It has recently been announced by the University and College Union (UCU) that a ‘marking boycott’, wherein university professors will boycott marking any coursework, final essays, exams, or dissertations, will take place after the 28th of April. Following the fairly ineffective and sporadic strike action, which was largely ignored by Universities, UCU feels that it is time to take it up a notch and have their voices heard. Except that a marking boycott has far greater consequences for the student body than institutions. While we may agree with the principle behind the action, students at various stages in their degrees are getting increasingly frustrated. It almost feels as if even if students had a genuine desire to support any action UCU might take, it will only be to their detriment.

Instead of a supportive student body rising up with their educators against the oppressive institution, which seems to be what UCU and boycotters envisage, comments along the lines of ‘I didn’t pay nine grand for this’ abound on university campuses nationwide. It is this figure that seems to be making students bitter; £9,000 . While UCU lauds the injustice of a £1 billion surplus, it is the students who are paying exorbitant fees and racking up debts, some graduating with over £40,000 to pay off in an all-time hiring low. While at this points students have come to terms with the outrageous fees they’ll be paying off for decades to come, they simply expect the education they are paying for. Several other ways for UCU to make their perspective heard should be considered- action specifically targeted at the interests of the universities, not students.

The impact the decision to boycott will have on students and their education cannot be measured. What motivation can there be to revise for exams which may or may not be marked? A decision of this magnitude is likely to have the opposite effect to that desired by UCU. Instead of uniting students and their educators, this could alienate them and create a disconnect between the two groups that should be supporting each others’ interests, as opposed to affecting the others’ to serve their own. UCU should aim for action that will bring together both staff and students; after all, the two could benefit greatly from mutual support.

None of this justifies the surplus funds Universities have and are not distributing appropriately. The sentiment behind UCU’s decisions is both morally correct and justified in questioning the institutions with an insurmountable surplus whilst simultaneously docking staff pay over the past four years. However, staff member’s refusal to mark, if faced with no reaction from universities, begs the question of what happens next. How much further will the academic body go to make their point, and what impact will this have on students?

BY: MAYA BAYYOUD