Industrial Action (Action Short of Strike Action) – Marking and Assessment Boycott
Members of the University and College Union (UCU) have voted in favour of Action Short of Strike Action including a marking and assessment boycott commencing from 20 April.
Notification of participation in the marking and assessment boycott
Please use the form below to provide notification that you are or have participated in the marking and assessment boycott.
Notification of Participation in Marking and Assessment Boycott April 2023
Please use the form below to provide notification that you are no longer participating in the marking and assessment boycott.
Notification of Ending Participation in Marking and Assessment Boycott April 2023
Marking and Assessment Boycott - Frequently Asked Questions
- What is a marking and assessment boycott?
UCU has defined their marking and assessment boycott as covering all marking and assessment processes that contribute to summative assessment decisions for students/learners, whether final (i.e., graduation/completion) or interim (i.e., progression decisions).
UCU are calling on their members to cease undertaking all summative marking and associated assessment activities/duties once the boycott is live from Thursday 20 April 2023.
- How long will the marking and assessment boycott continue?
UCU has called on their members to participate from 20 April 2023 and have stated that it will carry on until the disputes are settled, or UCU calls the boycott off, or the end of the current industrial action mandate (October 2023).
- What type of work is covered by the boycott?
UCU has defined the marking and assessment boycott as covering all marking and assessment processes that contribute to summative assessment decisions for students/learners, whether final (i.e., graduation/completion) or interim (i.e., progression decisions).
The boycott covers all summative marking and assessment, whether expressed numerically or in any other form--in writing, via an online form, or verbally, of all assessed work e.g., coursework and examination marking, assessment of fieldwork, exhibits, practical work, scientific experiments, presentations, posters etc.
The boycott also covers assessment-related work e.g., exam invigilation; processing of marks; submission of completed marking through any university administrative procedure; assessment-related administration such as distribution of scripts/papers to be marked, organisation of/preparation for exam/assessment boards/meetings; attendance at exam boards/meetings.
- What academic programmes or stages are covered by the boycott?
UCU has defined this as all summative marking and assessment, at all levels, - undergraduate, sub-degree, and postgraduate - so it will include 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.
The assessment boycott is not restricted to final examinations or assessments which contribute to the award or classification of a degree, certificate, diploma or any other academic or professional qualification, but includes any form of in-course continuous assessment which contributes to decisions about the suitability of students to continue/progress with their studies (e.g. at the end of the first or second year of a three-year degree course) or to undertake particular options/modules (e.g. where they have pre-requisites).
The boycott will include traditional essay marking, but also any student work such as the assessment of projects and dissertations, laboratory and other practical assessment, performance (e.g., in music or drama), degree shows (e.g., in art, design, and fashion), and supervised practice (e.g., in teacher training, medicine, dentistry). Examination of dissertations and theses at postgraduate level, as well as vivas, are also included in the action.
- Do staff have to advise their Head of School that they are participating in the marking and assessment boycott?
Yes, staff are obliged to confirm, when asked, whether they are or have been participating in the marking and assessment boycott. Heads of School will email staff to ask if they are participating/have participated and to complete a form if so. Heads of School will also periodically send follow up emails to ask staff to confirm if they are participating/have participated in the boycott.
Staff may be asked to evidence that they have been working normally and fulfilling all marking and assessment duties.
It is important that staff respond honestly when they are asked if they are participating in the marking and assessment boycott. Failure to do so may be dealt with in accordance with the University’s Disciplinary Procedure.
- Do staff have to notify their Head of School that they will not be participating in the marking and assessment boycott?
No, staff only have to confirm if they are participating in the boycott.
- Will pay be deducted if staff take part in the marking and assessment boycott?
Yes, the University will be making deductions from pay for those who participate in the marking and assessment boycott as in such circumstances staff will be in breach of contract.
Information for staff on Temporary Services and Guaranteed Minimum Hours Contracts who participate in the boycott can be fouind here.
- Will staff on Temporary Services or Guaranteed Minimum Hours contracts have their pay withheld if participating in the boycott?
The document found here outlines arrangements pertaining to withholding pay of those members of staff on casual contracts (Temporary Services and Guaranteed Minimum Hours) participating in the Marking and Assessment Boycott.
The key aim is to ensure parity with staff on other types of contract (open ended, fixed term, funding/project limited) participating in the boycott.
- How will the University determine when to start deducting my pay if staff participate in the marking and assessment boycott?
Staff will be asked to confirm if they are participating/have participated in the marking and assessment boycott. It will be assumed that staff have commenced participation from 20 April 2023 unless they indicate on the form another date (which will be decided by the Head of School).
However, from the point at which staff are required to undertake marking/or assessment work a number of opportunities will be provided for them to undertake the marking and assessment to remove the impact on students. Therefore, the University will carefully consider at what stage salary deductions will be applied.
If staff do not confirm that they have participated, once it is clear that they are not intending to submit their marking/assessments by the appropriate deadline (i.e., this date passes and they have not submitted marking/assessment outcomes), pay will be deducted based on 50% deduction rate and will be backdated to the commencement of the marking/assessment window.
Assessment submission deadlines will be closely monitored and where a member of staff has not returned their marking it will be assumed that they are participating in the boycott unless another valid reason is given. Where this reason relates to sickness staff should follow the sickness absence reporting procedure as normal.
- What calculation will be used to determine pay deductions?
Calculations are based on 1/365ths for each day, therefore for ASOS where a 50% pay deduction is being made this will be 50% of 1/365ths for each day.
- Is there an example of how pay withholding will be applied?
The example below is provided for illustrative purposes only
A member of staff receives marking on 20 April 2023. They are given notice that the marking must be completed at the latest by 20 May 2023. The work is not marked by that date and alternative arrangements for the marking must then be made as necessary/possible.
50% salary would be withheld from the staff member for the number of days that marking was available to them and they did not mark it (the number of working days between 20 April and 20 May).
Further participation in the marking and assessment boycott, including for example non-participation in exam boards or not marking work that becomes available at a later point will result in 50% of salary withheld on the applicable days, to be determined on the same basis as above (although the University reserves the right to withhold 100% pay for the entire period of the continuous marking and assessment boycott).
- What if staff do not intend to participate in the marking and assessment boycott but there will be a delay in submitting marking due to other reasons?
Staff should discuss this as normal with their Head of School/ALM as soon as possible in order that suitable arrangements can be made and to ensure that they are not recorded as participating in the boycott resulting in pay being deducted.
- How long will pay deductions continue for relating to the marking and assessment boycott?
Pay deductions will continue for staff participating in the boycott until:
- they confirm they are resuming full duties including assessment/marking (by completing the notification form), or;
- the end of the boycott is announced by UCU or the mandate period ends (October 2023), or;
- the period during which staff would have been expected to undertake marking and assessment has passed, determined by consideration of whether marking/assessment activities are ongoing and the member of staff has confirmed they are resuming normal duties including marking and assessment.
- How do staff who have been participating in the boycott confirm that they are no longer doing so?
Staff should immediately complete the form to confirm they are no longer participating in the boycott and that they have resumed full duties including marking and assessment. Subject to confirmation with the Head of School, normal pay will resume from the date on the form.
- Will pay be withheld on days that are non-working days?
No, pay will only be withheld for days that staff are due to be working. This means that pay will not be deducted on days where annual leave has been booked. Staff should ensure that they seek approval for annual leave in the normal manner.
- Will staff be penalised in any way (including, but not limited to, being treated as if they were participating in the boycott) for declining offers of extra marking made to them as backup plans?
No, staff will not be penalised for declining offers of marking.
- Will hourly paid staff suffer 'double jeopardy' if they participate in the boycott, i.e. not being able to claim pay for marking but also losing 50% of any other pay on top of that?
Consideration is being given to arrangements pertaining to staff on Temporary Services or Guaranteed Minimum Hours contracts and a further update will be provided in due course.
- If staff participate in the boycott and lose pay accordingly, but the boycott is then resolved and those staff complete the marking they would normally have done earlier in the half-session, will those staff still lose pay, or will it be returned to them?
As confirmed in the communication to staff, where staff confirm they have/are participating in the boycott, the University will provide further opportunities for staff to return marking/assessment by adjusting deadlines. However, if staff choose to continue to participate in the boycott and do not return marking/assessment by the final deadline given, then a decision regarding pay deductions will be made (please refer to the separate FAQ regarding this). Where pay deductions are made, there will be no reinstatement of pay if staff subsequently undertake marking and assessment work.
- What is the University’s approach to pay deductions for staff who participate in the marking and assessment boycott?
The University will withhold pay based on 50% of pay, reserving the right to withhold 100% of pay for those participating in the boycott where they have provided notification that they are participating or, for those who do not provide notification as required, it becomes apparent that they are participating in the boycott.
The University will engage with staff participating in the boycott, either because they have notified the University of their participation, or because it is clear that the expected marking and assessment has not been carried out. Staff will be provided with every opportunity to complete their marking and assessment. Provided that the marking and assessment is carried out in time for students to graduate or continue their studies, no salary deduction will be made. However, if at the final deadline (to be determined by the University), staff decide to continue participating in the boycott and not complete/submit the marking/assessment, then at this point pay deductions will take effect, based on 50% of salary and backdated to the point at which the marking and assessment was available to the staff member to carry out. This final deadline date will be confirmed by the Head of School to each member of staff participating in the boycott individually.
50% of pay will be withheld on a continuous basis (as the action short of strike action notified by UCU is on a continuous basis) and this will continue until either:
- staff confirm they are no longer participating in the boycott (by completing the form and sending this to their Head of School and copying to HR), and carrying out all marking and assessment expected in a timely fashion, i.e., by the deadlines that have been specified, or;
- UCU nationally or locally call the boycott off, or;
- the period for assessment/marking has passed.
- Is the rate of pay being withheld (50%) linked to a judgment about the level of marking and assessment/work activities being undertaken by staff?
No withholding pay based on 50% does not and is not intended to reflect balance of workload but, rather, is deemed by the University to be an appropriate level of pay deduction (while also retaining the right to deduct up to 100% of pay), given the severity of the impact of the boycott on students. To clarify, and as stated in the first communication to staff, staff who participate in the boycott but undertake other activities do so on a voluntary basis.
- Do staff have to complete the notification of participation form for specific days of the week that they are undertaking marking and assessment activities?
No, as participation in the boycott is deemed to be continuous after notification, this means that staff do not need to notify the University of specific days they are or are not participating in the boycott once their participation commences. Moreover, if a staff member does not notify the University that they are participating when in fact they are doing so, they will be deemed to have been participating from the point at which marking and assessment was available for them to carry out but which they did not carry out.
- What happens if staff do not provide notification of participation in the boycott but it becomes apparent that they are participating as marking/assessment work has not been returned?
It is important that staff respond honestly when they are asked if they are participating in the marking and assessment boycott. Where staff fail to notify the University of their participation, noting the seriousness of this, the Disciplinary Procedure may be initiated.
Where it becomes apparent that staff are participating/have participated their Head of School will discuss with them why they have not responded to requests regarding participation and will consider whether informal or formal action under the University’s Disciplinary Procedure is appropriate.
In this situation, and where possible (i.e., there is time available for marking/assessment to be completed), staff will still be provided with the opportunity to complete their marking and assessment. Provided that the marking and assessment is carried out in time for students to graduate or continue their studies, no salary deduction will be made. However, if the final deadline has passed (to be determined by the University), and staff decide to continue participating in the boycott and not complete/submit the marking/assessment, then at this point pay deductions will take effect, based on 50% of salary and backdated to the point at which the marking and assessment was available to the staff member to carry out. This final deadline date will be confirmed by the Head of School to each member of staff participating in the boycott individually.
- I am a member of Professional Services staff participating in the Marking and Assessment Boycott. Will my pay be withheld for doing so?
If you are a member of Professional Services staff who is participating or have participated in the boycott, please complete the notification form and return this to your line manager, copying in firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible. Written confirmation of the dates staff are considered to have participated in the boycott will be provided by line managers and HR – this will also apply in instances where it becomes apparent that staff are participating in the boycott but have not completed a notification form.
The date from which pay will be withheld in these circumstances will be determined by the line manager and the date pay will be withheld to will be the final deadline given for completing the marking and assessment administrative activities. Arrangements for pay to be withheld will be in line with the arrangements applied for Academic Staff participating in the boycott.
Industrial Action Messages archive
- Marking and Assessment Boycott and graduations (25 May 2023)
- UCU industrial action update (23 May 2023)
- Further update on marking and assessment boycott (18 May 2023)
- Pay dispute and marking and assessment boycott (4 May 2023)
- Reminder: responsibility to notify the University of participation in marking and assessment boycott (24 April 2023)
- UCU Action Short of Strike Action (ASOS) - Marking and Assessment Boycott (19 April 2023)
- Update on national negotiations - pay and the USS pension scheme (11 April 2023)
- Update on pay negotiations (20 February 2023)
- Strike action - February and March (06 February 2023)
- Further update on 2023-2024 pay negotiations (30 January 2023)
- Industrial Action Update (26 January 2023)
- Update on 2023-2024 pay negotiations (17 January 2023)
- Update on national pay negotiations (12 December 2022)
- Reminder of strike action - staff message (22 November 2022)
- Notice of strike action - staff message (9 November 2022)
- Marking and Assessment Boycott and graduations (25 May 2023)
- Marking and assessment boycott: industrial action update (19 April 2023)
- Pause on strikes - classes go ahead (20 February 2023)
- Strike action update (6 February 2023)
- Industrial Action Update (27 January 2023)
- Reminder of strike action - student message (22 November 2022)
- Notice of industrial action - student message (9 November 2022)