More strikes are taking place at QMUL on 5-6 May, 9-13 May and 16-18 May. These are happening only at our university, as a last resort because of how poorly QMUL management is treating their own staff and students. For months staff and students have requested negotiations with the Principal, but have been ignored. Management has chosen not to not to meet with staff to negotiate an end to the dispute and avoid this further disruption. As you know, Queen Mary’s Principal is an outlier in UK Higher Education in threatening 100% deductions for not rescheduling teaching. Far from mitigating the impact of the national strikes on students, that threat is now causing 10 more days of strike that only affect Queen Mary.
Rather than changing the punitive policy that caused this further disruption, the Senior Executive team is doubling down. QMUL’s Senior Executive Team is misleadingly claiming that ‘all teaching has been made up’. In alleging this, they prevent you from applying for partial refunds of tuition fees. Moreover, they will demand other staff, likely non-specialist staff, cover the marking of striking staff. In short, the Senior Executive Team is willing to risk your grades at the hands of people who do not know what you have been taught or what the requirements for your assessments are. That is on top of the resignations of the quality controllers who are needed to officially ratify your degrees, the External Examiners. The actions of the Senior Executive Team are directly worsening your learning conditions and the value of your degree.
We, your teachers and professional services staff, want to continue to put the interest of students first, as we have tried to do throughout this dispute. While a volatile situation, we will continue to communicate with you, and outline here:
- What a marking boycott will affect
- How we will continue to support you
- What is in your power (to shape the direction of QMUL)
1. What a marking boycott will affect
A marking boycott delays delivery of grades and graduation:
- Staff participating in the boycott will temporarily not release marks on QMPlus. This is a delay, not a cancellation; marks will be released after the Principal joins negotiations in good faith and makes a reasonable offer.
- Staff will not participate in exam boards. Exam boards are already in jeopardy because the Principal has alienated External Examiners with his punitive stance. Many have resigned in protest. External Examiners are needed to ratify students’ grades (and therefore degrees). The Principal’s actions have undermined quality control and risk devaluing your degree.
- This may delay graduation.
2. How we will continue to support you
- We will support students taking up offers for postgraduate studies. If Admissions Offices require assurance that you have attained the required grade, we can assure them. If funding bodies require proof of final assessments, we can provide proof. 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.
- International students on time-sensitive visas will be fully supported. QMUL Global Engagement Office knows there is a strike and boycott and can communicate that.
- Postgraduate students will have their scheduled vivas.
- This is a marking boycott, not a learning boycott. Teachers can provide informal feedback on penultimate assignments to support students preparing for their final assignment.
3. What is in your power
Students can change the direction of this dispute. The Senior Executive Team are choosing not to limit disruption. You can convince them to listen to the needs of staff and students and ensure QMUL becomes a fairer working and learning environment. There are several related routes you can take:
- Write to QMUL’s governing body, Council, which is the heart of QMUL governance. The Senior Executive Team is responsible to Council. So far Council have not been given an accurate picture by the Senior Executive Team of what is happening at QMUL. So on 31 March, students blockaded the entrance to a Council meeting to tell them the truth about what’s going on and demand a different kind of university. QMUL called the police on them. You can also make sure Council members learn the truth by writing to them. There is a template with their email addresses here. Personalise it! But make sure to demand management retracts their false statements that ‘all teaching has been made up’ – that claim prevents you from applying for a partial refund of tuition fees.
- You should have been able to apply for a partial refund here, but because the Principal claims ‘all teaching has been made up’ (exactly the phrase used in the Office for Students’ November communication), the watchdog does not recognise a disruption in your studies. So you need to (1) demand from Council that Senior Executive Team retract those untruthful statements and (2) alert the Office for Students in a ‘Notification’ that the teaching at Queen Mary has been disrupted.
- 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 QMUL Senior Executive Team has, whatever their claims, allowed disruption to students’ education and is jeopardising students’ graduation. There is more information about OfS’ Notifications and a sample template for you to use here.
- Submit a ‘lobby request’ to QM Students’ Union to lobby the university to bring about an end to the dispute. This should not take more than a couple of minutes. You can write just one sentence asking QMSU to lobby management to talk to union. See here.
Stay in touch
There will be further communications to address the particular situation in your School. We will keep you informed by emails and town halls (meetings you can attend to ask any questions, and raise any concerns). The Principal has created a volatile situation by threatening to deduct 100% of staff pay if we work for the time we are contracted to work for (and not beyond this, as we normally do). 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 QMUL UCU union branch on twitter (@qm_ucu), instagram (@qm_ucu), or via firstname.lastname@example.org. QMUL Community Solidarity has a helpful overview of student support and demands, here. You can find them on twitter (@qmul_cs), instagram (@qmul_cs), and email (email@example.com).
We hope that with your help the Senior Executive Team will de-escalate so that together with management we can improve your learning conditions and our working conditions.
Your teachers and professional services staff