Marking and Assessment Boycott: Open Letter sent to Vice Chancellor

The open letter signed by 646 undergrad students calls for Vice Chancellor to assure that their work will be marked in time for graduations

(Image: York Vision)

The nationwide Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB) called by the University and College Union (UCU) has continued. 

This is leaving many students, especially those graduating this year, in significant uncertainty. 

Until now, an official student response at the University of York had yet to materialise but a letter has now been sent to the Vice-Chancellor Charlie Jeffery, signed by 646 undergraduate students (including faculty representatives) letting known their frustration and calling on the Vice-Chancellor to do more to help solve this crisis.

The letter sent to Charlie Jeffery says that the petitioners “support the goals of the ongoing National Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB) and stand with those who are participating in it”.

Support for the boycott, officially at least, remains strong.

There seems to be broad agreement on all sides that on a national level more needs to be done to get the negotiators back to the table to end this latest industrial stand-off. 

In an open letter to students sent on the 3rd of July, Jeffery made clear his belief the current pay offer proposed by the UCEA “is not what staff deserve” before caveating that any suitable pay rise can only be possible by fixing what he calls “a broken UK higher education funding system.” 

In the letter to Jeffery, they claimed that the University contingency for work affected by the MAB has “undermine[d] the University’s high academic standards and the processes which maintain them.” 

This reflects a lot of general anger amongst students of all years that they are simply not getting the service that they are paying for. Some question whether the manner in which marks have been awarded or not awarded is a breach-of-contract from the University.

In the letter, the petitioners listed 4 demands, calling upon the Vice Chancellor to:

  • Please make a public statement urging UCEA to rapidly resume negotiations with UCU union representatives in order to resolve the current MAB and set industrial relations on a new path that will prevent future students from being affected as we have been. 
  • Please publicly reassure students that their work will be marked in time for graduation or progression to the next year of study, and that this marking will always be performed by the qualified staff who set the assessments, and not by external providers.
  • Please publicly reassure staff that all marking will be properly and fully compensated, and that pay will be restored so that marking can begin as soon as the MAB is lifted. 
  • Please publicly reassure students that the University will not lower its academic standards or change its marking procedures in order to offer interim degrees, and that all students will receive a fully credited, classified degree, as advertised. 

The petitioners claim that there is still time for a compromise deal to be achieved to end the boycott in time for students to get the correct qualifications needed to progress onto the next stage of their lives. 

They admit that there is only a “short window” to get that over the line. Whether more demonstrations of student anger over this emerge, only time will tell. 

What is clear is that the letter is only a glimpse of collective student anger over the ongoing stalemate that is engulfing further education. 

At the University of Edinburgh, the Tab have reported that there have been significant protests by students at graduation ceremonies over the past month.

Following these protests, there may be similar demonstrations this week in graduation ceremonies at the University.

Graduation ceremonies for 2023 are taking place on Tuesday the 18th, until this Saturday 22nd July.