UCU picket line at the University of East Anglia on 1st November / Roger Blackwell


Lecturers threatening to boycott marking students' final-year exams have postponed industrial action to consider a pay offer from the universities.

Members of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) had been planning to conduct "action short of a strike" and refuse to mark coursework and exams from 28 April.

The marking boycott has now been delayed until 6 May.

“Following this offer, UCU has decided to ballot members on their views. It is only right that they make the ultimate decision about what happens next," said Sally Hunt, UCU's general secretary.

A union source said UCU were desperate to avoid having to implement marking boycott because of strain it would cause on industrial relations, as universities had said they would dock pay from staff participating in any industrial action.

Students’ unions have been divided in their reaction to the marking boycott.

Warwick Students’ Union released a statement saying it opposed the UCU plans. It said: “We clearly cannot support students' futures being used as leverage in an external pay dispute, and are deeply concerned about the impact a marking boycott may have on our members."

Hannah Webb, on the other hand, UCLU's external affairs and campaigns officer, said her union supported the marking boycott.

“Yesterday’s meeting was a constructive one, with both sides exploring all options and seeking realistic outcomes that can be acceptable to all,” said Professor Chris Gaskell, representing UCEA.

“When it comes to pensions, they tell the lecturers that they aren’t state pensions because we’re private institutions and yet when it comes to their pay, they say, we are going to give you a pay freeze because the public sector is on a pay freeze,” said Maham Hashmi, ULU's black students officer.

The pay offer includes a 2.2 per cent pay rise for the lowest paid staff and exceeds inflation.