Bristol Uni accused of handing out ‘pretend degrees’ as students could pass without marks

‘This could seriously undermine the quality of a University of Bristol degree’

A lecturer at The University of Bristol has accused the University of granting “pretend degrees” to its students if current plans go ahead.

This comes after news that final year students at Bristol University may be forced to graduate this summer without having all of their assessments marked.

On April 20th, the University and College Union (UCU) began a nationwide marking and assessment boycott.

The boycott, which has the potential to last until September under the current mandate, has led to concerns amongst final year students regarding how their assessments will be marked this summer.

In response to the boycott, the University of Bristol has announced on its website: “All school, faculty and departmental managers not involved in this form of industrial action will prioritise marking and assessment work during this time.”

Regarding students’ ability to graduate this summer, the University said: “We expect to run graduation ceremonies for all students who have participated in summer assessments.

“We are working on mitigations to make awards to as many students as possible, even when industrial action has taken place.”

This means that many students may graduate this summer without having all of their assessments marked.

In response to this possibility, a Bristol University lecturer, who wishes to remain anonymous, told The Bristol Tab: “The lack of detail of how this may happen indicates how many of the University’s own rules and regulations would have to change for this to be possible. This would seriously undermine the quality of a University of Bristol degree.

“Graduating students will travel to Bristol this summer to participate in what is a pretend graduation, a sham graduation, a glorified garden party.”

The lecturer added: “If they offer this to all students who have sat their exams and submitted their assignments, some of those students will go on to receive a fail mark and the pretend degree will have to be rescinded.”

Bristol UCU Vice-President, Dr John McTague (via @johnjoemctague)

The Vice-President of the Bristol UCU, Dr John McTague, today warned the university will be unable to find non-striking staff to mark students’ summer exams because so many lecturers are taking part in the boycott.

He told The Bristol Tab: “Levels of participation in the boycott are sufficiently high that such reallocation is highly likely to prove completely impracticable.

“Students deserve to have their work marked in full by the experts who designed and delivered their teaching and assessments. They deserve degree outcomes that have been through the same rigorous quality assurance processes which have been applied to other cohorts.

“They deserve graduation ceremonies at which classified degrees are actually conferred.”

Dr McTague added: “The lack of clarity in the recently-published guidance on these matters suggests to me that either senior management do not yet know what they are going to do, or that their approach is sufficiently controversial that they are loathe to state it plainly at this juncture.”

A University of Bristol spokesperson has said: “We know how unsettling the marking and assessment boycott is for our staff and students. We are doing everything we can to make sure we have appropriate measures in place to manage this further action short of strike (ASOS) and our advice to students is to continue to engage fully with their studies and prepare for assessments as usual.

“At this stage, we expect most final year students to have their work marked as normal, but we are unable to determine precisely who will be affected as staff are not obliged to tell us they are participating. In addition, we are planning for graduation ceremonies to take place this summer for all students who have completed their final assessments.

“This action is part of a long-running national dispute led by the University and College Union (UCU) affecting more than 100 universities with multiple demands on pay, pension and working conditions. While we are working with our local unions here at Bristol, the sector needs to find affordable solutions and better ways of resolving this ongoing dispute nationally.

“We understand how challenging this is for our students and would like to apologise to those affected, many of whom have already faced numerous challenges due to the pandemic and previous industrial action. Personal tutors and school offices are ready to offer support and we will keep our students up to date with any developments.”

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