Russell Group uni is ‘considering using external staff’ for marking during staff boycott

The uni’s UCU claims staff at an Australian consultancy may be used to grade student essays

The UCU branch at Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL) claims the uni is “considering using external staff” to “break” their marking boycott, which is due to start next week.

The Queen Mary UCU (QMUCU) says having outsiders with “no familiarity with the course content” assessing students harms academic integrity, it claims, as well as the value of QMUL’s “specialist degrees.”

The agency allegedly involved is an Australian Higher Education consultancy called Curio, that QMUCU claims has previously provided the uni with “expensive ‘training’ in remote learning technologies.” Curio has been contacted for comment.

QMUCU said that if the uni decides to go forward with this, it can complain to relevant authorities and claims “those found in breach of the agency worker regulations can be investigated by the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and fined.”

The union branch called this situation “a sign of management in crisis” and called for the uni to “stop trying to invent a way out and get around the negotiating table with staff.” 

James Eastwood, chair of QMUL UCU, told The Tab: “Students should be outraged by these plans.

“Bringing in external consultancy staff to mark your assignments would waste your tuition fees, devalue your degree, and likely result in unfair grading.

“Universities punish students who pay for essay mills, but seem to have no qualms about paying for marking mills. This is an attack on student education and fairness. Staff will do everything we can to defend your degree against this because our working conditions are your learning conditions,” he said.

A Queen Mary University of London spokesperson said: “We are disappointed to be facing industrial action once again at Queen Mary, which continues to affect a very small number of teaching programmes.

“We have been clear from the outset that our first priority is to protect all our students’ education and experience, and to uphold academic quality and standards. We will continue to use a range of measures to mitigate any impacts from the continuing 5-year national UCU industrial action and to protect our students’ education.”

Curio has been contacted for comment.

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