Up to 2,000 Edinburgh students will graduate without marks, says VC Peter Mathieson

‘Around 6,000 students normally graduate each year and around 4,000 this year are certain to graduate with a degree mark’

Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, Peter Mathieson, has finally addressed the effect of the marking boycott on final-year students. In an interview with the BBC on Friday, Mathieson said that up to 2,000 Edinburgh students will graduate this summer without knowing their marks, with only 4,000 classified degrees being released to final-year students.

This comes after many hopeful graduates were told last week that their dissertations and final-year coursework and exams would not be marked amid the UCU marking boycott, which has affected universities across the country.

Instead, many students were told that they had deferred or unclassified degrees, and were offered a ‘certificate of completion’ creating anger, anxiety and frustration as many were reliant on their results for their further education places, jobs and even visas.

In response to this anger, Mr Mathieson has told the BBC: “We’re really sorry they’re in this position – they are angry, they’re justifiably angry. We want them also to be proud of themselves…They will go from here eventually with a degree from the University of Edinburgh that will be respected around the world.” The university has echoed this statement, saying: “Most of our students will receive a classified degree. In other cases, we have provided a provisional award or we have not yet been able to provide an outcome”.

However, many students argue that deferred and unclassified decisions are more common than they appear. A student from the School of Languages, Literature and Culture told The Tab Edinburgh that following a meeting with staff, they were allegedly informed only 49 students out of the entire school had classified degrees. This was then echoed by final year international relations student Jade Taylor, who told BBC Radio 4 that the head of Politics and International Relations emailed her privately to say: “The vast majority of students have deferred decisions and those who haven’t are the exception”.


In response to the lack of degree classifications and decisions, students are planning to protest their graduation ceremony, with many arguing that the event is now simply ceremonial. They are due to walk across the stage to collect a blank piece of paper that will not state their degree classification, marks, or any other information. Posting on Facebook, some intend on breaking the dress code by wearing t-shirts emblazoned with “unclassified” or “pay your staff”, whilst others may not shake Peter Mathieson’s hand after they walk across the stage.

Similar action has already been carried out at Glasgow University, where students wore UCU sashes and signs, saying “Negotiate Now!” in response to the university’s reluctance to enter negotiations with the union.

In a statement to The Tab Edinburgh, a university spokesperson said: “We are acutely aware that delays associated with the marking and assessment boycott are a significant source of anxiety for our students, and we are deeply sorry about the continued uncertainty they face over their futures.

“Almost two-thirds of our final year students have already received a decision about their award. For the remaining 2,000 students we have been unable to provide an outcome yet. Participation in the boycott varies across the university, which unfortunately means that some cohorts of students are more affected than others.”

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