While university staff have every right to take part in industrial action and fight for better pay and conditions, the current marking Boycott affecting 145 universities seems a step too far in terms of its negative impact on the students involved and their mental health (The pandemic ruined my A-levels – now the marking boycott casts a shadow over my degree, 12 June).
It seems particularly cruel as not all students are involved, as only UCU union members are taking part. My daughter has just finished her degree and has been informed that one of her modules will not be marked. With no news of negotiations, she’s due to graduate with a provisional classification and no final mark, while most of her friends are unaffected.
At 21, she belongs to a cohort who left sixth form in 2020 and has had an education plagued with setbacks. This was the first year to take newly reformatted GCSEs with a marking system that meant nothing to most people at the time. During the pandemic, they were abruptly told not to return to school, with no goodbyes and no prom. Their A-levels were canceled and incorrect grades awarded on results day, which were later corrected.
Most started university mid-pandemic. They were sent home for a good part of the first year, and they didn’t start in-person teaching until partway through the second year. The second and third years were blighted by significant striking. On finishing their degree and looking forward to finally relaxing, they are hit with another setback and uncertainty about their graduation. This educational chaos has undoubtedly negatively affected students’ mental health. We’re hoping that negotiations are happening, but we’re not holding our breath.
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