UCU's MAB impact limited but HE institutions prioritise protecting their students

15 May 2023
UCU's MAB impact limited but HE institutions prioritise protecting their students

Today, well over half (58%) of the HE institutions in New JNCHES* provided updated feedback on the impact of the marking and assessment boycott on students at their institutions. A half of HE institutions said that ‘less than 10% of students’ will be affected by the marking and assessment boycott. Understandably, a further 38% said that they remained ‘unsure’ of the impact, mainly because of UCU’s campaign urging members not to inform HE institutions of their intention to take part in the marking and assessment boycott. UCU’s campaign is timed to try and damage students as much as possible. 

The poll also confirmed that half of the HE institutions had ‘less than 5%’ of academic staff partaking in MAB. A fifth (22%) reported that between 5% and 10% of academics would be partaking. 

Raj Jethwa, Chief Executive of UCEA, said:
"Higher education employers have looked after staff as best we can: with an early uplift that will be the highest pay rise in nearly 20 years alongside the Acas agreed pay related terms of reference**. These terms of reference were agreed by the unions’ national negotiators. We are sat at the table waiting for UCU. The ball is in UCU’s court. If the boycott is called off, UCEA retains its strong desire to begin constructive dialogue with the trade unions on the basis of the Acas terms of reference. However, UCU is well aware that, if we do not hear back from them positively by 18 May 2023, we have to consider the terms of reference to have lapsed.

“UCU has an obligation to be honest with its members that there is no possibility of new or revised pay offers from the employers in the 2023-24 pay round. Despite the financial pressures facing the sector, this year’s pay award is comparable to settlements in the wider economy. Most HE institutions continue to face considerable financial uncertainty, with many posting deficits. Home student tuition fees have been frozen until at least 2025 and many HE institutions are also looking at substantial increases in employer contributions in the Teachers’ Pension Scheme***.

“The Acas terms of reference offer the best way to resolve this dispute. However, if the marking and assessment boycott continues, HE institutions’ top priority is to ensure it does not impact students negatively. While figures are difficult to obtain, any impact on a single student is unfair and HE institutions are doing all they call to protect them. UCU could have chosen any form of industrial action but they chose the marking and assessment boycott at this vital time for students during the academic year. 
“To date, HE institutions have provided consistent feedback across UCU’s prolonged industrial action: that participation by academics has been isolated, and that the impact has been low.**** HE institutions have a duty to protect their students and so they reject partial performance and - as UCU knows - they are legally entitled to withhold full pay for partial performance of duties such as a marking and assessment boycott. HE institutions respect employees’ right to take lawful industrial action and, in turn, UCU needs to respect the employers' right to withhold pay for not fulfilling contracts. Each autonomous HE institution remains fully focused on managing this period of potential disruption as best they can for their students.” 

* www.ucea.ac.uk/our-work/collective-pay-negotiations-landing/  
**UCEA Board endorses ToR for key non-pay items in the 2023-24 pay round - www.ucea.ac.uk/news-releases/17march23/ 
***Employer contributions to the Teacher's Pension Scheme are currently 23.7% and could rise to nearer 30% from April 2024.

The sector poll was held at a UCEA meeting attended by over 100 HR Directors on Monday 15 May.


For further information: Please contact Andy Fryer, Head of Communications and Membership (a.fryer@ucea.ac.uk) or Marc Whittaker, Communications and Events Manager (m.whittaker@ucea.ac.uk)