University of Exeter to be hit with marking and assessment boycott in coming months

| Aneena Morshed

University of Exeter members of the University and College Union (UCU) have announced a marking and assessment boycott in the coming months which may prevent students from receiving their grades.

The boycott is a result of the university pension cuts outlined in the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

The UCU estiamtes that staff pay has reduced by more than a quater since 2009. Over 70,000 academics are employed by what the UCU calls “insecure contracts.”

The UCU is demanding a £2.5k pay rise for all university employees, as well as calling for “meaningful action to tackle unmanageable workloads”, a framework to eliminate zero-hours and other insecure contracts.

“These pension cuts are unjust, unnecessary and premised on a deeply flawed valuation conducted in the middle of the pandemic.” (source)

UCU general secretary, Jo Gray

The UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, claims that the escalation in the pay and working conditions dispute to a marking and assessment boycott reflects their “justifiable anger at university vice chancellors who continue to ignore their concerns whilst drawing over-inflated salaries and hoarding billions of pounds in reserves”.

Concerns with the pay gap between university bosses and entry level academic staff was reported on by the Falmouth Anchor last year, when Exeter’s previous vice-chancellor, Sir Steve Smith’s, salary was exposed.

The marking and assessment boycott will see staff refusing to complete any marking and assessment of student work, meaning students could be left without grades, with some unable to graduate.

The University stated:

“May examinations will go ahead as planned so please attend all examinations as per your timetable. We would also ask you to continue to attend all other timetabled sessions, and to submit your assignments by their due dates.”

Stevie Preece, Student Union President Exeter, said: “Of the 6,000 colleagues working at the University of Exeter, approximately 400 UCU members voted in support of taking strike action on the national pay and working conditions and USS pension disputes. The UCU are yet to confirm the exact details of the strike action they will be taking but have confirmed this will include a marking and assessment boycott. We are working with the University of Exeter to understand the impact any proposed strike action will have on University of Exeter Cornwall students and will communicate what this means for our members when we have more information.

“Please talk to your elected representatives if you have any concerns, this might be your course rep, a part-time officer or one of your SU presidents. For further students’ union updates, please check your email inbox or SU social media channels.”

The exact days of marking and assessment boycott and strike action is yet to be determined.

Information on the reasons for the boycott can be found here.

Students can email for any concerns or queries about the boycott.