Students fume as marking boycott forces them to graduate without a degree

The marking boycott has frustrated many, but for international students it might mean they have to leave the country, as Louise Scott reports

Graduation day is meant to be a day of relief and celebration, but for many students around the country, theirs have been ruined by an ongoing marking boycott by professors.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at 145 institutions have been refusing to mark work amid an ongoing dispute with their employers over pensions and pay.

This has meant some students have received apology letters through the post rather than their degrees.

Each university is handling the crisis differently, at the University of Bristol students can defer their graduation until the autumn.

At Cambridge, students will not graduate until all their work is marked.

At the University of Edinburgh, they are allowed to graduate without receiving their final qualification.

For some international students, the lack of a final degree is even more pressing.

Will Scheffler, a student at the University of Edinburgh, told ITV News he may have to fly back to the USA to renew his visa if he wants to carry on living in the UK.

Will Scheffler may need to return to the US to renew his visa because of the dispute. Credit: ITV News

He said it feels like a "slap in the face" when he and other international students walk across the graduation stage but are not given a degree.

The University of Edinburgh told ITV News students should speak to them about any visa issues and they would provide support where they can.

It comes as university employers plan to hold talks with the UCU amid the ongoing marking boycott.

More than 140 universities across the UK have refused to mark exams or assessments since April 20 in a dispute over pay and working conditions.

The UCU said the meeting on Friday was the first with the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) since the boycott began.

In a joint statement issued after the meeting both parties said they "welcomed the positive tone of the discussion" but added "there is still significant ground to be covered."They said they had agreed on dates for future talks.

The UCEA said in June that 2.6% of students – roughly 13,000 of the half a million students due to graduate this year – would be affected by the boycott, and the “vast majority of staff” are working hard to mitigate its impact.

Ahead of the meeting, the union said the UCEA’s position is "untenable" following the government’s announcement on Thursday of salary increases for public sector workers of up to 7%.

The UCU says university staff have already rejected the pay award the UCEA “began imposing” in February, and it is demanding improved pay “to deal with the cost-of-living crisis”.

But UCEA chief executive Raj Jethwa said the public sector pay awards are “irrelevant” because it does not mean the higher education (HE) sector “can suddenly afford more”, and that the pay award is “comparable to settlements in the wider economy” and public sector.

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