Monday, April 24, 2006

The university marking boycott

Here at Queen Mary, University of London exams don't start for another week and as a postgraduate researcher I'm not directly hit by the assessment boycott by the Association of University Teachers and the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education. However from next week I will be working as an exam attendant - if there are any exams!

The two unions have called for an ongoing boycott of academic assessment as part of their campaign on pay, but it's now reaching the exam period and really starting to directly affect students. There's also a difference in methods between the two, as the Education Guardian explains:

The AUT has told members not to mark assessments or set exams, while Natfhe is encouraging members to set exams, but refrain from doing any marking until their demands for a pay increase are met.
The boycott has seen a clear division amongst students' unions:

The National Union of Students says it will continue to support the AUT and the lecturers' union Natfhe in their push for a 23% pay increase. But individual unions are increasingly calling for an end to the dispute, which involves a marking boycott.
But while more than 32 student unions have signed a letter to the AUT's general secretary, Sally Hunt, backing the strike action, the website has secured more than 300 signatures from students who are demanding an end of the marking ban.

The website says: "This action is extremely unfair to students as it may be highly disruptive and detrimental to students' educations. This website provides a petition where those opposed to this action can add the weight of their voice to the calls for this action to come to an end."

But the president of the University of Warwick's student union, Kat Stark, who sent the letter to Ms Hunt, was highly critical of student leaders who were not backing the lecturers.
Curiously the article fails to note that Kat Stark is also the NUS National Women's Officer-elect. Also, as noted before both here and elsewhere, the recent NUS Conference did not discuss the issue at all.

Something else that doesn't appear to be widely reported, though noted in an NUS press release today, is:

Last week, NUS sent a formal letter to AUT condemning their decision not to set exams and calling on them to urgently reconsider this tactic. This is the culmination of a series of meetings and conversations where NUS has voiced serious reservations about this decision.
The Petition against the AUT assessment boycott keeps on growing and it can be signed here.

Oh and Education Watch has noticed the following:

Keele University has privately admitted that scores of students could graduate this summer with degree classifications that they do not deserve under plans to beat the assessment boycott, writes Phil Baty. In a set of contingency plans designed to counter the assessment boycott by the Association of University Teachers, Keele's senate last week agreed to allow final-year students to graduate as long as they had completed about two thirds of their final year.

The senate will invoke an obscure part of the constitution that allows students to graduate under exceptional circumstances if they have obtained at least 75 of the 120 final-year credits they would normally be expected to achieve. This is the equivalent of obtaining a degree despite dropping up to three final-year exam papers.
Does anywhere else have this provision?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am a final year student at Trinity and All Saints' College, which is accredited by the University of Leeds.

Over the past few weeks, I have realised how serious this matter is; and how it may affect my graduation and thousands of other students across the country.

I feel that it is selfish on the parts of both Nafthe and Lecturers to conduct a marking strike on the approach to final examinations and graduation. Future employment for students may be jeopardised if graduation does not take place in July as scheduled, with even more implications for overseas students who will be returning home soon. The current pay scheme is more than adequate, taking into account the “workload” and annual holidays.


Lecturers wages vary, but generally are between £25,00 and £45,000 per annum (I’ve done my research so I know I’m right), I certainly would not be complaining about that kind of money.

I'm utterly shocked that my University Student Union and the NUS are supporting such a selfish cause. It disgusts me that this is allowed to happen.

I am seriously concerned about the impact this may have on my overall assessment.

In a competitive employment market – such as ours - a poor assessment could significantly harm my future employment prospects and career options. I feel that this a short-sighted, badly thought out strategy, which should never have been allowed to happen.

I would not feel as strongly about this issue, if I felt that my 3 years at Uni have really helped or improved me as a person; having a degree doesn't guarantee a job in today's fierce labour market (where possessing a 2.1/first seems a minimum requirement now for jobs that used to be school leaver/low entry level jobs), employers go on about having 1-2 years work experience, well how do we get that by studying full time?! We aren't super-human!

Furthermore, most of my lectures have been un-inspiring and a waste of time; many lectures have been cancelled at short notice and you can rarely get to see the lecturers as they are rarely at work - the lecturers, in my view, don't seem to work as hard as they like to portray.

Thanks, TASC, and to NATFHE, for putting me in debt, making me work hard for 3 years, and wasting my time.


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