UCU Marking Boycott

A marking boycott by UCU members starts today, Thursday 6th November 2014.

The action which will involve UCU (University and College Union) members at the University of Glasgow, and 69 other UK Universities, is due to be carried out until further notice. Representatives from the UCU are due to meet with university employers to negotiate an alternative on 7 November.

What is a marking boycott?

It means that any work done by students at all levels (UG to PGR) will not be sent or given formal marks, this includes coursework, examinations and other formal assessments. The purpose of this marking boycott is to put pressure on Universities management.

Why are UCU unhappy?

This issue concerns the USS (Universities Superannuation Scheme). It is a national dispute in relation to pension scheme for Higher Education employees. For the USS both employers and employees make contributions to the scheme, 16% and 6.5%-7.5% respectively. It gives employees a pension based on the wage of individuals.

Right now the scheme is in deficit due to bad investments and longer life expectancy. Universities are of the view that this needs to be addressed and have therefore put together proposals that they believe will ease the potential financial burden.

The proposed changes are:

  • End final salary arrangements. Employees would instead get a pension based on their average career earnings up to a threshold of £50000
  • Employers will increase their contribution from 18% to 19%
  • Those earning more than £50000, employers will contribute 12% towards a defined contribution scheme. This means the about members receive will depend on the performance of investments. This will affect one third of members.
  • Employees will continue to contribute 6.5% of their salary regardless of earnings.

UCU is not happy with these proposals.

How were they able to call a marking boycott?

UCU balloted its members, and of those who voted, 78% voted to support the strike, and of those who supported strikes, 87% were in favour of strike action short of walkouts.

Turnout for the ballot was 45%.

How will this affect me?

This action will affect both staff and students at University of Glasgow. Not all students will be affected by this. It will be individual staff members who decide to take part, which may mean that some students are affected and others won’t be. Depending on how long the negotiations take, graduations and release of marks could be delayed. The dispute is across the country, many other UK students will be equally affected.

Can the university not get other people to mark the work?

The University will not always know straight away which staff members are taking part in the boycott, and finding equally skilled markers elsewhere at short notice is unlikely, who may also be participating in the boycott. The University will try this approach however we are unsure as to how successful it will be.

What will happen to staff who participate? Will they get paid?

It’s not yet clear. Some universities have threatened to not pay staff at all whilst the boycott is in place. University of Glasgow proposes to deduct some pay from staff members involved.

How do I know if I will be affected?

UCU members who are carrying out a marking boycott do not have any obligation to make the University aware of their intentions. We are currently unsure of the impact that this will have on all students. Unfortunately we will only become aware as the boycott progresses. Once marking deadlines are passed the University can request the marks , if they are not returned the lecturer will be considered to be taking part in the boycott. As a student, you are entitled to ask your lecturer if they intend to carry out a boycott.

What if I am a GTA?

GTAs can join UCU too and take part in the boycott. There is a possibility that GTA’s will be asked to mark further work if the University can obtain unmarked work.

We would like to see the employers and UCU resolve this dispute in the best interest of both staff and students. Members of our staff are extremely committed to students and I am sure UCU members will be sensitive to the impact this will have on their students. Students want to see a quick resolution found between UCU members and the University.

If other students want to become involved you can write to The Principal asking him to press their national negotiators to produce a fair proposal for all, quickly.

We are currently waiting for the University to respond to concerns we’ve raised about the impact that this action could have on students who intend to study abroad next year.

Please do keep abreast with the information that is being sent out to you with regards to class or lecture updates.


  1. Ben · 6 November 2014 at 12:26a

    There are errors in the article:

    Employers will *increase their contribution from *19% to *18%

    you are entitled to ask your lecturer if they *intent to carry out a boycott.

    1. Gavin Reynolds · 6 November 2014 at 12:26a

      Ben, thanks for letting us know.

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