As number of Indian, international students rise, marking boycott could have major impact on UK universities

As number of Indian, international students rise, marking boycott could have major impact on UK universities

The marking and assessment boycott could hurt the country’s huge domestic and international student population as the evaluation boycott will include exams or essays conducted in written, oral, and verbal formats.

Abhishek NairUpdated: Saturday, April 29, 2023, 10:12 AM IST
article-image
University staff protest against pay, working conditions | Twitter/@ucuedinburgh

Over 145 universities across the United Kingdom (UK) are set to be affected by the marking and assessment boycott being observed by the University College Union (UCU) after the latter and employers failed to come on the same page in a long-running pay and conditions dispute. 

The marking and assessment boycott could hurt the country’s huge domestic and international student population as the evaluation boycott will include exams or essays conducted in written, oral, and verbal formats.

According to UCU General Secretary Jo Grady, who has been spearheading the movement, the boycott will continue until university employers in the UK offer an improved offer. 

“Ample opportunity has been given for employers to improve their offer in the pay & conditions dispute, but they have refused and now a historic marking and assessment boycott will begin at 145 universities. The staff has been crystal clear that they are worth more than what has been put on the table and now bosses need to wake up and prevent widespread disruption hitting graduations,” said a statement by Grady, who has urged students to contact their vice-chancellors and ask them to ‘get back around the table with a fair offer.’

University association aims to lessen boycott’s impact on students 

The strikes, which represent over 110,000 teaching staff members in the UK, began on February 18, 2018, and are often defined as "something of a milestone" for "impending service sector strikes of the 21st century."

Though the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic forced UCU members to curtail their protests, strikes resumed in the 2022-23 academic year. 

While UCU members have successfully negotiated with employers on a deal to improve retirement benefits in the past few months, stakeholders in the higher education sector believe universities will do everything in their power to not let the assessment boycott over pay conditions impact the future of students. 

“It is disheartening that UCU, through its HEC, continues to try and push its members to disrupt students. The prolonged industrial action has been isolated and low impact, so it’s disappointing that UCU is now attempting a Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB) at this important time for students during the academic year,” asserted Raj Jethwa, Chief Executive, of Universities and College Employers Association (UCEA), which represents universities and higher education associations in national negotiations across the UK.

According to a public statement put out by UCU, several university employers have announced that they will make wage deductions of up to 100% for staff taking part in the assessment boycott, ‘despite staff continuing to teach, lecture, and support students as normal.’ 

But Jethwa has denied such allegations, further putting the onus of disruption in academics on UCU members. 

“HE institutions respect employees’ right to take lawful industrial action and, in turn, UCU needs to respect the employers' right to withhold pay for not fulfilling contracts. Each autonomous HE institution is of course fully focused on managing this period of potential disruption as best they can for their students. We are disappointed that UCU is encouraging its members to target students,” Jethwa added. 

Indian students see real-time effects of strikes on academics

Though a ‘two-week period of calm’ in February 2023 by UCU resulted in classes going back to normal, many Indian students who are part of an ever-growing student cohort choosing the UK for their higher education had expressed concerns regarding their future, as reported by The Free Press Journal. 

“Our professors had refused to take lectures for the missed classes but they continued with Q and A sessions with us. The strikes did impact our lectures as faculty members stopped showing up to take lectures,” an Indian student, who is currently in London but originally from Mumbai, told the FPJ. 

Another student, Aditya Jain, from De Montfort University, stated, “The boycotts can impact our assessment deadlines and hamper our grades but it also makes sense for the teachers to fight for their rights if they aren’t getting paid enough.”

Prolonged action could delay graduations, says university official 

With on-time submissions and lectures still being the norm for students, who are yet to see any significant impact of the boycott yet, officials believe there will be cause for worry if the disruption continues. 

“I sense that so far students have faced irritation rather than a major disruption to their studies but there is growing anxiety that if it continues for longer then potentially graduations could be delayed, which would be unprecedented in the UK and something that universities will do everything to avoid,” stated Sam Burney, Recruitment Specialist and Regional Manager, India, at Falmouth University. 

According to Burney, universities were better prepared during the majority of the strikes which left little to no repercussions on the students. 

“The dates of strike days were announced in advance and were spread out, which gave universities the chance to reschedule many lectures and other sessions to minimise disruption,” he added. 

Uni staff key during students' graduation period

With the UK's huge international student population also being impacted by the strikes, experts believe they are the ones who will need their faculty members the most during graduation period. 

“Strikes like these can always disrupt student experience. It is important for staff to stand up for their rights but we just feel that students and particularly international students get caught up  in the midst of this. The timing is critical as most intl' students will be graduating or looking to finalise jobs - they need their uni staff the most at this time. The UK education must act in urgency and resolve this for all stakeholders to protect the global reputation,” stated Tripti Maheshwari,  the Co-founder, and Director of Student Circus, UK, a platform which helps international students with their career needs. `

RECENT STORIES

BASIC 2024: Vivekanand Business School Hosts International Conference On Data Analytics

BASIC 2024: Vivekanand Business School Hosts International Conference On Data Analytics

NTA To Launch CUET-UG 2024 Online Application Portal Today, Check How To Apply

NTA To Launch CUET-UG 2024 Online Application Portal Today, Check How To Apply

TSPSC Group 1 Prelims 2024 Exam Date Announced

TSPSC Group 1 Prelims 2024 Exam Date Announced

APPSC Group 2 Prelims 2023 Answer Key Released; Objection Window Open

APPSC Group 2 Prelims 2023 Answer Key Released; Objection Window Open

Home Minister Amit Shah Praises PM Modi's Efforts To Promote Indian Languages And Education

Home Minister Amit Shah Praises PM Modi's Efforts To Promote Indian Languages And Education