By Lauren Sanderson, English and Philosophy Graduate
Six months ago, as I scrolled the UCU website and first encountered the alien term ‘Marking and Assessment Boycott’, the prospect that my cohort might depart Bristol without a semester’s worth of marks, a dissertation grade, or, in the worst-case scenario, a degree, seemed unfathomable.
And yet, on the morning of my marks release date, I opened my inbox to be greeted not by a completed transcript, but by a feeble apology from Vice Chancellor Evelyn Welch, alongside hundreds of panicked messages from fellow finalists now left in limbo, facing the prospect of delayed graduation. It seems that the lose-lose UCU versus University of Bristol management battle has, ironically, lost sight of the biggest losers of all: the students.
Bristol has shown contempt for its students as well as for its staff. We expected the latter. The extent to which it has been unashamed to show the former has been - to put it mildly - enlightening.— Noreen Masud (@NoreenMasud) July 11, 2023
I have paid £27,750 for a transcript scattered with zeros, rushed feedback by markers unfamiliar with my research, and a ‘confirmed’ degree classification based on only a portion of my marks. Others have received outcomes determined without consideration of their dissertation grades, which haven't even been assessed yet.
And I’m one of the lucky ones.
On the morning they were supposed to receive their degree classifications, hundreds of my fellow finalists were instead notified that they might lose their places on postgraduate courses, graduate jobs and, in the case of international students, their place in the UK.
'One of the most humiliating days in University of Bristol history'
Students who were, through no fault of their own, unable to complete their assessments are no longer able to resubmit during the summer resubmission period, and have now been notified that they must complete an additional academic year in order to make up the marks they cannot be awarded due to marking delays.
The way that the Uni of Bristol has dealt with students with extenuating circumstances in the middle of the marking boycott has been absolutely abhorrent! I had to practically chase them up for them to notify me of my EC outcome. Even so their tone in the…— Saiba Haque (@saiba_haque) July 19, 2023
Ironically, what one finalist labeled as 'one of the most humiliating days in the University of Bristol's history' occurred a mere two weeks after the University's recognition as the 55th best university in the world.
With so-called 'goodwill' payments starting at around £450 — insulting at best, ethically questionable at worst, and, not to mention, £27,250 short of what we are rightfully owed — the UCU estimates that the University is paying out at least £245,700 in MAB-related compensations. This sum, if directed towards resolving the UCU staff pay dispute, could have been the turning point in their battle for student support. It leaves one wondering why the University chose not to use this amount for that purpose.
2/2 Offered £500 compensation??? It doesn’t even touch the sides. Bitter disappointment/hotels/flights….. etc etc. This is an outrage for all students and parents. One which will affect them for the rest of their lives. Fix this @BristolUni— midge ure💙 (@midgeure1) July 11, 2023
One of the biggest failures of the University's leadership has been, by far, their failure to communicate with students. Regardless of your stance on the ongoing conflict, management's lack of honesty and clarity in withholding information about the decision to delay graduation for finalists is both inexcusable and, frankly, baffling. Those who made panicked attempts to contact administration were met with radio silence on the University phone line.
'For a University supposedly so concerned with its students' mental well-being, this is a monumental oversight'
To make matters worse, the date that finalists with 'insufficient' marks will be notified about their eligibility to graduate in the summer ceremonies is scheduled for after the deadline for ordering graduation gowns — forcing them to take the risk of attending their ceremonies without gowns.
Finalists have been treated like sacrificial cash cows. To quote Doja Cat, 'moo.'
Results day at @BristolUni and no one I know has actually received any results, instead uni are handing out provisional awards and 'insufficient evidence' emails to those of us whose work has not been marked, threatening that some w unmarked work won't be able to graduate. 1/n pic.twitter.com/Uc9Pox1Q86— Lois Ryan (@loishollyy) July 11, 2023
And, as is often the case, marginalised students will take the biggest blow. The families of those from lower socio-economic backgrounds risk losing hundreds, even thousands, of pounds spent on accommodation and transportation — in some cases, international flights — to graduation ceremonies.
International students who had intended to apply for the Graduate visa, and have completed the academic requirements of their degree, are still unable to follow the usual application process as their degree approval will be delayed beyond their visa expiry date, owing to the MAB. Those who are sponsored by their governments may fall foul of their requirements and be declared ineligible for stipends.
I believe I speak for many when I say that the 2023 'graduating' cohort feels, above all, dehumanised. Our career prospects, financial security and certainty of our futures have been disregarded in the name of profit. For a University supposedly so concerned with its students' mental well-being, this is a monumental oversight. It is a disheartening, but enlightening, reality that we are being sacrificed on the altar of greed.
‘I don’t know how they can treat individuals like this’ | Students express fury at delays to degree results
I will no longer be graduating alongside some of my best friends: the people who have been by my side through every lockdown, Zoom lecture, ASS all-nighter and assessment boycott throughout the gruelling last three years. Raise a toast to that, University of Bristol.
Featured Image: Unsplash / Tim Gouw
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