Info for students on the marking and assessment boycott [MAB]

Dear students,

From 20th April 2023, UCU members will be engaging in a marking and assessment boycott. For many many months UCU has requested negotiations with our employers’ collective body, UCEA, but have been largely ignored. Our pay dispute encompasses many aspects including pay, workload, casualised contracts (e.g. hourly paid contracts), and equality pay gaps.

We are asking university bosses for the following:

  1. Give us secure employment with a stable income, so we can plan our lives – not precarious, temporary or hourly-paid jobs.
  2. Get rid of pay gaps for gender, race and disability.
  3. Pay us enough so we can all afford the rising cost of living.
  4. Reduce our workload to a survivable level.

We already took strike action this year and in previous years.

Our employers still haven’t made us a fair offer. 

The Marking and Assessment Boycott is our absolute last resort. We have stopped marking assessments so university bosses will listen to us. 

We want to find a resolution to this dispute and get back to normal as soon as possible. But it is now in the hands of our employers. While a volatile situation, we will continue to communicate with you, and outline here:

  1. What shape a boycott takes
  2. How we will continue to support you
  3. What is in your power to shape the direction of this university

Do not forget our working conditions are your learning conditions.

We are trying to protect our whole university community – including you – from year after year of harmful reforms that have damaged our morale and made it almost impossible to do our jobs properly. 

We care deeply about students. We want you to be able to learn and thrive. This is why we come to work every day!

We are really worried that if we do nothing now, university staff will face impossible workloads and a poorer and poorer quality of life. Students’ experience will only get worse, even though you (and your younger siblings) will still have to pay extortionate fees and get into debt.

We are worried that women, ethnic minorities, disabled people and working-class people who work here will face even more disadvantages.

The Marking and Assessment Boycott is now the only way we can achieve a fairer and more equal university, for the benefit of students and staff alike. 

More info: 

1 What will be affected:

During the Marking and Assessment Boycott:

  • The timeframe for the return of some of your summative assessment results this academic year may be affected. You might not get your marks until after the marking boycott ends. 
  • If you are in the final year of your degree, as an undergraduate or postgraduate student, this may mean your graduation is delayed.
  • There might be delays to official decisions about whether you can progress to the next year of your course.

Once university bosses make a fair offer to us, we will resume our marking and assessment activities so that students can receive marks and be able to progress and/or graduate.

2 How we will continue to support you:

This is a dispute between staff and senior management, not between staff and students. We will do our best to ensure individual students are not disproportionately affected.

  • We will support students taking up offers for postgraduate studies. We will provide letters of recommendations if required. The UK Higher Education sector knows that disruptions because of the dispute have affected students. They will be understanding and we will be communicative.
  • We will support students in job applications, writing references and indicating past and projected performance. You can email your tutors and advisors for reference letters, transcripts, etc. 
  • This is a marking boycott, not a learning boycott. Teachers can provide informal feedback, continue to supervise postgraduate dissertations and support students preparing for their final assignment. 

3 What is in your power

Students can change the direction of this dispute. The Senior Management Team are choosing not to limit disruption. You can convince them to listen to the needs of staff and students and ensure the University becomes a fairer working and learning environment. There are several related routes you can take:

  • Write to the VC. Personalise it! Ask the University Senior Management to engage in meaningful negotiations with UCU. Professor Andrew Jones:
  • You can raise a Notification with the Office for Students (OfS). The OfS is the regulatory body for UK Higher Education and relies on students raising concerns (as well as regular reporting by university governing bodies) to address issues with the student experience. A formal complaint is a lengthy process, but a ‘Notification’ makes OfS aware that the Senior Management Team has, whatever their claims, allowed disruption to students’ education and is jeopardising students’ graduation by being intransigent.

Stay in touch

There will be further communications to address the particular situation in your area of Brunel. We will keep you informed via our website. We want to keep you in the loop and continue to work with students to build a university that is supportive of everyone.

You can reach out to us to discuss concerns and plans. You can find the UCU union branch on twitter @BrunelUCU or via Brunel UCU

We hope that with your help, the Senior Management Team will press for more meaningful negotiations so that together with management we can improve your learning conditions and our working conditions.

In solidarity

Your Professors, Lecturers, and Professional Services staff (@BrunelUCU)