What doe this means, how can UUSU support you, what you should do if you are impacted, complaints process and applying for extenuating circumstances.
What is happening?
Students may be aware that the University and College Union (UCU) has announced that its members will be engaged in a Marking and Assessment Boycott commencing on Thursday 20th April 2023.
This is the latest action arising from the dispute between UCU and both UCEA and Universities UK which has been ongoing since 2017/18.
As we have made clear during previous forms of industrial action since November 2021, UUSU acknowledges and respects the critical role of UCU in advocating on behalf of its members and indeed the vital role that its members play in supporting the education of our own student members in UUSU.
At UUSU, we have always been and remain incredibly supportive of the asks which have been articulated by UCU relating to pay, working conditions and pensions.
UUSU actively encourages the University to reach an agreement with UCU, in the interest of supporting the learning experience of our members.
It is imperative that UCEA and UUK come back to the table to engage with UCU to seek a resolution to this dispute.
What is a Marking and Assessment Boycott?
A marking and assessment boycott covers all marking and assessment processes that contribute to summative assessment decisions for students/learners, whether final (i.e. graduation/completion) or interim (i.e. progression decisions).
A Marking and Assessment Boycott means that from Thursday 20th April 2023, UCU are asking all UCU members in universities which are part of the dispute to cease undertaking all summative marking and associated assessment activities/duties.
The boycott also covers assessment-related work such as exam invigilation and the processing of marks.
UCU has stated that the Marking and Assessment Boycott will 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).
How will UUSU support students during the Marking and Assessment Boycott?
When previous strike action was announced in November 2021, UUSU Student Council held an emergency meeting to determine UUSU’s stance on the industrial action.
As per our democratic procedures, any vote taken by Student Council is by a majority decision and once a policy is agreed, this stays active for two years.
Although Council was clear that UUSU supports the fights for better pay, working conditions and pensions, Council agreed that the significant impact on our members prevented UUSU from supporting strike action.
This decision does not diminish UUSU’s support for the overall goals of UCU.
The primary duty of UUSU is to represent the interests of our members and to urge Ulster to put measures in place which can mitigate the impact that the Marking and Assessment Boycott may have on students.
UUSU have contacted the University Senior Leadership Team to ask what mitigations are being put in place to ensure that students are not disadvantaged by the Marking and Assessment Boycott.
Any information that we are provided about this mitigations package will be shared with our membership.
What should I do if I have been impacted by the Marking and Assessment Boycott?
UUSU recommends that, if you have concerns about the impact of the Marking and Assessment Boycott on your assessment, you should initially raise this with your Department.
You can do this by contacting your Course Director.
If you are doing this, you should give details of the particular concerns that you have or how you have been impacted by the Marking and Assessment Boycott. It may be possible for the issues that you raise to be resolved informally by the Department when it is clear that steps can be put in place to mitigate against the impact of the Marking and Assessment Boycott.
If you are unable to resolve the issues by raising them with the Department, or if you are not satisfied with the response from the Department, or their proposed resolution, there are other options that you can consider, including making a complaint to the University as outlined below.
The University has also provided some information about the current industrial action on its website: Industrial action updates - Ulster University
You may also wish to seek independent and confidential advice at this stage from the UUSU Advice Bureau, which you can contact through the UUSU website: Contact an Advisor (uusu.org)
Can I complain to the University about how the Marking and Assessment Boycott has affected me?
You can submit a complaint about the University’s response to the Marking and Assessment Boycott via the University’s Complaints Procedure : Make a complaint - Student Guide (ulster.ac.uk)
UUSU would recommend this step if you are dissatisfied with the response to a complaint that you had made to your Department or Course Director.
If you are not sure whether to submit a complaint about how you were affected by the Marking and Assessment Boycott, you can access support and information from the UUSU Advice Bureau.
Applying for Extenuating Circumstances
‘Extenuating circumstances’ refers to things that go beyond the ordinary difficulties experienced in life. It is important to note that the Marking and Assessment Boycott may not in itself be considered an ‘extenuating circumstance.’
However, if you can demonstrate that the Marking and Assessment Boycott has affected your studies or put you at a disadvantage compared to other students, that you have taken reasonable steps to raise this with your Department, and that your Department has failed to take sufficient steps to address your concerns, then you can submit an extenuating circumstances claim to the University: Absence and Extenuating Circumstances - Student Guide (ulster.ac.uk)