At the moment the Universities and Colleges' Union (UCU - formed by a merger of AUT and NATFHE) is voting on whether or not to accept a pay deal following the university marking boycott this year. It is quite possible that the deal could be rejected - opinion polls of UCU members suggest the union is heavily divided - and industrial action will resume once the new terms start in September. If this happens then one has to wonder when all this will end. Students have been strongly against the boycott, despite the sometimes vague support of the National Union of Students for the boycott.
One thing that seems clear is that a marking boycott could not be easily reinstated now that exams have happened. Any industrial action would have to look for other outlets. Ednet reports some potentials:
The UCU Left, which is organising the No campaign, wants members to determine any future industrial action at a specially arranged conference, but leading figures in the No campaign have privately indicated that all-out strike action or a quality audit boycott were among the most likely options for consideration.Well that would be very popular with new students and do wonders to overcome the existing high levels of opposition!
Graham Dyer, President of the SOAS branch of UCU, said on the record: "A lot of people are calling for all-out strike action in September. Exam boycotts don't work at that time of year. It would be maybe three days, something like that, at the start of the term, that period when students are being registered and start new classes. That would cause quite a lot of disruption."
Reports have suggested that academics could boycott registration of new students in September, but Dyer dismissed this. "We've got no control over that, that's all done through clerical staff, many of them are not UCU members. They could easily bring in temporary agency staff to do that kind of work anyway."This is encouraging, though I wonder how many universities will seek to bring in outside staff to break such a boycott where the UCU might otherwise have an impact.
It seems everywhere one looks, there are more and more Groundhog Days.