A group of striking lecturers and students stand under the main gate of Glasgow University, holding UCU placards and a banner saying "students support strikes".
Credit: Athina Bohner

UCU make a U-turn: Marking boycott cancelled in surprise move

By Jeevan Farthing

The University of Glasgow has confirmed this afternoon that the UCU marking boycott has been called off, however states that disputes over pay have not been settled.

The University and College Union (UCU) marking boycott at the University of Glasgow, which began on Monday 23 May, has been called off. All assessment processes and marking procedures will continue as normal, with no delay for students receiving grades this summer.

The UCU recently withdrew its national approach to the marking boycott, in favour of individual universities deciding whether to participate. While the local Glasgow branch of the UCU will no longer ask its members to participate in the marking boycott, the national dispute over pensions and pay and working conditions, which resulted in 13 days of strike action this year, is still ongoing.

The U-turn on the marking boycott follows the University releasing an exit strategy on Thursday 28 April, two days after the marking boycott was announced, which stated a willingness to increase its contributions to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS): the pension fund at the crux of the dispute. A High Court case brought by academics against the USS over pension cuts was dismissed last week, and is now awaiting a potential appeal.

“A High Court case brought by academics against the USS over pension cuts was dismissed last week.”

The UCU general secretary has now written to the Universities Minister, after reports of some Universities threatening to cut 100% of members’ pay, subcontract marking to agency workers, or allow some students to pass modules without assessment. The University of Glasgow has not engaged in any of these specific alleged practices, but had reportedly threatened staff assumed to be participating in the boycott with a 30% pay cut, effective until either their required marks were submitted or the end of the industrial action.

The University had previously emphasised that no undergraduate or postgraduate student would be prevented from progressing along with their degrees due to the industrial action.

The University also assured students seeking graduation this summer that this would occur on time regardless of a marking boycott, with predicted degree classifications being awarded where a final degree classification could not be issued on time. With the boycott called off, this will no longer be necessary.

The University Secretary and Chief Operating Officer, David Duncan, said: “While this does not signal an end to the national dispute over pay and pensions, the University warmly welcomes the decision by the local branch UCU to halt this action.”

The Glasgow Guardian has contacted the UCU for a comment.


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