‘There’s been nothing’: Impact of marking boycott on Edi students’ upcoming years abroad

Ordinarily, you need to have passed second year to progress to your year abroad

The focus on the impact of the marking and assessment boycott on students has (rightly) been on students who were hoping to graduate this summer. However, the impact of the boycott has also spread to students wanting to study abroad or undertake a placement year.

Ordinarily, you are required to have 240 credits of completed work (or equivalent) before leaving for a placement year or a year abroad at Edinburgh University. Many students are only now beginning to hear from staff about what will happen with their progression into the next academic year.

I am hoping to go on a year abroad next year, which should be a clear-cut case of waiting for exam results and then being able to go ahead. The requirements vary from department to department, with “conditional progression” granted in most cases – but not all. No one seems to know for sure what will happen if you find out you need to resit an Edinburgh course, which will presumably be marked sometime next academic year, while you are abroad.

The email below, sent last week to students of the School of Physics and Astronomy, is the only correspondence concerning the specific impacts of the boycott that students in the school will have received. It explains that each case will be determined on a case-by-case basis, and doesn’t mention people studying abroad. The possibility of having to leave the course with an exit award, if it turns out you aren’t eligible for resits, is the scariest part of the email for exchange students.

The email sent to students

Although staff are doing everything they can to reassure students that work will eventually get marked, this uncertainty about if and when resits would be required adds an additional level of uncertainty to an already difficult transition. It feels as though you are dodging a bullet to be able to go abroad to a country where strikes won’t impact a huge part of the year, and where lecturers feel valued and are paid fairly. But to get there, you have to get around the impact of strikes at Edinburgh.


Students have also reported not having had their learning agreement – a list of courses you plan to take at your host institution, required to confirm your year abroad – signed in time because of the strikes. They have also reported their queries have often slipped through the cracks when staff return to work following a strike.

Students studying languages, which mandate a year abroad, have reported hearing little to nothing about the impact of the marking boycott. Final-year students have been “forgotten” about in the university-wide marking policy, and second-years have also been left in a state of confusion. They are also required to have passed their second year. Maria, a second-year English Lit and French student, said she has yet to hear anything concrete about the impact of strikes on her year abroad. “I feel like every email to do with the strikes is just a whole bunch of nothing”.

The fear (which hasn’t been allayed by the uni) of having to return home from your year abroad after it has started, and the uncertainty of leaving Edinburgh unaware if our skills are good enough to undertake the next academic year, is a huge extra weight on students’ shoulders. It certainly seems like exchange and placement students have been forgotten about, and left to work out what their situation will be on a case-by-case basis, which adds an extra bit of bureaucracy and uncertainty to an already hard experience.

A University of Edinburgh spokesperson said: Once examination boards have concluded for students progressing into the next year of studies, any students due to go on a year abroad will be contacted individually with an explanation as to what their outcome means. Due to the varying levels of impact across Schools, programmes, and courses, many students will receive an outcome which is specific to their situation.

We have agreed a number of temporary variations to the assessment regulations, while maintaining academic standards. These variations include students being permitted to travel on their year abroad with a reduced credit load. While a temporary relaxation of these regulations has been approved, the variations still require a sufficient level of marks to be provided to the examination boards in order to demonstrate a capacity to succeed while studying away from Edinburgh for a year. Students should have received interim advice around the temporary relaxation to the year abroad regulations, including the assurance that they will not be recalled to Edinburgh if they need to resit courses. When all marks become available and where students are found to have insufficient credits, they may need to sit further assessment on their return.

The majority of students have until July 31 to submit their approved Learning Agreements. Where students have reported difficulties in obtaining signatures on their Learning Agreements, the Study and Work Away service have advised them of alternative staff members who are able to sign off these documents.”

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