Student forced to leave UK as marking boycott delays Canadian degree

Emma MacKenzie, from Toronto, came to the University of Edinburgh last year as part of an exchange programme.

Student forced to leave UK as University of Edinburgh marking boycott holds up Toronto degree Supplied

A University of Toronto student has spoken of her disappointment as marking boycotts by Scottish lecturers threaten her graduation in Canada.

Emma MacKenzie came to the University of Edinburgh last year as part of an exchange programme, and completed the final year of her English and Art History undergraduate degree in Scotland.

The Toronto native completed her studies a few weeks ago, signed a lease on a flat and secured a job as she intended to apply for a HPI (High Profile Individual) visa and stay on in the Scottish capital.

However, due to lecturer strikes in Edinburgh, she will now be forced to leave the country by July 26.

“It’s honestly just absurd and disheartening – it feels like I’ve been failed by the University of Edinburgh,” Ms MacKenzie told STV News.

As per the HPI visa, an individual who graduates from one of the top 50 universities in the world – which includes the University of Toronto – can apply to remain in the UK for up to two years.

However, due to a long dispute between members of the University and College Union (UCU) and university management, students have been unable to receive their full qualifications.

UCU members are currently participating in a nationwide marking boycott as part of the dispute over pensions, pay and working conditions in the sector.

READ MORE: Final-year students to graduate with ’empty piece of paper’

Ms MacKenzie said that Toronto University cannot give her the undergraduate award she worked for, since she has been unable to receive her final grades from Edinburgh.

She added that the Scots university had also been unwilling to provide her with projected grades, or even a “Pass/Fail” note – either of which would have allowed her to apply for the HPI visa and stay.

Ms MacKenzie said: “I have ancestral roots in Scotland that I wanted to explore through my distant connections to Clan MacKenzie, and I also chose Scotland because of the opportunities promised to me by the HPI visa, which is now unavailable to me because of the marking boycott.

“I have lived here since September and already feel that in many ways Scotland is home, and to be forced to leave so abruptly is absolutely heartbreaking as well as frustrating.”

She has also claimed that university authorities were engaging in a “game of hot potato”, by passing on the problem to different departments.

“It has been so difficult to get a hold of anyone who might be able to offer any support or help in this situation,” Ms MacKenzie added.

READ MORE: Impact of university marking boycott ‘regrettable’, minister says

“Now, I have signed a lease on a flat and accepted a job but I’ll have to leave by July 26 unless something changes – and there has been no indication of when the final grades will come through.

“It could be tomorrow, it could be a month from now, or it could be well after I have left the country.

“I’m just at a loss, this whole situation is very disheartening.”

A University of Edinburgh spokesperson said: “We recognise the significant impact this industrial action is having on our students’ lives and future plans.

“The impact of the boycott varies from student to student and we are supporting individuals on a case by case basis, including arranging individual meetings to advise on alternative visa options where there are delays in providing marks to a visiting student’s home institution.

“We are profoundly sorry that we have not been able to shield our students from the impact of this UK-wide dispute.”

The university previously said that its priority was to “ensure that any outstanding exams and assessments are marked in a timely manner while maintaining rigorous academic standards” in order to provide a final degree classification.

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