Image Credit: Elliot Parker

UCU announces new strikes and marking boycott end

The University and College Union has announced new strikes for the end of this month, from Monday 25 to Friday 29 September.

This will come just before the beginning of Michaelmas term and is part of the long-running dispute over pay and working conditions, which also caused strikes earlier this year.

The marking boycott, which has affected examination results, has also been lifted by UCU. In place since 20 April, this measure has led to punitive pay deductions in some universities. In Oxford, it affected the degree classification of recent graduates, and the marking of certain prelims papers.

Although staff are now expected to resume paper grading, the university has not yet made any announcement regarding when students can expect to receive their results.

September’s industrial action will take place at 140 universities throughout the country, including the University of Oxford.

It will take the form of regular strikes and action short of strike, the latter being described as follows on the UCU website: “working to contract; not covering for absent colleagues; not undertaking any voluntary activities; not sharing/removing materials related to lectures cancelled because of strikes; not rescheduling classes cancelled because of strikes”.

Action comes as staff denounce gig-economy employment practices, high workloads, and the pay raise of only 5% imposed by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association. 

Analysis by the UCU has demonstrated that universities saw their highest-ever revenue last year, yet the percentage allocated to staff reached an all-time low. 

This announcement comes at the very end of the current UCU strike mandate, which expires on 30 September. Discussions are already underway to renew this mandate for the coming academic year.

The University of Oxford has updated their industrial action guidance, which was emailed out to all students on 12 September.

Regarding the scheduled strikes at the end of September, they said: “The planned strikes are outside the main University term terms, and as such, the majority of students will not be affected and you should expect to begin at the start of Michaelmas term as planned. A small number of courses with early start dates may be impacted. Your department or faculty will contact you if this is the case, and will advise you of any mitigations.”

On the end of the marking boycott, the University guidance notes that the “vast majority” of students have already received their results. For the few remaining students without all their marks, they state that “departments and faculties are now working to finalise outstanding marks as soon as possible. If you are still waiting for marks or a degree classification, your department will contact you with further information when it becomes available.”

The Oxford UCU has been approached for comment.

This article has been updated to reflect the University’s new industrial action guidance.