UCU warns Bristol Uni won’t be able to find enough staff to mark summer exams

‘Participation in the boycott [is] sufficiently high that such reallocation is highly likely to prove completely impracticable’

Bristol Unviersity will be unable to find non-striking staff to mark students’ exams because so many Bristol lecturers are taking part in the marking boycott, the Bristol UCU vice-president has warned.

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

Yesterday, the university announced on its website that, in response to the nationwide marking and assessment boycott which began on the 20th April, it has been “working on mitigations to make awards to as many students as possible, even when industrial action has taken place.”

This will be achieved by having “all school, faculty and departmental managers not involved in this form of industrial action [prioritising] marking and assessment work during this time.”

However, the vice-president of Bristol UCU and senior English lecturer at the university, John McTague, has questioned the university’s ability to account for the boycott because of “sufficiently high” levels of participation from staff members.

McTague has told The Bristol Tab that, for some students, it may mean their “dissertations are not second-marked by the project supervisors, or that your unit tutors will not be the people marking your regular coursework.

“Students deserve to have their work marked in full by the experts who designed and delivered their teaching and assessments.

As the news broke yesterday, a senior lecturer at Bristol University who wished to remain anonymous slammed the university’s decision.

They accused the university of awarding students “pretend degrees” if the university goes ahead with the move.

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

A University of Bristol spokesperson 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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