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UCU industrial action

University and College Union Strike Action September 2023

Birkbeck UCU are taking strike action in relation to national disputes from Monday 25 to Friday 29 September inclusive. This relates to the 2023/24 national pay claim.

While acknowledging the right of UCU members to take lawful industrial action in relation to the national trade disputes they have balloted on, Birkbeck is concerned about the impact this action may have on students. We have asked that UCU members taking strike action provide advance notice to their students of any events that will not take place because of it. Start of term events planned this week and on 30 September will not be impacted.

End of Marking and Assessment Boycott

Birkbeck welcomed the decision taken by the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) on 6 September to call off the national industrial action in the form of a marking and assessment boycott, which had been in operation all summer.

Staff at Birkbeck have been in regular contact with those students whose assessment and awards have been affected by the boycott. In some cases, students will have had notification of an interim degree. With the UCU action at an end, staff are working swiftly to ensure that all outstanding work is marked, and results issued, in particular for students who will be attending graduation in December and for students waiting for confirmation to re-enrol for this new academic year. 

Undergraduate finalists
Students impacted by the Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB), who have submitted all assessments but are awaiting confirmation of their final classified degree can expect to receive their results and degree classification on or before 23 October. Graduation places and tickets have been held for MAB-impacted students and further communications about your Graduation date and ceremony will be issued in the next few days.

Continuing students
Students impacted by the MAB who are continuing their studies and who had completed their work on time for the initial or resit deadlines, should have now received their progression decisions and confirmation to re-enrol for this new academic year.

Taught postgraduate finalists
The College anticipates that marking and examination boards for its taught postgraduate students will now take place in the usual timeframe without any further disruption. Postgraduate research students were outside the scope of the UCU national action.

Action Short of Strike (summer 2023)

The University and College Union staff voted in favour of Action Short of a Strike (ASoS) to commence this summer, which now includes a marking and assessment boycott.

While some staff will be participating in this action, we expect that many staff will be conducting their assessing and marking duties as usual. The impact will therefore vary by programme and by department. You should assume that your exams and assessments are going ahead. Please check My Birkbeck for your examination timetable and details.

Any groups of students specifically affected by this action will receive notification from their department. If you are not notified, you should continue as usual. We want to reassure you that if your programme is impacted, the College will put measures in place to minimise the impact of this industrial action on your studies, particularly your ability to complete assessments, receive results and graduate on time. Our priority is to ensure that our finalists can complete and graduate on time and other students can continue into the next year of study.

What is Action Short of a Strike (ASoS)?

Action short of a strike is when staff take other action different to a strike, such as limiting some work-related activities. The UCU ASOS has involved working to contract, not undertaking any voluntary activities, and not covering for absent colleagues and now has been extended to a boycott of marking and assessment.

Will your progression or graduation be impacted?

There is a possibility that in order to ensure you can graduate/progress, we may need to change some forms of assessment. You will be given plenty of notice and this will only be done if it is in students' interests, for example to ensure that you can graduate successfully. Any changes will be communicated directly to you by your departments.

If you have missed any classes due to industrial action, we will take this into account either in the assessment that we set for you or when we consider your marks. Our examination boards have procedures that they can use to make these decisions. There is a possibility you may experience some delays in receiving your results if we are not able to complete all our marking and results approval processes in the usual way. The impact will be different from department to department, depending on the number of staff who undertake the ASoS action.

What can I do if my study is being disrupted by the ASos action?

Please contact your Personal Tutor or Programme Director at the earliest opportunity about any impact that the disruption has on your studies. You can find the name of your Personal Tutor on My Birkbeck.

What study skills support can i get during the industrial action?

Writing feedback is available 24/7 via our Studiosity service. It is available to all undergraduate and postgraduate taught students. Feedback is returned in under 24 hours, and it is an excellent way of honing your written work before submitting it. There is also a calendar of study skills workshops and resources.

You can also seek support from school-based learning support tutors and via the Library. 

Is there any support for me?

The College is committed to supporting all of its students to achieve their learning goals. It is important for you to talk to your Personal Tutor and Programme Director about your concerns and how the strike action is impacting your study and wellbeing. They should be able to provide you with academic support and refer you to online and face-to-face student support services. The College provides information, support, and advice on a range of issues including disability support, counselling, mental health services and study skills support.

International Students

Birkbeck is aware that international students may be concerned about how potential delays in marking assessments might affect their ability to apply for a Graduate Visa. As part our commitment to support our students, if a situation arises where delayed marks are likely to affect awards dates, then we will take action to ensure that international students who have completed their programmes, passed all modules and met the UK residency requirements can apply for the visa. Should this situation arise, we will be in contact with any students that are likely to be affected to clarify what steps are being taken.

Supporting students

How can I Raise any concerns about the disruption caused by the industrial action?

In the first instance, keep a record of how exactly the industrial action has affected your study. You can raise initial concerns with your department who will log them, but you will need to be able to show how this has affected you rather than only expressing concern that it might affect you. You can submit a Stage Two (written) complaint, but you should not do this until after assessment has been completed or the impact is known. This means that you should not complain about the impact of any potential assessment or marking boycott until the end of term. You can refer to the College's Complaints Policy and Procedure. The 2022-23 policy will apply to any complaints made in relation to industrial action which took place during the 2022-23 academic year.

Do staff taking part in ASOS get paid?

ASOS in the form of a marking and assessment boycott does represent a partial performance of contract. Birkbeck does not accept this partial performance and will therefore withhold 50% of pay from staff participating in ASOS in the form of the marking and assessment boycott.

What is Birkbeck's position on the dispute?

Birkbeck employees' pay and benefits, alongside those of many other universities, are negotiated at a national level by the UCEA (Universities and Colleges Employers' Association) and our recognised trade unions.

The College is continuing to discuss the strike and the way the impact of strike action on students can be mitigated.

Staff who voted in favour of this action will not have made their decision lightly and will have been mindful of the potential impact on your studies and on colleagues who are not participating in industrial action. All Birkbeck staff are committed to the College's students, who often make extraordinary sacrifices to study with us. Please be assured the College will do all it can to minimise any disruption to your studies.

Student communications

Please check your email regularly for updates from Birkbeck regarding the strike action, as well as the weekly Student Bulletin sent each Wednesday. All industrial action communications sent to students are reproduced on the Student SharePoint site for reference (you must have a student M365 account to log in).