Marking and Assessment Boycott
University managers continue to refuse to make serious offers to address inequalities, casualisation, excessive workloads and pay cuts. Faced with employers’ intransigence, UCU members have voted to undertake a Marking and Assessment Boycott, starting on Monday 23 May.
This means that all activities relating to the production of marks and feedback will cease from Monday 23 May. See below for further information.
All marking and assessment, both Undergraduate and Postgraduate, including:
- Final examinations
- Any form of in-course continuous assessment
- Traditional essay marking
- The assessment of projects and dissertations, laboratory and other practical work, performance (eg in music or drama) and supervised practice (eg in teacher education)
- Examination of dissertations and theses at postgraduate level, as well as vivas
- Formative assessment and feedback
- Attendance at meetings to arrange marking or moderation or to discuss marking
- Processing of marks
- Submission of completed marking through any University administrative procedures;
- Preparation for exam/assessment boards/meetings
- Attendance at exam boards/meetings.
The Co-ordinating Committee of Brighton UCU will send regular updates by email.
We strongly encourage you to attend the regular dispute meetings in order to stay up to date with progress in the boycott and stand in solidarity with your colleagues who are also participating in the action. Some decisions about the strategy we take in this boycott will be taken in these meetings (see later sections) so you should attend whenever possible.
These meetings take place on Zoom and registration details have been shared by email. If you can’t find information on how to register, please contact a branch officer.
The University can only deduct pay when an individual has participated in the boycott. Until you have actively participated in the boycott (when your marking becomes overdue or when you do not attend an exam board, for example) you are not participating. If you receive a direct request from your line manager before you have begun to actively participate, then no declaration is necessary and you should simply not respond.
If your line manager emails you after you have begun actively participating (because some marking is overdue etc.) then you should reply honestly that you are participating, stating simply “I am participating in UCU’s industrial action”. You should not use the MyView form.
You should respond only in terms of what action you have taken/are currently taking, but not answer about future intentions regarding ASOS and the boycott.
Regardless of when you declare you have started participating in the boycott, University management are threatening that they will deduct 100% of your pay each day starting on Monday 23 May 2022. These deductions will not come out of your pay until 30 June. It’s worth noting, for budgeting purposes, that pay is deducted at 1/365th.
However one of our demands for lifting the boycott is that no deductions are made or any deductions are reimbursed (see below for more details).
The national UCU hardship fund accepts claims for Action Short of a Strike if 100% pay is docked, which is what is currently being threatened. If you are in financial hardship, you can apply to the national fighting fund.
If you remain in financial hardship after receiving payments from the national fighting fund then you can apply to the local hardship fund.
To ensure that branches who are undertaking the marking and assessment boycott are not left to fight alone, a network of twinned UCU branches is being established. We have been twinned with Liverpool John Moores University; Imperial College London, Leeds Beckett and Canterbury Christ Church. Twinning means that those branches will support us financially in two ways. Firstly, they will make donations to us from their branch funds. Secondly, individual members will pledge to donate to us a day’s pay every week while we continue to fight. This means we will have a boost of income to our local hardship fund at the time that deductions kick in, plus on-going financial donations to keep our local hardship fund topped up as long as we continue the boycott.
Management has threatened this on the basis of ‘partial performance’. Yes, this may sound like a contradiction in terms but there is legal provision for it. UCU has produced a detailed explanation of the issue here (you will need to sign in using your UCU membership number).
No, you should undertake no activities relating to marking and assessment during this action.
Officially, marking and parking is not something we can advise, as completed assessment material is the property of our employers. Strategically, if university management know that the marking and assessment has already been completed then this weakens our action.
You do not need to tell your colleagues.
You may well know which of your colleagues will have marking and assessment duties during this time and which of your colleagues are UCU members. If not, one way to find out is to meet your colleagues who are participating in the action at the daily dispute meetings: another good reason to attend.
You should avoid giving any details of your participation in the action to colleagues who may use this to minimise the impact of your action by arranging to cover your marking and assessment activities.
Colleagues need to be careful not to reveal to other staff or students another union member’s ASOS actions without the express permission of that person. You should therefore avoid commenting on any other person’s participation in this action.
The University has announced the marking and assessment boycott. You should take the opportunity to tell your students your own reasons for fighting against pay cuts, inequalities, casualisation and excessive workloads.
It is important to emphasise to students that:
- The action is in pursuit of our Four Fights, which aim to improve the state of higher education for everybody.
- The action was the only avenue available to us after university management at Brighton and across the country refused to meaningfully engage with staff and student unions on casualisation, workload, pay cuts and inequalities;
- We know that the current arrangement of Higher Education will have negative consequences for students, and the NUS are very supportive of the action for this reason;
- We want to work with students in applying pressure to management to ensure that we can resolve our dispute as swiftly as possible.
If you are a UCU member and are head of department or manager at an institution where UCU has an industrial action mandate and is participating in the marking and assessment boycott, then:
- do not reallocate marking and assessment-related activities boycotted by UCU members to other staff
- do not take on any marking and assessment-related activities yourself which are being boycotted by UCU members
- do not identify individuals who are participating in the marking and assessment boycott, or make any evaluation as to the amount of time that they would normally spend on marking and assessment-related activities
- if asked by senior management to provide information on the impact of the marking and assessment boycott, reply only in general terms and avoid identifying individuals.
Is the boycott action for permanent staff only, or should hourly paid lecturers (HPLs) and Postgraduate Researchers (PGRs) take part? And if so, what if assessment is paid out only on condition of marking?
To be successful this action requires a coordinated, critical mass of UCU members in each institution to participate so that marking duties cannot simply be passed on to colleagues.
To achieve maximum leverage it is absolutely crucial that members stand together. HPLs and PGRs should most certainly take part. Casualisation is one of the key issues in The Four Fights dispute – and the more inclusive the boycott, the stronger the leverage.
Finance is, of course, a huge worry for precarious workers. However as stated above there are two funds set up to support workers should they lose pay as a result of participating in this industrial action: local branch-by-branch UCU Hardship Fund and the UCU National Fighting Fund. Though the national fighting fund is only open to strike pay deductions and 100% ASOS deductions, our local UCU branch has a fund for members in financial hardship as a result of ASOS deductions.
Our strategy is to use our marking and assessment boycott as leverage in negotiations with management at the University of Brighton, in order to reach agreement on UCU’s demands related to the Four Fights (detailed in the following FAQ). If University of Brighton management come to an agreement over these demands then we will cease the marking and assessment boycott.
CoCom will take our agreed demands to management and return to members to discuss and make decisions about the progress of the dispute, including voting on whether to accept any concrete offer from management. Members have the right to put motions to the meeting from the floor to be debated and voted on by the meeting
In exchange for lifting the boycott we are asking for University management to sign a joint statement with UCU on the Four Fights, to take action on local issues and to reimburse or make no salary deductions. After our cross branch meeting on Monday 23 May we submitted the following claim to management:
- A. Sign up to a joint statement with UCU on pay and pay-related matters.
- B. Agree to the following ways of progressing the issues underlying the dispute
- Withdraw the GTA proposal on the grounds that (a) it seeks to replicate the model prevalent in pre-92 universities which results in high levels of casualisation; and (b) by using Grade 6 it seeks to avoid paying the ‘rate for the job’. UCU commits to working with the University to agree improved mechanisms for the engagement of PGRs as lecturers in the interests of their career development.
- Commit to using no more that 100 HPL contracts (excluding PGR staff) during academic year 2022-23 with further reductions in future years. Commit to a programme open to UCU scrutiny of moving staff on temporary contracts onto permanent contracts.
- Commit to an audit of gender, race and disability pay gaps leading to annual targets for reducing the gaps and to work with UCU on ongoing action plans to achieve them until such time as the pay gaps are eradicated. Provide adequate facility time to UCU to undertake this joint work.
- Increase the minimum WAMS allocation for Module Leadership to 30 hours.
- Introduce a minimum allocation of 50-hours, which increases for the size and complexity of the course, to Course Leaders in the year in which periodic review takes place.
- Commit to working with UCU to reduce the bureaucratic and administrative demands on staff which have mushroomed in the last few years.
- A single non-consolidated payment of £2,000 for every member of staff to offset the effects of the cost-of-living crisis, in recognition that, following a 0% award in 2020-21, the 2021-22 pay award fell significantly below inflation.
- C. In return for UCU’s lifting of the marking and assessment boycott, make no salary deductions, reimbursing at the earliest opportunity any deductions which may have been made. Negotiate with UCU agreed timescales for the production of marks held up by the boycott.
Branches taking part in the marking and assessment boycott include: Bournemouth University; the University of Dundee; the University of Essex; the University of Glasgow; Goldsmiths, University of London; Heriot-Watt University; Kingston University; the University of Leeds; Institute of Development Studies (IDS); Newcastle University; the University of Nottingham, Queen Mary, University of London; the University of Sheffield; the University of Sussex; the University of Ulster; University of the Arts, London; the University of Westminster. See more details here
Not all of the branches that voted for the MAB have gone ahead with it. Most have reached local settlements with employers. While the details of these local settlements are not yet public, we are aware of several deals that have been agreed between UCU branches and their University management which include deals on local issues, signed joint statements calling on other universities to shift their stance on the Four Fights and USS and cash payouts to all staff. UCU Brighton are working with all the other mandated branches to co-ordinate our local efforts in order to maximise our collective leverage.
16. How can I support those taking part in the boycott?
As we are being threatened with 100% deduction of pay, financial support will be essential. Please donate to our hardship fund.
Send messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org or @brightonucu