Queen Mary students ‘appalled’ by ‘incompetent’ outsourced marking

The uni was rumoured to hire Australian consultancy workers for grading during marking boycott

Screenshots have been circulating online of students at Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL) allegedly being given “inexpert, outsourced marks.” And students have found personal experiences of this “absolutely devastating.”

This comes during a staff marking boycott and after the Russell Group uni was rumoured to bring in Australian consultancy workers as “strike busters.”

The uni has called the screenshots “mis-information” and insists “the small number of students impacted by the industrial action that their work is being assessed rigorously and their marks will be a true reflection of the quality of their performance.”

The UCU branch at QMUL shared this screenshot, which seems to show students receiving one-word feedback that doesn’t reflect or explain their grade (credit: Twitter)

The University and College Union branch at QMUL (QMUCU) has been tweeting screenshots from the uni’s internal marking and feedback system called “QMplus.”

These seem to show feedback, which QMUCU claims to be by external markers, that doesn’t correspond with the grades and seem to have been copy-and-pasted for different students.

By monitoring when and how many marks and feedback are uploaded onto QMplus, the union also estimated that it thinks outsourced markers have graded “half a million words in three days.” They think this speed is unreasonable and “must have set a record of sorts.”

Screenshot shared by QMUCU appears to show similar feedbacks given to many students (credit: Twitter)

Jordan*, a BSc Accounting and Management finalist at QMUL’s business school, has personally experienced drastic differences between their professor and an external marker.

For one of their courses, they said their original professor “has a different view on how essays are to be written” and marks in a way that allows for a “space for many different opinions” and “the best educational experience.” But they were surprised to be marked totally differently by an external worker for their official grade.

For example, they said their professor “likes a conclusion that has a personal point of view, rather than just regurgitating evidence from other scholars.” And during an informal feedback before the boycott, they were specifically praised for their “creativity and personal opinion.”

But they were “appalled” to find out that they were marked down on exactly this by an external marker after the boycott started.

Also, while they receive feedback from their professor that’s “personal, detailed and designed to help us improve,” they found the external marker’s feedback to be “extremely generic, using the same exact comments for every student.”

Jordan told the London Tab: “This feedback is all the evidence needed to prove that the marker did not have an understanding of the scope of the course, and failed to fully comprehend the topic. This also shows that the markers used completely different criteria whilst grading our papers.

“This experience is absolutely devastating to me, especially as an international student who was promised a high standard of education. To be unfairly marked for my hard work is extremely disappointing as it points towards the fact that our university’s top management does not prioritise our standard of education, but instead cutting costs,” they said.

Alex*, another final-year accounting student at QMUL, also said: “By hiring an incompetent marker QMUL has devalued my degree, as feedback and grading do not reflect my performance. I won’t feel proud when it comes to receiving my degree as it won’t reflect my real hard work.”

Speaking to the London Tab, union staff estimated that “1,300 students have already had inexpert, outsourced marks provided within the School of Business and Management alone.

“The number of students affected by the boycott itself varies across the university but is up to 100 per cent in some Schools. Students across all three Faculties (Humanities and Social Sciences; Science and Engineering; Medicine and Dentistry) are affected,” they claimed.

They said they’re willing to drop the action “if a satisfactory agreement is reached” but claims the uni is opting to hire replacement markers “instead of negotiating in good faith.”

“Academic staff take great care in giving feedback. Replacement marking risks students’ hard-earned marks, undermines academic standards, and devalues QMUL degrees.

“To students: your views on this are important. If you do not want your work to be marked by someone without appropriate expertise and familiarity, it is important that you make that clear ASAP,” they said.

Actions to be taken by students as outlined by QMUCU (credit: Instagram)

In response, a QMUL spokesperson told the London Tab: “We are disappointed to be facing national industrial action once again. However, this affects only a very small number of our teaching programmes; less than two per cent of our staff have taken strike action so far, and a large proportion of our 32,000 students remain unaffected.

”We do not recognise the information in these screenshots. Students’ marks have not as yet been through our quality assurance processes. It is unfortunate that mis-information is being circulated in this way.

“We have already assured the small number of students impacted by the industrial action that their work is being assessed rigorously and their marks will be a true reflection of the quality of their performance.”

*Names changed to preserve anonymity

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