Bristol Vice chancellor

Bristol Uni VC faces backlash from students and staff for personally marking dissertations

‘Sorry Evelyn this is wrong on so many levels’


The University of Bristol’s Vice-Chancellor, Evelyn Welch, has faced backlash from both students and staff after it was announced that she would be marking some dissertations herself.

Professor Welch, who is a scholar of the Renaissance and Early Modern Period, confirmed that she would be marking dissertations to mitigate the impact of the ongoing marking and assessment boycott, she said: “Here at Bristol we have committed to prioritising the marking of final year students’ work by subject experts, hence why I will be marking some History of Art dissertations.

“Having spoken to our students, I know they want to graduate with a degree classification and therefore I’m joining with non-striking staff to make this happen.

“We fully respect the rights of staff to take industrial action, and I’m hopeful a resolution can be found at a national level, but in the meantime we must minimise the impact on our students who have worked so hard to complete their degrees.”

In a survey conducted by The Bristol Tab, 548 students (58 per cent), from the 949 who took part, stated that they do not support the Vice-Chancellor’s decision to mark some dissertations herself.

Many final year students are concerned by how their dissertations will be marked

The consensus from the students who responded to the survey was that this doesn’t solve the actual problem and that Professor Welch should instead focus on reopening negotiations with the University and College Union (UCU).

One student, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “I don’t support her decision because she is just trying to avoid the issue of underpaid staff and the ongoing strikes.”

Some students also voiced their concern that the Vice-Chancellor would not have seen the entire process behind the dissertation as a supervisor normally does, which they felt would affect the quality of her marking.

While this was the view of the majority of students, many also expressed their support and appreciation for the Vice-Chancellor’s decision.

Alex Hunt, a final year Politics and International Relations student, said: “While the UCU continue their disgraceful boycott, the Vice-Chancellor is leading by example, ensuring that this action is mitigated, and working to support students. Thank you!”

Charlie Gaisford, a final year student who previously wrote an open letter to the university requesting that they resume negotiations with the UCU, told The Bristol Tab: “She [Professor Welch] won’t make a difference on her own as the problem is far bigger than that, but I think it shows she does care and wants to take the time to try and make a difference even if piecemeal.”

Charlie Gaisford wrote an open letter attempting to resolve the boycott (via @charliegaisford)

Many current and former lecturers at the university share the view of the 58 per cent of students against Professor Welch’s decision as they have taken to Twitter en masse to voice their outrage and dismay.

Gary Foster, a former Professor in the School of Biological Sciences, stated: “Sadly it is impossible to defend the indefensible. Sorry Evelyn this is wrong on so many levels.

“Even those non-UCU members who are not on strike find it totally unpalatable. Why build bridges for nine months then burn them down in a matter of days.”

This view was shared by Professor Albert Sanchez-Graells, he tweeted: “Interesting to see Evelyn Welch’s change of discourse in just under nine months, moving from promising to build on community to engaging in community-busting.”

Dr Joan Passey claimed that the Vice-Chancellor should be focusing on negotiations with the UCU rather than marking dissertations, she tweeted: “If Welch cared about their work being properly evaluated then she’d enter into negotiations with the people who do the evaluating and remunerate them fairly for their labour.”

The Vice-President of Bristol UCU, Dr John McTague, who is also a senior lecturer in English, agreed with this sentiment, he said: “My sympathies might lie mainly with UCU members and students, but this just very bad management! It’s not difficult to call for negotiations to reopen! You don’t even have to commit to anything!”

These outraged responses show that this announcement has only added further fuel to a fire that has been growing rapidly in recent months, suggesting that a defintive end to the ongoing industrial action is unlikely to occur anytime soon.

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