Home UK News ‘The University marking boycott is disabling my future’, says University of Brighton student

‘The University marking boycott is disabling my future’, says University of Brighton student

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University and College Union marking boycott

An undergraduate student in his final year at the University of Brighton has described the massive impact the University and College Union’s (UCU) marking and assessment boycott (MAB) has inflicted upon his entire course, and potentially his future.

The University and College Union voted to begin a marking and assessment boycott from Thursday 20th April, meaning they have eased undertaking any and all summative marking and associated assessment activities and duties, including exam invigilation and processing of marks.

The UCU is fighting for better pay and working conditions.

Speaking on social media, the 22 year old student said the following: “For context, I’m a University of Brighton 3rd year student, who has ‘finished’ their degree. If ‘finished’ is handed everything in but got about a 1/3 of the marks I need. UoB has been a shitshow from start to finish.”

“Ever since 1st term, it’s been nothing but strike action and boycotts the whole way through. I worked out when I was asking for compensation that myself and my fellow students in Humanities and Social Sciences had missed 34 days since the start of first year, which works out about a term.”

“It’s, in short, fucked my life up in a few ways. The first is I’m wishing to do a Masters in Football Coaching in Manchester, but I can’t apply without my degree grade or signed off marks. As a result, I’ve missed out on applying for scholarships that could have really kick started my career.”

“Secondly, the final part of my degree was in short, miserable. I couldn’t get hold of my lecturers as I was handing in my dissertation, the boycott meant some lecturers refused to mark drafts. I barely went in, and when I did it was met with a wave of ‘support UCU, march with us’.”

The University of Brighton student, however, goes on to say that he does support the action, citing his belief that Universities and Colleges have not given academic staff pay and working conditions adequately reflective of their contribution to society.

University of Brighton
University of Brighton (Image: OC)

He does, on the other hand, highlight that it is difficult for him to happily support such action when it is his prospects that are weaponised to fight for this change.

“It’s difficult, however, to gather the energy to smile and be enthusiastic about the protests when they are actively disabling your future and causing ridiculous stress.”

“Students are furious with their university, no doubt. Brighton University recently made 150 members of staff redundant, whilst also signing off on a £20m purchase of a nearby gym. It’s immoral and should rightly be protested. However, I have paid the full amount for fully online in First Year, a dismal attempt at hybrid teaching in Second Year and a late graduation in my final year.”

“How much is down to the University? A large amount, I’m sure. But UCU fails to recognise that WE as students are getting fucked more than anyone else. If you have to leave, find other work, in the long run that’s ok. But without proper reassurance, support and ultimately our degrees, we are in complete limbo. And for people that have lost a hell of a lot of time already, that is incredibly frustrating.”

“This likely comes off as whiney and extremely victim syndrome. But I think that University students should a) do what they can to support strike action where they feel comfortable but b) give themselves a fucking break. Lecturers, parents, everyone is telling you that you have the power, but the fact is we probably cannot change much here. They will just bring in the next cohort of students to cover the financial cracks and do it all over again.”

“Be kind to yourself, chase compensation and don’t let anyone tell you that you should be doing more. Because Universities up and down the country failed us from day 1 (in most cases, I’m sure there are some great uni teams out there somewhere), not the other way around.”

UCU fair pay banner

“To lecturers striking, 100% good luck and I hope UCU pull them to the table. But please be kind to your students. This is really damaging them as well as yourselves.”

The UCU have said they have given Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) a final opportunity to resolve this dispute and end the disruption to students’ academics. UCU members will then vote on whether the proposal is sufficient enough to end the boycott.

The UCU’s “Four Fights”

The UCU have framed the dispute as a fight on four fronts – not only pay, but also workload, casualisation and equality (gender and race pay gaps). Inadequacies on these four fronts have fostered poor working conditions for academic staff which translate to poor learning conditions for students, leading to an unhealthy teaching infrastructure.

University and College Union

The typical working week in higher education is now more than 50 hours, with 29% of academics working more than 55 hours per week. According to a UCU survey done in December 2020, 78% of respondents reported an increase in workload during the pandemic.

The pay disparity between black and white employees is 17%. The disability pay disparity is 9%. The average gender pay gap is 15.1%, and at the present rate of growth, it will take another 22 years to close.

Workload, pay inequality, and casualisation are all inextricably linked and aggravate each other. According to a recent UCU workload study, women, BAME, and disabled employees were all disproportionately likely to report an increase in workload, and the same groups were also disproportionately likely to be on casualised rather than permanent contracts.

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