Staff news

Marking and assessment boycott proposal to UCU Edinburgh

The University has proposed a pause to withholding pay withheld if members taking part in the marking and assessment boycott agree to mark and assess the work of graduating and final year students.

The following message has been shared with UCU Edinburgh as part of our work to find a local resolution and reduce the impact on staff and students.


We appreciate UCUE engaging further in this conversation and the branch agreement to a ballot of members on the proposal. In recognition, we have paused the withholding of 50% of pay for April participation in the MAB and full salary will be paid to April participants in their May salary.

You requested further clarity on the full proposal for members here in UoE.  You confirmed that members are participating in MAB in response to the UCU Four Fights, not just the 2022/23 UCEA pay offer.  I have outlined below our position in relation to the four fights, and the specifics of our proposal in relation to the Marking and Assessment Boycott.


This is a national matter, but locally we are already committed and actively working in partnership with the joint unions on a Grade Scale Review to ensure we have a fair, benchmarked and rewarding pay scale for all grades. Once this is complete, we have committed to reviewing the other aspects of our local reward and benefits offer.


Our gender pay gap is improving year on year, and we are committed to continuing the focus. We are clear that our gap is driven by the distribution of different gender across the grades. Therefore, equality of recruitment and career progression is being actively focused upon. Data on race and disability pay gaps are being monitored and it is clear the priority is improving the response rates in order to understand what specific challenges we face.


We have the UCU negotiated Guaranteed Hours agreement in place, which has led to offers of fractional contracts to all eligible staff.  HR and the joint unions meet quarterly to ensure adherence to this agreement.  A working party has already been established and has proposals for enhancing the experience of fixed term staff and offering permanent contracts where possible.


Work has been started to consider how best to tackle the issue of workload across the organisation, and further progression will continue into the next academic year and will involve our union colleagues.

Marking and Assessment Boycott Proposal

We propose that protesting staff would commit to completing assessment and marking for graduating/final year students to ensure all can complete and graduate in July with full and final classification.  This would extend to PGT dissertation marking and meeting PGR thesis assessment requirements. We also propose that students who have specific conditions to be met in order to allow them to progress in their degree are marked/assessed. The small group of courses can be identified in collaboration with School teaching leads but an example would be the BSc Psychology where progression to honours requires a classified grade above 50% in two courses (Psychology 2A and 2B).

We acknowledge that all other marking and assessment activity might be boycotted.   

Whilst we reject the breach of contract by members participating in the MAB, for the agreement to the above marking and assessment being completed, the University would not withhold pay for all participating in MAB (i.e. eliminate this sanction completely).  If an individual staff member did not wish to engage with this proposal, our stated stance of 50% of pay being withheld until the marks are completed would be taken. We reserve the right to change this position should circumstances change, and this will be discussed with you in advance.

Supporting Comments

Whilst the penetration of the MAB is currently of limited scale, the disruptive and distractive impact on all staff and students is significant and we of course share the wish to limit this.  We also seek to address the divisive nature of this action on inter-staff working relationships and staff-student teaching relationships while there is still an opportunity to do so. The proposal is being made recognising that achieving an agreement is preferable with our local branch which reflects our high level of mutual respect and the desire to work in partnership on the key matters here in our University.

Points of note

  • We acknowledge the withdrawal of labour for MAB being made by colleagues and respect that form of protest.
  • We also acknowledge the strain on students even where unaffected, and the challenging (and unsettling) position for staff in the MAB towards disrupting students to the extent that they may in a small number of cases miss graduation, PGT places or employment opportunities.  This is our priority in making this proposal.
  • However, given the robust mitigations in place, the impact of MAB is likely to be low but the costs to members participating and the stress on our students (even those unaffected) are high.
  • This proposal maintains the MAB as an action; maintains the integrity of our degrees without the need for mitigation and the additional workload this brings for other academic colleagues and our professional staff; demonstrates strong commitment to the students from the union leadership; and ensures that we are demonstrating good and constructive engagement as colleagues whilst more significant discussions are ongoing.