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What We Know About the Marking Boycott

Roar news editor Emma Fallside on the ongoing industrial action, including the recently-announced marking boycott. What has happened in the past six months, and where will UCU go from here?

In April, Roar reported on the possibility for a marking boycott to be set for the end of this term. Now, the UCU has confirmed that a marking boycott and 10 more days of strike are set to take place, potentially starting in late-May.

What do we know so far about the industrial action?

The current round of industrial action has been going on for around six months now, as of May 2022.  However, the Universities and College Union (UCU) has been arguing with university employers since 2018. The beginning of the current debate began over proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) which manages the employee pensions of a number of higher education institutions, including King’s College London. A parallel discourse over pay, equality, and other working conditions began in 2019, creating a separate legal dispute at UK universities. The employee strikes over these two disputes have made multiple records as the largest strikes in UK higher education history.

Despite over four years of disputes, UCU members are still fighting for better pensions and working conditions. After being curtailed by the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, industrial action has been gaining traction again on campuses. Below I detail some of the major events in the course of industrial action for the past 2021-2022 academic year at King’s.

What happens next?

In light of the UCU’s proposals over pensions and pay being continuously rejected, the next step will be to enact a marking strike. According to UCU general secretary Jo Grady, branch delegates will meet on May 10th and the higher education committee will meet on May 12th in order to decide exact dates for the marking strike and further strike action.

King’s has stated that students should undertake all assessments as usual, and that the university has prepared for a marking strike. While the UCU has acknowledged that marking strikes can have a ‘potential impact on the awarding of degrees’, until next week’s meetings we do not know the scope and outcome of these industrial actions.

Ultimately, this ongoing dispute is not likely to go away any time soon. While students are encouraged to focus on getting through exam season, it is important to stay informed on what the UCU ultimately decides on. For now, there is little to do but wait for the outcomes of May 12, but stay tuned to Roar for further updates on industrial action coming in the next few weeks.

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