Assessment and Marking Boycott

What type of work is covered?

The boycott covers the marking of any and all assessed work e.g. coursework and exam marking; assessment of field work, exhibits, practical work, scientific experiments etc; invigilation of exams – all and any summative assessment.

Assessment related work e.g. processing of marks; submission of completed marking through any University administrative procedures; preparation for exam/assessment boards/meetings; attendance at exam boards/meetings. These latter activities will involve academic-related and professional services (ARPS) UCU members as well as academic staff.

What academic programmes are covered?

All marking and assessment is covered both Undergraduate and Postgraduate – all taught postgraduate summative assessment; PhD final vivas and MPhil to Phd progression / confirmation vivas /assessments.

The assessment boycott is not restricted to final examinations, but includes any form of in-course continuous assessment. It will include traditional essay marking, but also assessment of any student work falling within the formal assessment defined above, including, for example, the assessment of projects and dissertations, laboratory and other practical work, performance (eg in music or drama) and supervised practice (eg in teacher education). Examination of dissertations and theses at postgraduate level, as well as vivas, are included in the action.

How to distinguishing between teaching and assessment

Members are asked to make a distinction between teaching (tutorial or practical) which is not subject to – or part of – any assessment boycott on the one hand and the act of assessment itself. For example,

  • courses should be taught, including
  • student attendance noted
  • coursework, where already set, collected in.

But members should not then:

  • set examinations
  • invigilate examinations
  • mark papers, essays or projects
  • provide informal guidance to students with regard to their mark, grade or assessed progress
  • process marks – including those which emanate from prior to the beginning of the assessment boycott
  • attend or participate in any other way examiners’ meetings.

However, if you have already entered into a contract for external examining at an institution other than the institution which is your main employer (the institution by which you are UCU member), you should carry out your obligations under this contract.

How do I declare participation?

HR will ask you to fill in a form in order to declare participation in the A+MB. It is important to provide starting date and finish date for the action. You do not have to declare in advance, only at the point when you are starting the boycott.

You can declare different activities under the boycott on separate forms e.g., declare for marking scripts from date x to day y, and later declare a boycott of an award board for the day of the board with a separate form.

How will pay deductions be calculated?

You start declaring the boycott from the date that you normally start engaging with the assessment/marking task e.g., marking scripts. This will be the first day of salary deduction at 30%. Deductions will then be calculated until the marking or assessment is no long required i.e., until the deadline before an assessment board meeting. You ‘undeclare’ the boycott action by giving that date as the end date on the form.

For boards it is the day of the board only. The start and end date is the same date.

Deductions will be taken as soon as the forms are being processed by payroll.

It is important to remember that this also means that for the days where a 30% deduction applies, you are only expected to work 70% i.e., if the assessment/marking activity takes less than 30% of your time, you can drop another activity in your workload. You are not expected to work beyond 70%.

We are aware that not all members can participate in the A+MB, and it difficult for us to ask that some members take more action than others but we really need you to. If you are taking part in A+MB please do not hesitate to apply our local hardship fund for financial support. That is what it is for, and we will be twinning with other branches who don’t have a mandate for additional financial help.

What else can I do?

This action is part of the national disputes on USS pension and the 4-Fights. The more members who participate and the more publicity it generates, the more impact the action will have.

  • Tell us what ASOS you can do and how you do it and encourage colleagues to do the same. The more collective the approach, the more impact it will have.
  • Do tweet about not attending board meetings, about not marking, and about reclaimed weekends etc.
  • If you need help to encourage more collective action in your school or service, please contact your rep. There is a list of reps on the branch committee web page. Your rep can help set up small group meetings to make the boycott as effective as possible.
  • If you are a Deans Rep at an upcoming board meeting, please contact Hendrik Nahler about a meeting of Dean Reps.
  • Activate an email auto-reply explaining why you are participating in the ASOS, example below:

Example of wording for an out of office reply

I am participating in action short of a strike as part of UCU’s national industrial action to defend pensions and pay for university staff, and to push back against the widening inequalities across higher education. You can find further information about the disputes at https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/11896/Why-were-taking-action.

If you are not a member of the UCU, it is not too late to join the industrial action. Join the UCU and you can take part straight away.