By Milan Perera, Deputy Editor
In the latest update of the ongoing Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB), University and College Union (UCU) Bristol Branch has unveiled a ‘Wall of Shame’ critiquing the University’s handling of the marking boycott and the temporary academic regulations introduced for summer 2023.
This criticism comes two weeks after (June 28) UCU Bristol vowed to expose ‘every outrage’ of the contingency measures unless the current marking boycott is resolved promptly.
UCU Bristol Branch launched its ‘Wall of Shame’ around midday on Wednesday, July 12. It features a catalogue of what they call, ‘acts of academic vandalism’ resulting from the temporary academic regulations.
The ‘Wall of Shame’ features anonymous posts from several departments at the University of Bristol. Posts include hurried feedback given by unqualified markers, unclassified paper degrees, ‘made-up’ marks and skewed marking.
One such post claimed that the entire third year-module of an unnamed department was marked by an honorary visiting academic who never taught at the University of Bristol which did not conform to Faculty baselines. Another post indicated that an MSc programme was moderated by PhD students and staff with no subject knowledge.
Some other posts cited the lack of external scrutiny at the exam board.
In an open letter sent to Professor Evelyn Welch, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Bristol on June 28, UCU Bristol said:
‘But rest assured that unless this dispute is settled shortly, unless our Bristol temporary academic regulations are revoked, and unless the University mitigates its approach to punitive pay docking, our branch will not flinch from publicising every ‘outrage’, every exam board cancelled at the last minute, every parent exam board’s oligarchic overruling of the board below,...every skewing of a final classification because of the non-counting of marks affected by industrial action, every degree that is not a degree.’
The open letter further urged the University to follow the example of Birkbeck, Cambridge, Queens University Belfast, Glasgow Caledonian, Sussex, York, and Exeter, in a bid to call for new negotiations with the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) to find a long-term solution.
The Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB) began on April 20, 2023 and saw UCU members and University of Bristol staff not undertaking any marking and assessment duties until the University meets the demands of UCU on pay, pensions and workload.
To mitigate the impact of MAB for summer graduation 2023, temporary academic regulations came into force on May 11 under Ordinance 9, point 2.2. UCU Bristol Branch expressed its displeasure at the adoption of temporary academic regulations citing ‘academic vandalism’. A subsequent Extraordinary Senate meeting held on June 19 upheld the temporary academic regulations for summer 2023.
In a bid to resolve the MAB, University of Bristol Senior management made an offer to UCU Bristol Branch that included capping the number of days that the University withholds pay for staff who have not yet provided marks to ten days at 50 per cent from April 20 to June 19.
Speaking to Epigram, Dr. Jamie Melrose, President of UCU Bristol Branch said:
'As striking University union members, we cannot sit back and see our work being done by unqualified markers, academic standards not being upheld, marks askew, degrees going unclassified. This is not only basic trade unionism -- how can striking workers sit by and watch what is essentially strike-breaking? --, but it is also a matter of protecting academic standards that markers and teachers, if working, would have upheld.
'As ever, instead of University management spending their time mitigating our strike action by rewriting the rules to students' disadvantage, they should be working to settle this dispute as soon as possible.'
Regarding this latest development, a spokesperson for the University of Bristol said: ‘We take this course of action by Bristol UCU extremely seriously. We are disappointed they have behaved in such a way to cause further distress to our students and hamper local negotiations, which are due to continue today. We will be investigating whether there has been any breach of our Information Handing, Social Media and HR policies.
‘Throughout the marking and assessment boycott, our quality assurance processes have been transparent and balanced. They have been debated and validated by our highest academic body, Senate, and applied with rigour to ensure that we only classify degrees and make awards where there is sufficient evidence of student achievement to do so.’
Have you been affected by the University’s handling of the Marking and Assessment Boycott? If so, let us know!