Warning over degree results delay

STUDENTS at Essex University will face a tougher battle to secure top jobs if lecturers press ahead with plans to boycott marking their work, a union has warned.

By Annie Davidson

STUDENTS at Essex University will face a tougher battle to secure top jobs if lecturers press ahead with plans to boycott marking their work, a union has warned.

The Students' Union at the Wivenhoe-based university said the action could cause “undue stress” to its members during a crucial time of the academic year.

Its comments came after a union representing higher education workers vowed to continue with industrial action.

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This could reach “crisis point” with students' dissertations going unmarked, which could lead to degree classifications being postponed.

Richard Brabner, vice president student development from the university's Students' Union, said: “This action could create undue stress during this crucial time of the year, and could leave our members at a disadvantage in the job market if degree classifications are postponed.

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“Therefore, we cannot support any action that could potentially lead to unmarked work, delayed degrees and the cancellation of graduation.”

However, he said the union, which currently has no official policy on the industrial action taken by teaching staff, believed that academics were underpaid.

“Increasing their pay can only improve education for our members in the long term,” he said. “Nevertheless, as a Students' Union, our primary responsibility is to our members.”

The dispute is over claims that lecturers' pay increases have been too low over the last 20 years.

Staff across the country are taking part in the action and are asking for a 20% pay increase spread out over three years.

Some staff at Essex University will continue boycotting student assessment and staff appraisals when the term begins again next week.

Dr Steve Sangwine, vice president of the Essex local Association of University Teachers (AUT) said talks had been due to take place between the unions involved and the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA).

However, the talks have been postponed until the unions call off the boycotting.

Dr Sangwine said the action would not be called off and added: “The students come back next week and they are going to have exams coming up and dissertations to submit and these are all going to be subject to the boycott of assessment.”

He said the situation could reach crisis point if an agreement was not reached.

“If you have students whose exam papers have not been marked because a couple of members of staff are in the boycott, then you cannot come up with their final degree result without all their results,” he said.

“Someone else has then got to do that marking and often at that level you have got to find someone with the expertise to mark the material easily.

“I do know of some departments where the boycott is pretty solid.”

Jenny Grinter, head of public relations at Essex University, said: “There appears to have been fairly limited impact so far but we will continue monitoring the situation and do everything possible to minimise the impact at Essex.”


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