Universities seek to hire Australian exam markers as strikes could derail degrees

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Meanwhile, at Newcastle University, another member of the Russell Group, bosses have introduced a ‘no prejudice’ safety net policy. This would give students their average grade over the whole year, rather than their exam grades, if their assessments are boycotted.

A temporary average grade of their previous assignments will be given if the boycott takes place. Thereafter, any outstanding mark can only increase – and not decrease – the ranking of diplomas.

The university said this “will ensure that students can proceed to the next stage of their program, or graduate, with the confidence that their academic performance has not been seriously affected by industrial action.”

At the University of Sheffield, another affected by the action, students have been asked to apply for extenuating circumstances if they are affected.

However, the UCU was on the back foot on Friday as it said an “impasse” in its higher education committee meant some branches dropped their marking boycotts at the last minute.

This included Durham University, where 1,000 students threatened to withhold their tuition fees and staff were offered a one-time payment of £1,000 if they refused to strike.

“Duty to protect students”

Dozens of UCU campus branches at universities across the country have been on strike over pay, pensions and working conditions since 2018. Faculty at more than 40 institutions remain on strike, including 22 initiating still a tagging boycott.

Raj Jethwa, chief executive of the University and College Employers Association, said: ‘Higher education institutions have a duty to protect their students and they have the legal right to withhold full pay for this boycott.

Curio, who Queen Mary paid £10,500 in 2020 to help her switch to online learning, has been contacted for comment.

A Queen Mary spokesperson said: “So far less than two per cent of our staff have gone on strike. We have made it clear from the outset that our first priority is to protect the education and experience of all our students in relevant fields, and to maintain academic quality and standards.

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