There’s been a marking boycott at Newcastle uni

It could prevent third years from graduating

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at Newcastle University are going to take part in a marking boycott that will begin on the 1st June due to a dispute over performance management.

If the issue is not resolved by then the UCU members will not mark essays, projects, exams, dissertations, or grade any practical work.

The boycott covers all undergraduate and postgraduate students and could prevent students from progressing from one stage to another.

In some cases this could even prevent students from graduating, as not marking this work will delay the award/classification of all degrees or any other qualification.

The UCU are taking this action because Newcastle University management published a set of Research Performance Expectations last autumn which academic staff will be assessed by in the future.

Included in these documents are expectations of the standard and number of publications by staff, research grants raised by them and the number of PHD students who graduate.

The UCU explain in an email that ‘these things are either outside of the control of academic staff, subject to contested and sometimes subjective judgements, or both.’ This has led to a huge protestation from university staff who are worried they will be judged by criteria that is subjective and out of their control.

As a consequence of these new measures, academic staff have become concerned that they may never achieve a promotion, face ‘capability’ procedures for being judged as not performing well in their job, or even be pushed out of research altogether.

The UCU states that ‘Newcastle University students rightly expect to be taught by active researchers. Stressed-out staff are unable to give their best attention to students.’

The email goes on to say: ‘We apologise for the disruption. None of our members comes to work wanting to take any kind of action that negatively impacts on students. Our members are the people who teach and research and provide a world-class education for students at this University. They are strongly committed to what they do.

‘The fact is that Newcastle University management could have resolved this dispute months ago by withdrawing the Research Performance Expectations documents, admitting they made a mistake, and committing to a renewed, collegial, consultative process to improve research. Their decision to allow this dispute to continue is damaging the quality of your education. We have tried to persuade them to resolve this dispute through negotiation and through our campaigning but they just won’t listen – a boycott of the marking process is the last resort.’

Students have been advised to contact the Vice Chancellor, Professor Chris Brink, at [email protected] if they are concerned about their work not being marked or want to voice their opinion on the matter.

They have also been encouraged to speak to their lecturers and other university staff and to show their support.

You can contact Newcastle University UCU for more information: [email protected].