The marking boycott: Why students must support their lecturers

 

As students partake in a mass exodus from universities over the Easter holidays, the bitter dispute in which the University College Union (UCU) and University and College Employers Union (UCEA) have been embroiled since the beginning of the academic year is coming to a head. Since October, UCU dissatisfaction with pay in higher education has manifested itself in strikes (the union claims that university staff have suffered a real terms pay cut of 15 per cent since 2009), with lectures and tutorials cancelled. This week marks the date of final talks before a proposed marking boycott is set to take place, on 28 April .

Perhaps unsurprisingly, universities have been quick to rally against the threat of a boycott, arguing that striking lecturers are seeking to use students as a form of leverage in a professional dispute. But by attempting to pit students against those participating in a boycott, they’re just as guilty of exploiting us. These attempts belie the extent to which centres of higher education are increasingly considered businesses first and places for learning later - with universities framing the dispute over a boycott as one predicated on the provision of service. Figuring students as customers – and industrial action as a failure to provide said service – erodes the potential of institutions to facilitate meaningful collaboration between students and staff, and ultimately undermines any spirit of camaraderie on campus.

Where students’ unions have opposed the boycott, where students have attempted to minimise the impact of industrial action by staging their own lectures, proponents of such measures have argued that they have the best interests of students at heart.

Such an argument, quite frankly, misses the point. The challenges faced by university staff haven’t arisen in a vacuum. Rather, they’re symptomatic of the same neoliberal agenda which has given us increased tuition fees and informed the restructuring of university hierarchies to facilitate an influx of managerial staff, at the expense of academics. While vice chancellors’ salaries creep steadily upwards, offers made to on-the-ground staff haven’t even exceeded the rate of inflation. And instead of being encouraged to engage critically with these realities, we’re told to channel our energies into boosting our employability (in itself, a problematic entity), with some institutions even replacing academic modules with classes on CV writing and networking. If university is supposed to help us question the world we live in, is it doing its job?

The sea change in third-level education over the past few decades has been staggering. In such a climate, it may seem paradoxical that student activism appears to be dying out. But really, it’s unsurprising. We’re warned often enough about the treacherous job market: most students just want to make to the other side of their degrees and be in a position to start earning a wage. Yet, faced with the prospect of a marking boycott, we finally have the opportunity to take the first step towards positive, lasting change.

Indeed, some already have (the National Union of Students passed a motion of solidarity with the boycott, as did my own union). Such gestures, however, will ring hollow if they aren’t backed by the support of our wider student bodies. It’s up to us to fight for an education system as it should be: one wherein the staff that make the difference to our time at university, that encourage and inspire us, are valued. For that reason, if a marking boycott goes ahead, we should stand behind it.

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
News
A poster by Durham Constabulary
news
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Software Developer - Norfolk - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Software Developer - Norf...

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine