Marking Boycott to Begin TODAY

Marking Boycott to Begin TODAY


Strikes over pensions are imminent for many universities across the country. Photo courtesy of Demotrix.

Strikes over pensions are imminent for many universities across the country. Photo courtesy of Demotrix.

Today, UCU (University College Union) members will begin industrial action at the University of Kent, involving academic staff staging a marking boycott, which they say will continue until the dispute is resolved. It will mean that students will not be set coursework, or receive formal marks and feedback on work by academic staff partaking in the marking boycott, and it will also bring any planned exams to a halt. Dave Cocozza reports on the issue.

In an open letter to University staff yesterday (5th Nov), Deputy Vice-Chancellor Denise Everitt said that the action was “not representative of the relationship we have historically enjoyed locally with UCU and the commitment we have both had to constructive and careful dialogue as way of resolving differces before resorting to industrial action.”

“The action also has the unfortunate conseuence of forcing the University, along with other employers, to focus on contingency planning and impact assessment activities, and moving the focus away from engaging [in a dicussion] to find an agreed way forward. This is not in the interests of either party.”

The boycott is over proposed changes to the pension plan of academic staff, with a recent valuation indicating an £8 billion deficit in the funds available compared to what is required under the current scheme.

UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt said: “The employers failed to convince us of the need for their dramatic changes or the reasons behind the methodology for its deficit reduction plan. Their proposals remain full of holes and the information they are apparently relying on to back them up keeps being exposed as misleading. We are setting plans for an assessment boycott in place because [they] have made it clear they are unconvinced by the employers’ arguments as well. We are being asked to buy a pig in a poke and that is simply not acceptable. We hope the employers will come back to the table for genuine negotiations aimed at resolving the enormous gap between our two positions.”

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Students at Kent have expressed their disappointment in the decision to undertake the marking boycott. Gift Mawire told InQuire that he was “not aware of this boycott until this morning.”

“It’s rather sad and unfortunate for these hard working students who, in-turn, pay so much in fees for their education . The management has to sort it’s affairs without us paying a price for its shortcomings. It’s so wrong!”

Ruby Lyle, Newspaper News Editor for InQuire, said “The marking boycott no longer holds much, if any, sway from my perspective following the long and drawn out events from last year’s campaign. The previous attempt was far more effective as it tore students between supporting their lecturers and fear over their degrees. The fact that action has actually been taken on this occasion and during a relatively non pivotal time for students sends a unintentionally weak message from the Union.

Catherine Peckham, current President of the UKC Green Party Society said that she supported the academic staffs’ reasons for undertaking the action, but said “it’s awful that it’s got to the point that we are now seriously affected.

Andreas Payne, President of Eliot College, added that he was “disappointed.”

Whilst I understand the grievances of the lecturers it is irresponsible and unjust to inflict this upon the students they are supposed to be teaching. If anything it will only turn students away from the lecturers’ cause.

Denise Everitt closed her letter adding that she would “write again to all staff next week with the conclusions reached regarding the impact of the proposed UCU action and the University’s decision in relation to pay for those UCU members of staff engaging in that action.”

Kent Union have not yet issed an official statement on the matter.

 

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