Marking boycott means Cambridge University students 'won't graduate' this summer

Students at the University of Cambridge say they are being left "in limbo" without any idea if they will graduate this summer, because of a marking boycott by academics.

Universities, including Cambridge, are struggling to cope with industrial action by members of the University and College Union (UCU).

The dispute over pay and conditions means course work and dissertations will not get marked - and students face being left with no formal qualification at the end of their years of study.

Lucy Atkin, who is studying philosophy at Jesus College, said she did not know if or when she would graduate.

"I'm stuck in a limbo," she said. "I've got my exams starting in a week today and I'm finding myself really unmotivated to do any work because there's so much uncertainty.

"I've got so many worries, like trying to plan a graduation and getting my parents here and I don't know if it's going to happen.

"It's three years of so much hard work and if it's not going to count, if it's not actually going to get marked, then what's the point?"

University of Cambridge students Lucy, Bella and Harvey do not know if they will graduate. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The UCU say it would continue with their industrial action until they got an improved pay offer.

The University and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) said universities had record deficits and could not afford more than the offered pay rises of between 5% and 8%. 

Ms Atkin added: "I'm going to move back home in July and I won't have graduated, I won't have anything to show for the last three years of my life.

"And the job market is terrible. So I'm going to be at home without anything to show for three years, unsure of how I go about applying for jobs if I don't have a degree."

Nearly 600 students have signed an open letter calling on the university to reopen talks with the union and get the dispute settled.

Senior staff at Cambridge had hoped its academic body called Regent House would vote to use emergency powers to help ease the situation, but it declined to do so.

In a message to students Professor Bhaskar Vira, pro-vice-chancellor for education, said: "The measures that the university was seeking to help students complete their degrees and progress will now not be available.

"We will continue to make every effort to get work marked but this vote does mean that there will be longer delays for more students.

"We still hope that most of you will remain unaffected.

"The boycott is scheduled to last until the end of September when UCU’s current mandate for industrial action expires."

Despite the disruption to their education, many students are sympathetic to the action.

Bella Cross, who is studying history and politics at Selwyn College, described the demands of the union as "completely reasonable".

"We value our academics," she said. "My teachers have done a lot for me. They've been really encouraging and they're the ones who make this university great and yet their labour is not fairly compensated.

"It seems the university is willing to throw us under the bus and they don't have to treat the staff with the respect they deserve."

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