Teachers' boycott is flop, say universities

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The Independent Online
SCOTTISH UNIVERSITIES insisted it was business as usual yesterday despite industrial action aimed at causing chaos during the annual dash for degree courses.

Academics said there was virtually no disruption for students from the unprecedented admissions boycott by the Association of University Teachers. The union's action, which is aimed at "old" universities north of the border, is a litmus test for a nationwide boycott timed for the aftermath of A-level results.

The two-day action, which continues today, is designed to disrupt the clearing process, which matches students to unfilled places, after the publication of Scottish Higher Grade results last week. Academics taking part will not take calls or make decisions on applications. The union said the action had been strong, and predicted a solid response to the UK boycott on 19 and 20 August.

It said: "The action has been very strong in some parts of Scotland. We deeply regret students getting caught in the crossfire but the publicity has helped because they realise there's a delay."

The union action follows the rejection of its 10 per cent pay claim. University employers have offered 3.5 per cent.

The boycott could affect students who narrowly miss the grades they need to secure their first-choice places. The action only covers staff in the "old" universities. Former polytechnics are not included in the dispute and will work as normal.

But universities said yesterday there had been a steady flow of calls and insisted that students were unaffected by the boycott. Administrative staff and senior managers answered queries and made offers. University hotlines were also open over the weekend after Scottish students received their results on Friday.

A spokeswoman for Strathclyde University said: "As far as students are concerned it's business as usual. Telephones are staffed and decisions will be made. From the staff point of view a lot of people are stretched covering our help-lines, but the service to students should be unaffected."

Glasgow University described the action as "a non-story", and Dundee University insisted that admissions officers had experienced "no problems" getting through to academic departments. Aberdeen and St Andrews also said there were no problems.

Admissions officials have urged students affected by the boycott to stay calm and wait until the action has finished.

Exclusive Ucas vacancy lists will appear in The Independent from August 19 to mid- September. Go Higher, the most comprehensive guide to student life in Scotland and Northern Ireland, is published today as part of a week-long series of guides to higher education in all of Britain's regions.