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University marking strike

(20 Posts)
SlowlorisIncognito Thu 13-Mar-14 11:39:25

www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-26227573

I know I'm probably a bit behind on the news, but I've only just heard about this. I'm in my final year of an undergraduate degree, and am worried about how this will affect me. If it goes ahead it will almost certainly lead to delays in my final exams being marked. I have heard from people I know at other universities that they have been told it could delay their graduation, as exams will not be marked on time.

What are the implications of this for those wanting to go onto post-grad study or have employment offers conditional on certain grades? (I know no-one can say for sure, but...) Are there other potential implications for students?

My university has yet to say anything to students about this. I am hoping this means they intend to try to resolve the dispute before it goes ahead.

I guess I am looking for information on this thread as I am worried, rather than a debate about the rights/wrongs of the strike. I do support the lecturer's right to strike but just worried about how this might affect students.

rightsaidfrederick Thu 13-Mar-14 11:59:22

Any reasonable employer or university will have to make allowances for something that is so clearly outside of the student's control.

My understanding is that the whole thing is being negotiated via UCEA, it will either affect the vast majority of final years or almost no one. So if this was to stretch onto September (heaven forbid) then graduate schemes and postgrad courses would be empty. They'd also end up in the rather awkward situation of allowing students to progress within an undergraduate degree and then having to kick them out part way through the subsequent year because they didn't pass the last one hmm

The thing I'm unclear about is what happens to students who graduate without a job and who need to claim benefits. I know that you can't claim JSA until after your course end date, but whether this is the end of exams or graduation date isn't entirely clear to me. If it's the latter, there will be a lot of people in severe financial hardship as a direct result - SFE doesn't include money to keep you going in the summer after you graduate. Similarly, if the strike was to escalate to the point of not setting exams - then we really will all be buggered.

SlowlorisIncognito Thu 13-Mar-14 12:24:05

rightsaidfrederick Thanks for your reply. I wonder what will happen with lower years and resits. Normally my university allow resits of failed exams (capped at 40%) in September, but they also allow people to redo failed coursework over the summer. If it drags on until September presumably that will potentially disadvantage students of all years?

I didn't think about JSA and other benefits and the financial hardships involved with that. I hope that vulnerable students will be supported if this is the case. I bet people will still have to start paying council tax though!

chemenger Thu 13-Mar-14 12:38:54

I think support for the current dispute varies widely between universities and departments. If you haven't seen much disruption from the recent strikes I would imagine it is unlikely that you will see many problems from the marking boycott. In my part of my university the strikes passed completely unnoticed, and I don't anticipate any problems with the exams. I know there are other institutions where the strikes did cause closures so it will depend where you are.

SlowlorisIncognito Thu 13-Mar-14 12:58:17

A few of my lecturers have walked out, but others have not, so it seems like it could vary. I know other universities have had a lot more disruption. I am not especially worried for myself anyway, as I have plans for the summer and into September (fingers crossed) that shouldn't be affected by the strikes.

However, I have friends at other institutions and also in different years at my own institution. I guess I am mainly asking from an interest point of view, but I would also like to be aware of the "worst case scenario" just in case.

rightsaidfrederick Thu 13-Mar-14 13:43:43

My department went on strike en masse for every strike. Not sure if it was all the staff, but I'm not aware of anyone who crossed the picket line <sigh>

My university holds resits in mid / late August.

Given that the staff have been told not to either mark and park work, or to go over their contracted hours to get work marked, so after the strike ends there's going to be a delay in getting the backlog done anyway. So they're going to need to get the strike sorted out sooner rather than later if they don't want to paralyse the resit system too. Instructions to staff are here fairpay.web.ucu.org.uk/instructions-for-the-marking-boycott/#.Ux-uq_mGoqk

In the shorter term, it's going to cause a lot of problems for healthcare students who need to pass certain tests before being allowed to go on placement. That's not time that they can get back very easily. I also wonder about international students whose visas will presumably expire before their delayed graduation ceremony - and expecting students to fly in from China or wherever just for their graduation ceremony is a bit much.

If JSA was to be stopped for those who haven't yet graduated, I really don't see who will take financial responsibility for it. The normal hardship fund, the Access to Learning Fund, would presumably wriggle out of it because it's only for those who need extra help to start or stay in HE. The only thing that I could think of doing would be attempting to claim strike pay from my union (not UCU, but involved in the strike). However, this clearly isn't an option that's open to most students confused

creamteas Thu 13-Mar-14 14:19:25

The last marking boycott went on for 7/8 weeks. The impact varied even within universities as some depts tend to be more unionised than others.

In my dept, there were no exams at all for students that summer. Students passed or failed on the basis of coursework only (which was marked after the boycott finished).

The final year students were given their degree results and still graduated in the summer. But they also had option of taking their missed exams in Sept if they wanted too, and their degree result would be recalculated. Very few bothered with this.

My dept has 100% supported the action, and will implement the marking boycott in full.

rightsaidfrederick Thu 13-Mar-14 14:29:55

creamteas - it's good to know what happened last time around.

I only have one exam, equivalent to 10 credits, this summer, and the majority of my coursework will be handed in and (not) marked after the marking boycott starts. So I really don't know if they're going to have enough info to graduate me on that basis.

I guess you'd only return to take exams in September if you had just missed out on getting a higher degree classification.

namechangeforissue Thu 13-Mar-14 14:51:40

In my department last time, our first years didn't sit exams because they hadn't been set when the boycott started (we had a lot less notice I seem to recall). Our second and third years sat exams and then marking was delayed or was done by the unfortunates who were not striking.

There was some pressure put on people to release things they had been in the middle of marking (because of the very short notice), and I seem to remember overall the strike was resolved quite quickly (there must have been a few Cabinet minister with children due to graduate) and everyone graduated reasonably quickly in the end.

This type of action seems to work quite well and we do suspect it's because of the children-of-cabinet-ministers leverage. Wonder who there is this year?

creamteas Thu 13-Mar-14 15:57:42

we do suspect it's because of the children-of-cabinet-ministers leverage

I think it is also because of the potential of no new teachers, nurses, doctors etc etc on the running of public services.

rightsaidfrederick Thu 13-Mar-14 16:00:44

Hmm, possibilities includes

Chris Grayling has a daughter born December 1992 - so assuming no gap year + three year degree, she'll be graduating this year

Oliver Letwin has twins born July 1993 - so no gap year + 3 year degree = graduating this year

David Willetts has a son born 1992

Iain Duncan Smith - his youngest, Rosie / Rosanna is of a suitable sort of age (she was 8 in 2001), though by other sources I suspect she's now in second year rather than third

Philip Hammond - married his wife in 1991 and had three kids, so it depends on how quickly they started sprogging. Similar stories for Jonathan Hill, Patrick McLoughlin, David Jones, Maria Miller, Andrew Lansley, Francis Maude, Greg Clark, Dominic Grieve ("two teenage sons"), Baroness Warsi.

So there might be some mileage in that

SlowlorisIncognito Thu 13-Mar-14 21:01:44

Thanks for your input creamteas and namechangeforissue. It's good to know that there were ways that the strike's impact was minimised. I think, in theory, all my coursework should be marked apart from my dissertation. My supervisor has taken action before, so I think he will join the marking strike.

I think returning to take exams in September would be a very difficult decision and might not be practical for all students. I wouldn't be able to revise over the summer to the same level I can after my lectures finish before my summer exams.

Anyway, hopefully it won't come to that and some sort of agreement is reached that means that the strike won't go ahead. Or is that very unlikely?

TinyDiamond Thu 13-Mar-14 21:15:39

Following this. Is it just ucu members or possible for any he lecturers to join in too?

creamteas Fri 14-Mar-14 08:19:58

Is it just ucu members or possible for any he lecturers to join in too?

All lecturers in higher education can (and should grin) join UCU. There are some universities in the UK which are not part of national pay bargaining, and some staff in Scotland are in EIS. These will not be part of any marking boycott.

Abra1d Fri 14-Mar-14 08:33:32

It's not still the pension, is it? My husband has joined a university pension scheme. It is fantastic! Far more generous than anything he got in the private sector. I just don't understand.

chemenger Fri 14-Mar-14 09:17:15

This dispute is about pay. The 1% pay rise last year is felt to be insufficient, given the drop in real value of university salaries over the last few years. (I might have this wrong, I haven't really been paying much attention).

creamteas Fri 14-Mar-14 09:35:41

This dispute is about pay

The dispute is officially about pay. But for most of us it is also about wider issues which are destroying higher education.

Most universities are recruiting more students but reducing staff numbers. The move to students paying £9,000 fees has been a disaster for us as well as them. It has effectively meant a decrease in funding for universities alongside a higher expectation from students. It is unlikely that the fees will increase anytime soon, so the value is being eroded by inflation year by year.

Universities staff have long been paid less than comparable professions. Now many staff are effectively paid less than minimum wage on zero-hour contracts (they are paid for contact time, but not for all the hours of prep and marking).

Staff lucky enough to be on full-time contacts are usually working twice as many hours as they are paid for, and many are leaving for jobs in other sectors which pay much more for less work.

Unless something radically changes, higher education in the UK is heading for a disaster.

TinyDiamond Fri 14-Mar-14 10:33:46

Don't worry I wholeheartedly support the action I am just trying to figure out if it will be all of my lecturers or not.
I wondered as for instance the most recent teaching strikes have not been all of the unions and if you weren't part of the ones who were striking then you couldn't (in my workplace)

UptheChimney Fri 14-Mar-14 11:22:19

Unless something radically changes, higher education in the UK is heading for a disaster

Yup.

LRDtheFeministDragon Fri 14-Mar-14 19:02:34

I don't think this is going to affect me as I've just finished what looks to be all the marking I have to do for my teaching - but just wanted to chime in saying I understand it to be about a lot more than pay or pensions, too.

I really enjoy teaching and I want to do it well, and I think students deserve that. I'm not convinced it's going to be possible to give them that the way things are going, and it's a very big ask for not very much money. Most of us teaching the course I'm teaching are temp staff. In fact I'm a mid-course replacement, which isn't ideal. We want to make things as good as possible for students.

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