Fury builds over universities staging 'sham' graduations

Fury builds over universities staging 'sham' graduations

June 28, 2023

Students across UK miss out on graduation as anger grows over ‘disgraceful’ exam marking boycott and universities are blasted for holding ‘sham’ ceremonies

  • Some 500,000 students at 145 universities have been affected by the boycott  

Furious students at some of Britain’s top universities have lashed out after being forced to endure ‘sham’ graduation ceremonies following a ‘disgraceful marking boycott’ by staff. 

Since April 20, lecturers at 145 UK institutions have refused to grade coursework or exams as part a bitter row over pay and working conditions, launched by members of the University and College Union (UCU). 

But the strike action – which has affected half a million students – has left third-year graduates in limbo and unlikely to find out their results for months, in a move some fear could threaten to derail their future job prospects. 

The situation has led to students – some of whom are £30,000 in debt following their course – protesting during graduation ceremonies, which were staged despite students having no idea what grades they have achieved. 

Hundreds of students today attended a send-off at the University of Cambridge, one of the world’s most respected institutions. Up to 4,500 graduates are anticipated to have been affected by the boycott, Cambridge’s acting vice-chancellor claimed. 

The University of Cambridge staged its graduation ceremony amid the national ‘marking boycott’. Pictured is a graduate 

Up to 500,000 students have been impacted by the boycott, with Cambridge saying that some 4,500 of its students have been affect. Pictured: Cambridge students attending their graduation

The ceremony was branded a ‘parody’ and ‘deeply unethical’ by Caroline Murphy, whose daughter was among those attending the graduation ceremony at Cambridge.

READ MORE: Fury grows over university marking boycott: Generation of students who battled through GCSE reforms before Covid cancelled their A-levels brand latest industrial action a ‘slap in the face’ that is putting their degrees and graduate jobs at risk

Taking to Twitter ahead of the event, the furious mother wrote: ‘As a parent, I cannot countenance that my daughter will be attending a parody of a graduation at Cambridge university next week. 

‘Are we meant to smile, applaud & offer congratulations? She is not receiving any results whatsoever. Deeply unethical.’ 

One third-year Cambridge student was ‘heartbroken’ to be graduating without knowing her grade and said she was ‘deeply, deeply angry’ about the situation.

She added: ‘What makes this especially painful is that it has happened to us before. I never sat my A-Levels; I left school on a Wednesday evening when the world shut down. I spent the first year of my degree locked in my room or stuck at home. We have given up so much 

‘We are leaving as we started – without any real qualifications. With years of work seemingly for nothing. Right now, I am scared I will never get my results. The cynic in me feels stupid for even caring in the first place.’ 

Up to 2,000 students at the University of Edinburgh are expected to graduate without knowing their final mark. 

Ollie Lewis, a final-year politics student at the university branded the situation ‘chaos’. In a tweet complaining about not having a 10,000-word dissertation marked due to the boycott.  

He said: ‘I quite literally do not have a degree after spending £37,000 on fees and working for four years.’

University of Cambridge students, and a parent of one graduate, are among those to have lashed out on social media

One third-year Cambridge student was ‘heartbroken’ to be graduating without knowing her grade and said she was ‘deeply, deeply angry’ about the situation. Pictured: the University of Cambridge graduation today 

Up to 2,000 students at the University of Edinburgh are expected to graduate without knowing their final mark. Pictured: University of Cambridge’s graduation ceremony today

And Durham University claimed about 20 per cent of its students would face delays in receiving their marks and final grades. 

Some institutions will allow students to move onto the next stage of study, using predicted grades or marks from previous assessments. 

However, Cambridge warned the consequences of the strikes could be ‘severe’ for some graduates, particularly international students hoping to stay in the UK for post-study graduate visa who could face ‘additional costs’ of up to £1,000. 

Last week saw students attending the University of Glasgow’s graduation ceremony carrying signs in protest after not receiving their marks. 

Taking to Twitter, one student fumed: ‘So we the students (with 30k debt) are supposed to be in ‘solidarity’ with lecturers earning £4,000 a month! 

‘The marking boycott is simply an exploitative act in which students are being used as bargaining chips to line the pockets of well paid/well educated people. Disgraceful.’

Another raged: ‘Today was the first sham graduations since our universities have been refusing to negotiate. Students at @UofGlasgow have protested their empty certificates with signs and slogans in solidarity with the @ucu union and their marking boycott.’

While graduate Pieter Snepvangers added: ‘POV: You’re a Glasgow Uni student who’s just been given a pointless piece of paper at graduation because your degree hasn’t been marked and the VC walks out to the Indiana Jones theme music. Bizarre scenes at the first ‘sham’ graduation to be held since marking boycott began.’ 

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) has repeatedly failed to reach an agreement over pay with the university unions.

Staff demanding a pay rise say their real-terms wages have been slashed by 20 per cent since 2009 – while more than half of vice chancellors are earning more than £300,000 per year.

Students at the University of Glasgow staged a protest last week during their graduation after they did not receive their marks following the marking boycott by staff 

Writing for the Guardian earlier this month, Durham University student Kimi Chaddah said: ‘I feel that the UK is on the brink of a nationwide degree scandal with varying engagement from university management, who have abandoned academic standards, and no intervention from the government in sight.

‘It is this year’s cohort who will inevitably be paying the price.’ 

She added: ‘For the class of 2023, the same year-group whose GCSEs were reformed in 2018 and A-levels cancelled in 2020, this marks the end of a deeply dispiriting educational journey.’

Raj Jethwa, Chief Executive of UCEA, said: ‘UCU must be honest with its members about the fact that there is just no need for this ongoing attempted marking and assessment boycott, as there is no possibility of a new pay uplift in the 2023-24 pay round. UCEA and its HE institutions have confirmed this consistently.

‘UCU has known that discussions for pay were completed in mid-February. But while change to the pay uplift is simply not an option, UCEA has been at the table waiting for UCU to join to progress the important pay related issues, as agreed in the terms of reference.

‘These negotiations would build upon the good practice in employment which exists across the sector. Employers urge UCU to provide clarity and honesty to its own members, particularly those who are attempting the boycott to target students. Employers remain committed to beginning negotiations on pay related matters as soon as the marking and assessment boycott is called off.’

University and College Union (UCU) general secretary Jo Grady previously told MailOnline: ‘University staff are proud to have overwhelming support from students, including the National Union of Students, in the fight for fair pay and conditions.

The University and College Union (UCU) are taking action short of strike in a bid to secure higher wages

‘Students know that staff working conditions are their learning conditions and they blame vice-chancellors for refusing to resolve this dispute.

‘Employers need to return to the negotiating table and stop the national degree scandal.

‘A sector sitting on billions in cash and assets can afford pay its staff properly and allow students to graduate. Our members demand nothing less.’

Queen’s University Belfast today managed to break the deadlock as they agreed a settlement. 

Professor Sir Ian Greer, President and Vice Chancellor or Queen’s said: ‘Clearly this has been a very difficult time for our students, we regret the distress caused at what should be a celebratory time, and we hope that this provides assurance that the issue will now be addressed.

‘We are disappointed that this could not have been resolved ahead of graduations during which around 750 students will receive their degrees without classifications, but we are committed to providing an additional full graduation ceremony for them and further details will be provided in the near future.

‘We are working in challenging times with funding for universities and colleges slashed by over 40 per cent since 2011 and we are anticipating cuts this year of around £11million and it is the funding of universities that is at the heart of this dispute.’

Sean O’Connell, of UCU, said: ‘Our members are fully aware of and deeply regret the impact the recent action has had on our students and we are pleased that we have reached an agreement to enable them to receive their exam results.

‘This dispute is not just about pay and we are pleased that the university has also reached agreement with us on making progress in relation to casualisation, stress related work pressures and other issues that will now also be addressed.’

Source: Read Full Article