- What is a marking and assessment boycott?
- Should I “mark and park”?
- What about oral and practical examinations?
- What about giving feedback to my students?
- When will the action end? Will I have to mark the assignments eventually?
- Should I declare my participation in the marking boycott?
- I am a migrant member of UCU, what do I need to know about participating in the MAB?
- When might my pay get docked for this industrial action?
- What financial support is available to members participating in industrial action?
- What is the wage sharing scheme?
- I have another question – who can I ask?
What is a marking and assessment boycott?
UCU branches across the UK are currently in a national Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB), a form of action short of a strike (ASOS).
This means that you should refuse to carry out any duties relating to marking and assessment. It is particularly important that you do not upload any grades to QMPlus or commit them to writing on any university system. However, you should expect and offer to carry on with your other duties as normal.
Senior management will likely deem such action short of a strike to be “partial performance”. Management’s official position remains that it does not accept partial performance; management has therefore reserved the right to deduct 100% of your pay on any day where you are participating in action short of a strike. This is legally dubious and logistically difficult for management to implement.
In a development since last year, however, management has promised to notify staff in advance before any deductions.The branch will issue further guidance on how to respond to this as soon as any such notifications are made.
If you are not scheduled or asked to carry out any duties relating to marking and assessment, you should work as normal during the period of ASOS. However, if you are subsequently asked to carry out such duties, you should refuse to do so. No colleague should under any circumstances mark work that was previously assigned to another colleague who is participating in the boycott. This undermines the marking boycott, the sacrifices of your colleagues, and academic standards.
If you are not supposed to be marking and are working normally during the period of ASOS, you should participate in the wage sharing scheme (see below).
Should I “mark and park”?
Legally, student work to be assessed belongs to the university, which is entitled to demand at any time that you return it. For this reason you should not mark or comment on any assessments, even if you do not intend to return the marks or feedback.
What about oral and practical examinations?
To prevent disruption to students, you can attend and invigilate oral and practical examinations as normal. However, you should not record or submit any written feedback or numerical marks, or participate in any moderation procedure.
All summative marking and assessment, at all levels, are covered in the boycott. This includes all taught postgraduate summative assessment; PhD final vivas and MPhil to PhD progression/confirmation vivas/assessments. It applies to all forms of higher education and professional training: full-time, part-time, or distance learning.
What about giving feedback to my students?
The marking and assessment boycott does not prevent staff from giving informal oral or written feedback to students on their work at their discretion. However, you should not upload grades to QMPlus or commit numerical grades to writing on any university system.
You can continue to support students in making applications for jobs and further study, including by providing references which include predicted grades.
When will the action end? Will I have to mark the assignments eventually?
This is impossible to know in advance with certainty, and will depend on the outcome of any negotiations with management. The action may be short if quick gains are made, but a long period of industrial action may also be necessary.
Whether marking will still need to be completed after the industrial action is over will depend on how long the action lasts and what, if any, mitigations the university puts in place. If marking still needs to be carried out after the action ends, it will have to be completed in a reasonable and safe time frame. This could lead to marking delays into the summer period.
Should I declare my participation in the marking boycott?
You are under no obligation to declare your intention to participate in industrial action in advance. If you are approached by management, please contact the branch for advice on how to reply.
I am a migrant member of UCU, what do I need to know about participating in the MAB?
The guidance here is not specific legal advice and may be different depending on your visa type, whether or not you have dependents, if they work, if you are about to apply for a visa/extension/ILR. The guidance below is a work in progress and the UCU migrant members committee continues to consult with immigration lawyers on how best to navigate IA in relation to immigration law.
QMUCU fully supports all of us fighting and surviving the UK hostile immigration system. If it does not feel safe to participate in the MAB there are many other ways to support the action. We have a separate page for migrant workers and industrial action more generally.
If you do participate please read the UCU guidance here, some of which is also below:
- Making sure you do not have unexplained absences: Migrant members are entitled to participate in IA but must notify the employer they are doing so. If participating in MAB, you should inform your line manager (contact your local rep for advice) about participation from the date when assignments are due for your marking (not from date of submission of marks).
- Salary threshold: One of the main concerns for migrant members while participating in MAB is going below the salary threshold. Although this may not affect union members themselves on Work/Tier 2 visas, it may affect dependents and people supporting children, as they will have to show proof of income supporting family. Salary threshold does not apply in the case of Tier 1/ Global Talent visas.
- PGR students:The guidance for Tier 4 / Student sponsors makes it clear that absences due to industrial action do NOT count towards the 10 consecutive absences that students are allowed to have before they are reported. But, during a MAB PGR students might find their progression and graduation are impacted. Some student visas and scholarships will depend on annual reporting of academic progress. Please check on the specifics of your visa and be in touch with your supervisors and local rep.
We recommend all members read the detailed UCU guidance on migrant visas and MAB.. For migrant members who feel that their visa applications are being impacted because of participation in legal strike action, UCU offers legal advice. UCU can also provide letters of dates of participation in strike action for a given period.
When might my pay get docked for this industrial action?
At present, there is no definite timetable for potential pay deductions. Senior management has promised to notify staff in advance before any deductions are made; we will respond to any such notification once it is issued.
What financial support is available to members participating in industrial action?
There are funds available to provide strike pay for members who have wages deducted for taking industrial action. There are two sources of funds:
- UCU Fighting Fund – This is a national fund which any member in good standing can apply to.
- QMUCU local strike fund – This is a fund established from local branch reserves to supplement the national fund.
QMUCU recognises some members will need to draw on the strike fund more than others and to that end will endeavour to support members in excess of the daily rate and according to need, including claiming up to the full amount deducted in combination with the national fund.
The local fund will be further enlarged through the launch of a wage sharing scheme to assist members taking the action. For more details on strike funds or to donate, see the strike fund page on our website.
What is the wage sharing scheme?
Taking prolonged industrial action can be costly for those who participate. Queen Mary UCU has raised considerable strike fund reserves, but to keep them sustainable in a long strike it will be necessary to raise funds from members who are not directly suffering pay deductions. This is called wage sharing. It allows members who are not directly involved in industrial action to make a significant contribution towards the success of the action.
Those who are not directly participating in the industrial action (because they are not marking) should set aside a proportion of their salary depending on their income level (see suggested contributions below). The branch will establish a form for making pledges to the wage sharing scheme. If pay deductions are implemented, the branch will call upon members who pledged to donate this sum to the strike fund. The branch will then redistribute this to members taking part in the action who suffer any pay deductions.
No one in financial distress should make a donation to the strike fund.
Queen Mary UCU recommends the following contribution levels:
Those earning under £30,000 p.a. should pledge one day’s salary per week and donate this to the strike fund if called on to do so by the branch.
Those earning over £30,000 p.a. should pledge half their salary and donate this to the strike fund if called on to do so by the branch.
I have another question – who can I ask?
You can consult the national FAQs or, as always, are welcome to contact QMUCU directly.