InterviewMarking boycotts leave students uncertain about their future

Marking boycotts leave students uncertain about their future


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Marking boycotts by academic staff who are members of the University and College Union (UCU) have left many students uncertain if they will receive grades and graduate this summer. 

On the 20th of April 2023, UCU announced plans for a marking boycott that would be ongoing until an agreement on pay and working conditions is made with employers. 

Why is the marking boycott taking place?

The boycott is a response to disputes over pay, working conditions and pensions. UCU argues the value of wage shave depreciated because of rising inflation rates. 

Currently, the inflation rate is around 8.7%, which is definitely above the 2% aim set by the Bank of England. Hence, academic staff argue their wages are insufficient in comparison to their living expenses, which have compounded during the cost of living crisis. 

Photo Wiktor Szymanowicz/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Universities such as King’s College London pledged their commitment to students

“It is possible that a number of students may experience delays in receiving some of their marks and we are doing everything we can to minimise the impact on these students” 

“At King’s, the two key principles are that no student should experience any detriment as a result of the boycott, and that academic standards are fully maintained.” 

In a statement released by the university, King’s assured students they sought to minimise impacts on students by upholding their key principles. However, some may question if these principles have been compromised as some students believe they’ve experienced ‘detriment’ as a result of the boycott. 

Courtesy of Roar photographer Elizabeth Grace

We interviewed some students from King’s who responded to the statement:

Soon-to-be law graduate, Blessing says there is “no cohesiveness” between various departments and the university itself. Her peers have been to external markers concerned they may not graduate with a grade. 

“As a final year student, the lack of transparency and clarity has been a cause for a lot of anxiety for many of my peers and it prevents us from looking forward to things like graduation and work”. 

Although sympathetic to the UCU, Blessing expresses the need for universities to be held accountable when mitigating the impact on students, which many students across the UK also believe. 

“They have every right to withdraw their labour”

Opposingly, Gayatri, a 2nd-year Politics student supports the marking boycott stating “they have every right to withdraw their labour”. 

Although not being affected by the strikes “at all” and receiving her grades, Gayatri recognises “more needs to be done to mitigate the impact on students” and calls for “better provision” to support students.

Similarly, Korush, a 2nd-year Politics student urges his peers to “concentrate on why the teachers are doing this” and worries there is a misplaced focus on academic staff being “exploited”.

What could this possibly mean for the future of UK education

Ultimately, the boycott and its impact on students probe many to question whether the UK education system needs reform for both students and academics. 

From a history of events such as A-level results during Covid, the UK education system constantly seems to let down its students, as there are constant feelings of concern and disappointment from students. 

Sharon Adebola
Sharon Adebola
Sharon Adebola content creator for the TCS Network. Sharon is a polymath and advocate for amplifying young voices in the political field. Being on numerous news platforms such s Sky and BBC News have invigorated her passion to be a voice for the voiceless and represent the concerns of her community. Two/thirds into her Politics degree, Sharon is keen to relay the political literacy she has gained to a plethora of individuals. Apart from that she is a Young Leader for the political charity My Life My Say and the President of King’s Gospel Society.

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