Impact of university marking boycott 'regrettable', minister says

It comes amid a long dispute between members of the University and College Union and university management.

Impact of university marking boycott ‘regrettable’, Scottish Government minister Graeme Dey says iStock

A marking boycott, which means some students will graduate from university with provisional unclassified degrees, is “regrettable” the Scottish Government’s higher education minister has said.

The comments from Graeme Dey come after students across Scotland voiced concerns that their degrees could be devalued, or have an impact on their careers or further education.

It comes amid a long dispute between members of the University and College Union (UCU) and university management.

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

A history and politics student from Strathclyde University, who wished to remain anonymous, told STV News: “We had an idea something like this would happen but at first it was just a lot of people thinking graduation would be delayed. 

“We found out about the provisional degrees last month in an email which felt very ‘it’s not our fault, blame the strikers’. 

“I was originally trying to decide between a Masters and a graduate job but it’s just a bit up in the air. It’s a bit worrying cause there’s just no guarantees and a bit frustrating as well because we don’t know when any of this will get resolved.”

Another, who is a psychology student, added: “Through my own research, I found that due to strikes, I might not get my degree results until August. I have a few interviews over the next few weeks for graduate jobs, and l’m going to have to tell my interviewers that I don’t actually know what my degree results are at all, which I suspect will negatively affect me in securing a job after graduation.”

Dey, the further and higher education minister in the Scottish Government, said the impact of the boycott “varied depending on the institutions”.

He said, however, it was a “regrettable situation”.

He spoke out after raising the issue with universities at a meeting on Tuesday.

Dey also met representatives from the UCU last week and is to meet the National Union of Students next week.

Asked about the boycott when giving evidence to MSPs on the Education, Children and Young People Committee, the minister said: “I had a further discussion with the universities yesterday.

“I think it is a regrettable situation that we find ourselves in and the impact that that is having on students.”

He said the current situation was “indicative of a very strained relationship that exists between the trade unions and management” in the university sector.

Despite that, he urged the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) to get back round the table for talks with the UCU.

Dey told the committee: “I have urged management in Scotland to seek to have the UCEA get back round the table with the trade unions to try to make progress in resolving this, because that is the way we are going to get this sorted out.”

He added: “Individual universities have taken different approaches as to how they address the impact of the marking boycott and the impacts are varied depending on the institutions.

“It’s not an entirely satisfactory situation that we find ourselves in, not at all. But we need to get this resolved.”

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