Your 2022/23 elected Sabbatical Officer team's statement on University and College Union (UCU)'s Marking & Assessment Boycott.
Update (27th June 2023):
Following on from our update on the 19th of June, James Purnell, UAL's Vice-Chancellor, responded to our letter. You may read that response here. We continue to encourage you to send a letter to James Purnell using our template provided here.
Update (22nd June 2023):
If you'd like to add your own voice to our call for James Purnell, UAL's Vice-Chancellor, to make a statement to Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) to encourage them to re-enter negotiations with the University and College Union (UCU), our Sabbatical Officer team have prepared a template letter you can use. Write to James Purnell at firstname.lastname@example.org using the template which you can find here.
Update (19th June 2023):
Last week, your 2022/23 Sabbatical Officer team wrote to James Purnell, UAL's Vice-Chancellor, calling on him to make a statement to Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) to encourage them to re-enter negotiations with University and College Union (UCU). You can read the Officers' letter here.
Update (2nd June 2023):
Following the announcement from UAL-UCU that they are taking part in the University and College Union (UCU) Marking and Assessment Boycott, your 2022/23 Sabbatical Officer team felt that it was appropriate to inform our members of what is happening, and how they may be affected by the current ongoing industrial action.
What is happening at UAL?
Since Wednesday 23 November 2022, members of UCU in 145 universities have been pursuing Action Short of Strike (ASOS). This has included not covering for absent colleagues or not extending work beyond contracted time and teaching role. From Thursday 20 April 2023, this has also included a Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB). Please note that UAL-UCU staff are currently not on strike, meaning that scheduled teaching and pastoral support for students will continue as normal.
Why is this happening?
UCU members voted 'yes' to industrial action in two national ballots over disputes about pay and working conditions as well as pension cuts. The negotiations around resolving these were interrupted earlier this year, which is why there is continuing action being taken through the Marking and Assessment Boycott.
You can find more in-depth information regarding the industrial action at our Strike Hub.
You can also read UCU UAL’s FAQ page about why they have chosen this course of action here.
How will this impact students?
UCU staff members at UAL who are partaking in the Marking and Assessment Boycott won’t be generating or uploading any grades or feedback through formal channels like the Assessment Feedback portal or Turnitin, or taking part in any of the centralised college assessment processes. This includes not participating in exam invigilation, exam board attendance, and administrative work relating to exam boards. All levels of studies, including PhD, will be included in this boycott.
During this time students should continue to submit work as normal, or to request extensions or deferrals as you otherwise would do if experiencing any extenuating circumstances. An assessment boycott does not mean that you will not receive any marking for the work you submit, but that there may be a delay in your work being marked, or that your work may be marked by another staff member related to your course or by an external examiner.
It is important to note that not all staff relevant to your marking are part of UCU, and not all UCU staff at UAL are taking part in the boycott, meaning that many students may not be affected by the Marking and Assessment Boycott.
UAL have stated that they have made contingency plans to mitigate the potential impact on your studies if a staff member chooses to take part in the boycott. These measures include getting other subject expert staff in the college to mark work, with any alternative arrangements approved by your Dean to ensure they are appropriate and right for your course.
If there is an impact on your assessments, there may be some delay to you receiving your result. UAL has regulations which exam boards can use to allow most students to progress to the next year or graduate (and attend the Graduation Ceremonies), even if some marks are missing. If these regulations are used, UAL will confirm the full set of marks at a later date.
You can read UAL’s FAQ article page regarding industrial action at the university here.
What is Arts Students' Union’s stance?
At the Annual Members' Meeting of November 2021, students voted to support strike action taken by UCU-UAL staff members. Part of that resolution included an agreement to work with UCU and UAL to lobby UCEA to resolve the disputes and therefore end the current industrial action, with the aim of minimising the impact of action on the educational experience.
Although the Marking and Assessment Boycott does not include direct striking, we will be calling on UAL to make a public statement asking University and College Employers Association (UCEA) to work with UCU to resolve this dispute as soon as possible so that students are not disrupted for longer than necessary.
How can students be involved?
Students who wish to show support to UCU staff can write to James Purnell, Vice Chancellor and President of UAL, and call on him to make a public statement to UCEA to work with UCU to resolve this dispute as soon as possible. You can write to him at email@example.com.
If you are affected by the industrial action being taken, you can also submit a complaint to the university regarding your circumstances. Please see our Strike Hub for more information on this, and please note that you can also reach out to our Advice Team at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance and advice on this.
Other concerns and questions
Your course remains the best source of information about how you may be directly affected, so please contact your course team if you have specific questions as all arrangements made by UAL to mitigate your circumstances will be course-specific. You can also reach out to the Arts SU Advice Team for any other support queries, as stated above.
Students who are also teaching staff can apply for the UAL Hardship Fund through the Dean of Students if their pay is affected by participating in the boycott.
What actions will your Officers be taking?
We have met with the Vice-Chancellor, James Purnell, and the Dean of Students, Mark Crawley, to understand what the university is planning to do to mitigate the impact of the MAB on students, as outlined above. We will be asking UAL to publish this information on their own platforms so that it is clear to students.
We met with some of the UCU-UAL branch staff to hear in detail the purpose of the MAB and to discuss their plan of action, so that we can better understand and inform our students about it. We have suggested that they write a direct public statement outlining to students what is happening and why they have chosen to participate, so that students have a better understanding regarding this.
The London College of Communication Officer, Sophia Nasif, will be attending the upcoming Academic Board meeting regarding the Marking and Assessment Boycott, to offer feedback and guidance around mitigation and support for students.
We will be calling on UAL to resolve this issue as quickly as possible, and lobby for James Purnell to make a statement for UCEA to resolve the dispute.
We will continue to stay up to date with UAL and UCU-UAL so that we can inform the student body of any changes or further action.
- Your 2022/23 Officer Team