28 JUNE 2023 | NEWS

Queen’s University Belfast has become the first institution to end its marking boycott amid nationwide disputes.

Since 20 April, academics at more than 140 universities across the UK have been involved in marking and assessment boycotts (MAB).

Today, QUB has announced an end to the boycott after an agreement has been struck with the University and College Union (UCU).

The two parties said that several weeks of intensive talks had resulted in the settlement and students affected would now receive their classification as “a matter of urgency”.

The agreement includes a cost-of-living supplement equivalent to 2 percent of pay and will apply to all staff except those on the senior salary scheme. It will take effect from 1 September.

Marking will be completed by 7 August, so as to allow exam boards to finalise all results by the end of the summer.

Professor Sir Ian Greer, President and Vice-Chancellor of QUB, told the PA news agency: “Clearly, this has been a very difficult time for our students. We regret the distress caused at what should be a celebratory time, and we hope that this provides assurance that the issue will now be addressed.

“We are disappointed that this could not have been resolved ahead of graduations, during which around 750 students will receive their degrees without classifications, but we are committed to providing an additional full graduation ceremony for them and further details will be provided in the near future.

“We are working in challenging times, with funding for universities and colleges slashed by over 40 percent since 2011, and we are anticipating cuts this year of around £11 million, and it is the funding of universities that is at the heart of this dispute.

“The Northern Ireland funding model is not sustainable. I am keen to secure a model that will allow the sector to improve staff conditions and which is also fair to students, but that can’t be resolved quickly”, he continued.

“In the meantime, this is a UK-wide dispute and while we have resolved it as far as we can locally, we fully support our colleagues’ right to take industrial action and I am calling on renewed focus to reach an overarching agreement across the board.”

The lecturers’ strikes means thousands of students graduating this year will leave university without final grades – a situation one student told Wolves was “chaotic”.

Claire Hanna, MP for Belfast South, welcomed the agreement, praising the university and the UCU for “getting round the table”.

Sean O’Connell of the UCU said: “Our members are fully aware of and deeply regret the impact the recent action has had on our students and we are pleased that we have reached an agreement to enable them to receive their exam results.

“This dispute is not just about pay and we are pleased that the university has also reached agreement with us on making progress in relation to casualisation, stress-related work pressures and other issues that will now also be addressed.

“We welcome the fact that, locally, Queen’s had recognised the challenges that we have been raising and we now call on University and Colleges Employers Association to follow the lead and get back around the table to resolve the national dispute.”

The UCU’s marking and assessment boycott is a nationally developing story and Wolves will continue to bring you the developments as they come.

William Hallowell
William Hallowell is a Journalism graduate and freelance reporter.


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