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Industrial action

We welcome the news that UCU has called off the marking and assessment boycott. Please read the joint statement between Queen Mary and UCU, and read the email from the Principal to all staff

Action short of a strike (ASOS), which includes a marking and assessment boycott, takes place from 19 May to 20 September 2022.

The marking and assessment boycott was called off by UCU on 17 August 2022.

Recent previous strike action took place as follows:

  • Week 1: 5 days - Monday 14 to Friday 18 February
  • Week 2: 2 days - Monday 21 and Tuesday 22 February
  • Week 3: 3 days - Monday 28 February, Tuesday 1 and Wednesday 2 March
  • Week 4: 5 days - Monday 28 March to Friday 1 April
  • Week 5: 2 days - Thursday 5 to Friday 6 May
  • Week 6: 5 days - Monday 9 to Friday 13 May
  • Week 7: 3 days - Monday 16 to Wednesday 18 May

No. An independent investigation by The Tab found that the amount of pay we have deducted is among the lowest of all Russell Group Universities: 

 

 

 

Chart image showing relative cost savings of Russell Group univesities

 

(note: the position quoted in the tab is at end June 2022)

 

We respect the right of staff to take industrial action, including Action Short of a Strike (ASOS). From the outset of industrial action, we have communicated clearly and consistently that our overriding priority is to protect our students’ education. We have therefore asked staff once colleagues return from any strike action they prioritise all educational activities and deprioritise or stop other work where needed. We have been clear that failure to deliver all educational activities, including marking and assessment, would amount to a breach of contract and partial performance, and would therefore result in the deduction of 100% of pay. We have also been clear that we would not deduct pay from anyone taking industrial action in the form of ASOS as long as all their planned educational activities are carried out. 

The disputes are in relation to the USS pension scheme and pay and working conditions. Pensions and pay are nationally-negotiated issues. UCU has balloted its members in universities across the country for industrial action.

For more information on these issues in relation to Queen Mary, please see the following information on the USS pension scheme, and blogs on tackling gender inequality and challenging fixed-term and casual contracts.

Very few people have taken part in the industrial action, and the impact has been limited and localised. The vast majority of our 32,000 students have been unaffected.

Out of a workforce of around 5,400, 113 members of staff took part in the 10 days of strike action between 14 February and 2 March. Of these 113 members of staff, 56 participated in 3 days or less and 12 took part in all 10 days strike action. Over 50% of striking members of staff are from our Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Five additional days of industrial action occurred between 28 March and 1 April. 39 members of staff participated of which 17 participated in all 5 days. As with the previous action, the majority (62%) of striking members of staff are from our Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

A further 10 days of strike action in relation to a local dispute took place between 5 and 18 May, in which 12 members of staff in total took part.

In relation to the marking boycott, only 103 people (2% of all staff) had pay deducted in July as a result of partial performance between 1 and 21 June.

An independent investigation found that the amount of pay we have deducted to date is among the smallest of all Russell Group universities. This is because only a limited number of our staff take strike action, and the staff that do take action typically only strike on the days that they are scheduled to teach.

No. All students due to graduate this year, who reach the required standard, will graduate on time and as planned. All students in the earlier years of their degrees, who reach the required standard, will progress onto their next year of study. Also, we will not compromise on the quality and standards of our assessment processes as a result of this industrial action: your work will be assessed as rigorously as normal, and hence your marks, and degree classification, will be a true reflection of the quality of your performance.

In any year some students have missing marks, usually as a result of their circumstances (for example, where students have been ill, or where there is a possible issue with a student’s work that has been identified). This year, excluding those students experiencing these kinds of exceptional circumstances, we have marks for vast majority of our students: for all graduating students, for all students in the Faculties of Medicine and Dentistry and Science and Engineering, and in the Schools of Business and Management and Economics and Finance.

For students in the other Schools in Humanities and Social Sciences we have told students whether or not they can progress to the next academic year, based on the marks we have at the moment. Staff in these areas are working very hard to ensure all students’ summative assessments are marked, and marks will be released to students as soon as we have them.

We have assessed each student profile carefully in order to inform the decision regarding whether each student is able to progress. Therefore, if you have been informed you can progress, you can be confident you have reached the required standard to do so.

We are working hard to ensure that all summative assessments are marked. We will contact affected students as soon as there is an update on any missing marks.

If it transpires that you have failed a module (s), you will still be eligible for any permitted resit attempt. If you have not already been informed that you have failed or had Extenuating Circumstances accepted for a module that was scheduled to be assessed in the May/June assessment period, you will not be expected to sit Late Summer Resits this year and will be given an opportunity to resit at a later time.

Please contact your Advisor or School Support Officer if you have questions related to your particular circumstances that are not answered in the FAQs.

Yes. We will not compromise on the quality and standards of our assessment processes as a result of this industrial action: your work will be assessed as rigorously as normal, and hence your marks, and degree classification, will be a true reflection of the quality of your performance.

In the small number of subject areas that are affected by the industrial action, marking and assessment may have been reallocated in order to mitigate the impact of the industrial action on students. This means it may not be marked by the person who taught the module. Marking by someone other than the academic who taught the module happens very frequently, not just when we are experiencing industrial action. In all cases, the University has quality assurance processes in place to ensure marking and assessment is as rigorous as normal.

If you have any concerns about your marks, please speak to your School/Institute in the first instance.

Please be aware that the grounds for an appeal are as follows:

  1. ‘Procedural error’. The process leading to the decision being appealed against was not conducted in accordance with Queen Mary’s procedure, such that there is reasonable doubt as to whether the outcome might have been different had the error not occurred. Procedural error includes administrative error, and bias in the operation of the procedure.
  2. ‘Exceptional circumstances’. Exceptional circumstances, illness, or other relevant factors were not made known for good reason, or were not properly taken into account.

We have already stated that we will not compromise on the quality and standards of our assessment processes as a result of this industrial action. By releasing your results to you, we are satisfied that your marks/degree classification (where appropriate) are a true reflection of the quality of your performance. Consequently, it is very unlikely that an appeal based solely on the marking boycott will be successful.

External examiners are an important and valued part of Queen Mary’s assessment processes. Subject areas normally have multiple external examiners. We embed externality into our educational provision in a number of ways in addition to the input of external examiners, in assessment and elsewhere. In the areas where we have received resignations from external examiners, we will use other means to ensure that our marking procedures have been followed.

Taking strike action generally means the individual will not work for that day, or period of days. Action short of a strike (ASOS) means working to contract and not undertaking ‘voluntary’ activities. 

Peaceful picketing, outside the University premises, is a lawful activity and may include staff on picket lines talking about why they are on strike, and asking people crossing the picket line not to go into work. 

Staff and students wishing to cross the picket line, to get to work or to their lectures or to use University facilities, are entitled to do so freely and without fear of those on the picket line trying to stop them in any way. There is guidance on the UK Government website and restated in the UCU guidance for branches on picketing on what constitutes peaceful picketing. This includes not being physically or verbally abusive, not making a noise nuisance, not blocking entrances and not damaging property. Security staff will be monitoring the picket lines and if any staff or students feel intimidated crossing the picket lines they should contact security immediately, on 020 7882 3333. 

When arriving on campus on strike days it is possible that you may need to pass staff taking part in the strike at the entrances to the University. Please be assured that the trade union has issued guidance that indicates that all pickets are intended to, and must, be peaceful in nature. Access to campus entrances will not be blocked in any way and you should feel able to pass freely and easily without confrontation. If you witness anyone on a picket line exhibiting unacceptable behaviours, please contact security immediately on 020 7882 3333. 

Only Queen Mary staff can join a Queen Mary picket line. No staff from other organisations are allowed to join and no students, from Queen Mary or other universities, should join the picket line. 

We are working extremely hard with Heads of Schools and Institutes and other University leaders to minimise the impact of this industrial action on students’ teaching, learning and overall experience. Schools and Institutes are working hard to mitigate the impact of industrial action on the students in their areas and will communicate directly with them, where needed, about next steps. 

In order to protect students’ education, Queen Mary will be asking all staff taking part in any industrial action (including ASOS) to prioritise all planned educational activities above all other activities. 

Unless you are informed otherwise by your School or Institute, you should attend your timetabled sessions as normal. Please do keep checking your Queen Mary email account for the latest information. Not all members of staff are taking part in the industrial action and many lectures and other classes will run as normal. Wherever possible, we will let you know in advance if any of your teaching sessions are likely to be affected. However, staff do not have to tell us in advance if they are going on strike so in some cases this will not be possible. 

Where teaching has gone ahead, attendance will be monitored as normal. 

You should assume your class is running unless you have been told otherwise. If you attend a class and find the lecturer is not there, please wait for 15 minutes past the start time. If at the end of that time your lecturer has still not appeared, you can assume they are not coming and leave. You should inform your School or Institute that the class has not taken place. If you are unsure about anything or want to talk to anyone about untaught lectures or seminars, please contact your Head of School or Institute. 

We are working extremely hard with Heads of Schools and Institutes, and other University leaders to minimise the impact of this industrial action on students’ teaching, learning and overall experience. Schools and Institutes are working hard to mitigate the impact of industrial action on the students in their areas and will be communicating with them directly about next steps. 

In order to protect students’ education, Queen Mary will be asking all staff taking part in any industrial action (including ASOS) to prioritise all planned educational activities above all other activities. 

If any of the students’ timetabled teaching time was cancelled, the School or Institute will have informed the Registry office, and they will ensure that students will not be marked as out of attendance. This means that there will not be any impact on their visa status. 

Supervisions, review meetings and vivas for research students are arranged on an individual basis. Please contact your School or Institute in the first instance if you have any concerns. Alternatively, you can contact the Research Degrees Office: researchdegrees@qmul.ac.uk. 

We will make sure you are not disadvantaged in your assessments by this period of industrial action. 

Please assume that deadlines still apply as normal unless you are contacted by your Head of School/Institute to say that an extension has been granted. 

Please assume that deadlines still apply as normal unless you are contacted by your Head of School/Institute to say that an extension has been granted. 

All student services, including our libraries and student wellbeing services (including advice and counselling), will remain open as normal throughout the period of industrial action. 

If your teaching is cancelled because of strike action, your School or Institute will be aware of what you have missed so it will not be necessary to submit an extenuating circumstances claim. Please do not submit extenuating circumstances claims just because you think you might have been affected. Only submit a claim for a clearly defined issue that is specific to you as an individual. 

If you wish to raise a complaint, please follow the University’s normal complaints procedure. Information about this can be found here.  

We are working hard to mitigate the impact of this industrial action upon our students. We have put in place policies to ensure that any education missed as a result of industrial action is made up. Your fee is based on the delivery of your overall experience for the full duration of your course, rather than for a specific set of teaching contact hours. It is also important to remember that the tuition fee covers all aspects of your time at Queen Mary and all the facilities that are available to you. For these reasons, in line with other universities, we do not believe any refund is appropriate. We are continuing to closely monitor the impact of the industrial action on our students’ education.

Students can raise and track a query through Student Enquiry Centre Online, email studentenquiry@qmul.ac.uk, or talk with their school or institute (contact details can be found here). 

Communications with students

 

Title and link Date From
Update from the Principal - 17 August 2022 [PDF 113KB] Wednesday 17 August Colin Bailey
Update from the Principal - 4 May 2022 [PDF 108KB] Wednesday 4 May 2022 Colin Bailey
Update from the Principal: 2 February 2022 [PDF 126KB] Wednesday 2 February 2022 Colin Bailey
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