‘It’s laughable’, Manchester students given £500 for not having degrees before graduation say

‘I’m £60k in debt with no degree to show for it’

Manchester final year Molly is due to graduate next week from her degree in politics and anthropology – but she’s still waiting on her grades, and doesn’t know when she will get them. She is one of approximately 340 students who won’t have their full degrees by their graduation ceremony and so have been offered £500 from the uni by way of compensation – a move Molly calls “laughable”.

Manchester University has said less than three per cent of its 11,400 graduating students still won’t have their final degree classifications before their graduation ceremony, and those who experience this will be paid £500 and offered support from the careers and wellbeing services.

This will see the university dishing out £170,000 in compensation to those who don’t have their degrees before graduating.

“I’m due to graduate next Wednesday but now have no classification which is going to have a huge impact on my job opportunities”, Molly told The Tab Manchester.

“Not to mention that it’s really upsetting seeing other people I know, often on the same course as me being able to celebrate their grades while I, through no fault of my own, have nothing to celebrate.”

Molly says all her lecturers were striking this term, and although the work she has got back achieved a First, she’s currently on a grade of 24 per cent because all her unmarked work has zeros for placeholder marks.

Since April, lecturers at almost every UK university have been refusing to carry out marking and other assessment-related work like exam invigilation. This follows weeks’ worth of UCU strikes earlier this academic year, as staff are in an ongoing campaign for better pay and pensions, among other things.

Molly called Manchester’s £500 offer “laughable”, saying: “The amount of stress and physical illness I went through for my uni work is just being swept under the rug.”

Stock image from The Tab’s archives

Like her cohort of classmates who started uni in 2020 and are graduating now, Molly had no A-Levels, spent first year mostly in lockdown and has now “been hit the hardest by strikes and now the MAB [marking and assessment boycott] in our final term”.

She says the £50o should have gone towards “paying [the uni] staff”. “The money is not worth it”, she says, saying she believes “it’s really taking advantage of students that they know will accept it because of the tenuous position the uni has put us in for finding employment and the cost of living crisis”. Molly thinks the university “should offer to return tuition fees” saying she’s “nearly £60k in debt now with no degree to show for it”.

“I don’t want £500 I want my degree, but many of us will take the compensation because we’re so poor and desperate.”

The Tab Manchester also spoke to a number of students who have been offered £150 as compensation for just a couple of days’ delay in receiving their marks – compared to the students who are getting £500 for being left in limbo. The university told The Tab it could not confirm how many students this affects, on top of the three per cent of grads who won’t have degrees before their ceremonies.

“I’m not too fussed about the delay as I’ll be getting my degree at graduation and I’ve got a job lined up already”, one student who’ll be getting £150 said, saying they understand the frustration of those who won’t have their degrees before graduating.

“Graduating with a blank certificate when you’re supposed to be celebrating the culmination of your work is a bit disheartening”, another said.

Stock image from The Tab’s archives

Jess, another student who has been offered £500 – along with the option to either graduate from her Master’s now without her award, or to defer her graduation until next academic year – also spoke to The Tab Manchester. “I think considering the rest of my cohort are getting their results on Friday and receiving £150 for a three-day delay, £500 isn’t enough for an infinite delay”, Jess, whose name has been changed, said.

“There’s no predicted date for when I’ll get my certificate, which will be emailed to me”, she said, “just a letter explaining I will get one at some point and £500”.

After being at uni for five years, Jess is desperate to graduate – not to mention having already organised hotels and time off work for it – and so will be going to her ceremony in less than two weeks, despite not knowing her final grades.

“I’ve spent tens of thousands of pounds to get my degree so to graduate without it for £500 doesn’t seem enough.”

Molly is similarly still going to her graduation – she doesn’t “feel happy about it” but has already paid for their gap and gown. “I’ll probably go more for the saker of my mum and my partner and being able to at least have a semblance of a normal uni experience”, she said.

“I think it’s really shitty that we’ve been put in the position of having to accept blank or inaccurate certificates.”

A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “We are now in the busy period of examination boards to finalise student assessments for progression into next year’s study or graduation. Regrettably, as for universities across the country, some of our students have been affected by the marking and assessment boycott.

“Final marks are still being ratified by exam boards this week, but we expect that most students will not be affected. All eligible final-year students have been invited to attend their graduation ceremonies, though some will not have awards at this time. We are contacting affected students directly to offer them support. We anticipate less than 3% of students will have their classifications delayed beyond the date of their graduation ceremony, out of more than 11,400.

“We will continue to do all we can to secure degree classifications as quickly as possible, and to mitigate any impacts. Any student who experiences a delay in receiving their degree award beyond the date of their graduation ceremony will be paid £500 and offered support, including dedicated help from our Careers Service and an extension of our mental health and wellbeing offer.”

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Manchester University is giving £500 to all final years who don’t have their marks by graduation

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