Precious Adesina reports on the recently suspended marking boycott
On 6th November 2014 to the 20th November 2014, the trade union for academic staff, the Univeristy and College Union (UCU), held a marking and setting boycott to address the new changes to their pension. This boycott affected 69 UK universities, including UCL.
One of the departments greatly affected by the boycott was the UCL History of Art Department with many lecturers being a part of UCL UCU, the local chapter of the union that represents lecturers at UCL, who are participants in industrial actions called by UCU. This has resulted in BA and MA students not having their essays marked and returned to them even though they were obliged to keep submitting work.
The row centred on a proposal that would see many lecturers having their pensions cut by a significant amount. Lecturers have stated that the only thing that kept them content about the fact they are paid significantly less than their academic equals was the prospect of retiring with a modest pension, which has now been taken away from them.
Many of the lecturers involved in the boycott expressed their deepest sympathies towards their students and have acknowledged how this affects the rate that they improve, especially first years who have only just submitted their first set of essays.
A second year History of Art student and mentor to the first year students stated that “As a mentor I was worried for the first year students at the prospect of having to hand in more essays without having feedback from their first. I feel every student deserves feedback before submitting more work, considering how much we pay and with so little contact hours. However, the staff have been very open and considerate about the situation throughout.”
The boycott did not only affect lecturers and students alone, but also Postgraduate Teaching Assistants. Andrew Witt, a Postgraduate teaching assistant who is a participant of the union stated that “The current marking boycott is over pensions, but for Postgraduate Teaching Assistants the struggle goes deeper. The struggle is over the quality of education full-stop. UCL PGTAs are demanding free education: no cuts, no fees, no debt.”
The boycott has been suspended until at least 15th January 2015 with the hope that a final statement of the issue will have been agreed.
Featured image credit: Niklas Bildhauer