Students threaten to sue if lecturers strike

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Students could sue universities after warnings that up to nine million exams and essays will go unmarked this summer because of industrial action.

Student leaders fear that around 700,000 people could fail to graduate if the dispute is not resolved.

Tens of thousands of lecturers have joined an assessment boycott after accusing university vice-chancellors of breaking a promise to increase pay after the introduction of top-up tuition fees.

The Association of University Teachers and the other main education union, Natfhe, say nearly nine millions essays and exams could go unmarked.

The dispute has been backed so far by student leaders, but the NUS last night warned that students may consider legal action against universities if their degrees suffer.

Julian Nicholds, NUS vice president for education, urged university chiefs to meet academic unions tomorrow.

A spokesman for the university employers' organisation, UCEA, said they would not meet until the end of the month and called for lecturers to call off industrial action before talks begin.