Students fear degrees could be ‘devalued’ as lecturers stage marking boycott

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Students have voiced fear their degrees will be “devalued” amid a marking boycott by lecturers as part of an ongoing pay dispute.

The University and College Union (UCU) and members of the EIS-Further Education Lecturers’ Association (EIS-Fela) are taking action short of strike in a bid to secure higher wages.

It means lecturers will mark work but will not enter it into recording systems, as they are no longer carrying out duties beyond their contract.

The industrial action includes 145 UK institutions, including all Scottish universities and colleges.

Universities are considering a raft of measures in response, which could include basing final grades on work already submitted.

Ollie Lewis, a politics student at Edinburgh University, said his dissertation took six months to complete but it may never be looked at.

The student, from Cambridge, said his £9,250 per year studies could essentially go to waste amid the uncertainty.

He told the PA news agency: “After four years of studying and committing to pay over £37,000 to this university, not marking our final work is the ultimate slap in the face.

“If students graduate without all our work being marked, it could run the risk of our degrees being devalued. The university has miscalculated here.”

In a Twitter thread, Mr Lewis said staff have been left with no choice but to take the action, and he said some tutors cannot afford to feed or clothe themselves.

Meanwhile, more than 500 Edinburgh University staff have written an open letter to the institution over concerns that degrees could be awarded to students without “necessary expertise”.

A university spokesperson said: “The university has robust measures in place to reduce the impact of industrial action and we are making every effort to provide results, degree award outcomes and progression decisions to students by the published timelines.”

They added that “temporary variations” are in place to “ensure academic standards are not compromised”.

Meanwhile, New College Lanarkshire student Sher Khalid-Ali urged the Scottish Government to intervene in the pay dispute as she warned students could be prevented from moving on to higher or further education if their results are disrupted.

She said: “If the Scottish Government really cares about helping adults out of poverty, why are they ignoring a pay dispute which threatens to stop thousands of students having access to a better life which they have worked hard to achieve?”

It comes as £46 million of funding originally pledged to colleges and universities was withdrawn by the Scottish Government after it was marked as an “essential saving”.

Pam Duncan-Glancy
Scottish Labour’s Pam Duncan-Glancy said students deserve better (PA)

“It’s a complete mess and is a direct result of the SNP’s 13-year freeze to university budgets – a 25% reduction in funding in real-terms – and their repeated failure to avoid strike action and support staff and students.

“They deserve much better than this.”

Lib Dem education spokesman Willie Rennie said: “This generation of young people have already suffered from a pandemic body blow, now they are under a cloud of industrial action.

“Ministers need to work to break the logjam so students can fully benefit from the best education experience possible.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is not directly involved in the national collective bargaining process. It is for colleges and universities, as the employer, to negotiate with the unions on pay, terms and conditions in the spirit of collaboration and co-operation.

“It is important that unions and the employers continue to hold talks to avoid any potential industrial action and subsequent disruption to learners.

“We expect management and unions to make every effort to reach a settlement that is fair and affordable.”

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