UPDATE: Graduation will go ahead as planned, after both sides agreed to a 2% pay rise.
SWANSEA University students will not be able to graduate this summer unless lecturers win their battle for more than a 1% pay rise.
The UCU union, which has already staged three one-day strikes, now says lecturers will refuse to mark coursework, dissertations or exams from 28 April unless an improved pay deal is agreed.
The move has put the students’ union, which has previously backed the strikes, in a difficult position.
President Zahid Raja issued a statement condemning the move, but he also placed the onus very firmly on the employers to resolve the situation.
“The students’ union does not condone the withholding of marks and we have met with UCU officials to express this and will continue to do so, as we will also continue to support lecturers in their fight for fair pay,” he said. “We will be organising a campaign for students to encourage the vice chancellor to use his influence nationally and become one of the first VCs in the UK to ask the employers association to meet with the UCU to end the problems.”
UCEA, the employers body that represents all universities, has offered a one per cent pay rise to lecturers, which the union says represents a 13% cut in real terms since 2008.
Verity Ockenden, a student at Swansea University, said: “I don’t see why students are effectively being punished for lecturers’ poor pay, it is not our fault and there is little we can do about it except complain!”
The cost of a boycott to lecturers could be high, with universities able to impose a 100% pay deductions for “partial performance” for as long as exam scripts remain unmarked.
It would be the first marking boycott since 2006, which led then to a multi-year above-inflation pay offer.
With record numbers of students applying for the next academic year, UCU says lecturers will be put under even more strain than ever for an increasingly devalued salary.
UCU Branch Swansea issued this statement: “The UCU has been put in a position where it has no option but to threaten a marking boycott. As reported previously in The Waterfront, vice chancellors are getting an average pay increase of 8%, whilst lecturers who actually deliver HE services to students have been offered 1%. Is this fair? Of course not. The hypocrisy of the universities is obvious.
“Reducing the value of a lecturer’s pay means many are looking to leave the profession, and those that remain are increasingly demoralized. Where lecturers are seen as expendable, to be bought at the cheapest price possible, this is only likely to have an adverse effect on students as loss of morale and stress take their toll on teaching standards.
“Because we care about students we have strong reservations about a marking boycott, However, we have been left with no option. Our employers have forced our hand. Although they know that the only bargaining position we have is a boycott they still refuse to negotiate. The employers are to blame for any boycott, not UCU.”