was the stipulated turn-around for marking, unless staff applied for a longer deadline e.g. where there were instances of suspected plagiarism which needed investigating before return of any work.

This turn-around is really not that long. Often a cohort of students might be well over 200 students, multiply that by 4, for a 4 year degree and a lecturer can easily be marking 800+ essays at any one time. At the same time, the same lecturer might be supervising dissertation students or postgrad research students, postdocs, writing grant applications (my last institution insisted all staff obtained (not just applied for) at least £100k of research funding per year as PI), writing papers, teaching, interviewing UCAS applicants and, yes, talking at international conferences etc - something which raises the lecturer's international reputation in the field, which increases their chances of obtaining funding, which attracts more students to the university. Teaching is a teeny, tiny part of an academic's role but many undergrads think is their only job and for most of my ex-colleagues, routinely working until gone midnight was not uncommon. Further, academics do not enjoy the same holidays as the students.

Probably the reason why more fuss is not made about the strike is that:
1. Lecturers striking does not cause enough disruption to the general population for politicians to make a fuss about/worry about losing votes
2. At many institutions, pressure will be put on non-striking staff to undermine the efforts of their striking colleagues and do the marking for them

The majority of lecturers have had effective pay cuts for a number of years now (as have other public sector workers). Pensions have been changed from final salary to average salary and working conditions have been slowly eroded. Why shouldn't academics have a right to make a stand regarding their working conditions.

MagratGarlik Tue 25-Mar-14 23:18:43

...Lecturers do not get "an Easter break" from the UK university. She will either be doing her work in the US as part of her contracted work for the university in the UK, or she will be doing it out of her own annual leave (max. 30 days per year incl. bank holidays).

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