UCU's limited MAB impact little comfort to some students

UCU's limited and isolated MAB sector wide impact is little comfort to the students bearing the repercussions 

Yesterday, half (49%) of the HE institutions in New JNCHES provided updated feedback on the impact of the marking and assessment boycott (MAB) on students at their institutions.  

Over 70% (71%) of HE institutions said that ‘less than 2% of students’ will be unable to graduate this summer due to the MAB. Understandably, a further 20% were ‘unsure’ of the number, mainly because of UCU’s campaign urging members not to inform HE institutions of their intention to take part in the MAB for as long as possible. A further 4% of HE institutions said it would be between 2% and 9% of students impacted*. 

The poll also confirmed that over 80% of the HE institutions had ‘less than 10%’ of academic staff partaking in MAB. Of these 37% had less than 2% of staff taking part. Academic staff make up around half of staff in HE institutions. 

There is simply no need for UCU’s leaders to try and pursue this boycott on some students when employers are at the table to negotiate, as they have been for months.

Raj Jethwa, Chief Executive of UCEA, said:
“Feedback confirming the limited impact of UCU's marking and assessment boycott across the sector is little comfort to the students bearing the repercussions, nor for the HE institutions and the staff who are working tirelessly to try to help these students. 

“It is awful for those students facing potential delays to receiving their degree classifications because of UCU’s boycott. The choice by UCU of this form of industrial action, which is particularly damaging to students at this time of year, is disappointing. The feedback from HE institutions, though, shows how staff are working tirelessly for their students to try to repair damage being inflicted by the UCU members taking part. 

“UCEA has been waiting at the negotiating table, contrary to UCU’s misleading comments otherwise, and remains committed to discussing non-pay matters as soon as the marking and assessment boycott is called off. UCU must be honest with its members that, while there is no possibility of a new pay uplift in the 2023-24 pay round, there is so much more to negotiate on. This includes a review of the pay spine, workload, contract types and further action to reduce disability, ethnicity and gender pay gaps in the sector – despite these being lower than the wider economy.

“Crucially, we also want to work together with the unions on an independent review** of the sector’s finances to avoid similar damaging disputes in the future. We urge UCU and the other unions to return to the table.”

* 1% then said 25-49%, 1% over 50% and the remainder were UCEA members present not impacted by the MAB.  The 20% ‘unsure’ is an improvement on the 38% ‘unsure’ in the 15 May figures: https://www.ucea.ac.uk/news-releases/15may23/ 

** https://www.ucea.ac.uk/news-releases/blog/20june23/ 

The sector poll was held at a UCEA meeting by HR Directors on Thursday 22 June. 74 HR Directors took part. UCEA represents 144 HE institutions in New JNCHES, all of which are targeted by the MAB. 

ONS Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings reports a median gender pay gap of 13.7% in Higher Education and a median gender pay gap of 14.9% in the wider economy:  


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)