This update has been created by Cambridge SU to provide fully up-to-date information for students as of 07/09/23; the University also provides information for students online here.
1) What’s the latest status of the Marking & Assessment Boycott (MAB)?
- The MAB ended with immediate effect on 6th September 2023, after a ballot of UCU members nationally determined that it should end earlier than 30th September 2023. That date was when the original mandate for industrial action expired.
- The MAB itself was caused by a national issue. Throughout the dispute, Cambridge UCU and the University affirmed a commitment to encouraging the national UCU and UCEA (the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association) to re-enter productive negotiations to try to find a resolution. They issued a joint statement to this effect back in May.
- At a national level, the UCU has indicated that it remains eager to negotiate for a higher pay offer for its members for the 2023-24 pay round, as well as improved working conditions. The UCU has therefore launched a ballot on this year's pay offer, in order to seek a mandate for industrial action in the coming academic year (Michaelmas 2023 - Easter 2024).
- The UCU has also announced five days of strike action, taking place on 25th September - 29th September 2023. The impact of this is likely to be limited in Cambridge, as it will occur before the start of most teaching in October.
2) What happened in the subjects affected by the MAB?
- The subject areas most affected by the MAB have been History, English, Geography, MML, Linguistics, AMES and HSPS. Biological subjects in the Natural Sciences Tripos (and also Medical and Vet Triposes), and HPS have also been significantly affected.
- Most departments and faculties affected by the MAB had to cancel their exam boards when they would normally have held them, in June 2023. This is why students in many of those subjects do not have any marks from their end of year exams, and in the case of final-year undergraduates and postgraduates taking taught masters programmes, have not graduated.
3) When will students in affected subject areas receive their final marks and classes?
- Now that the mandate has been withdrawn, the University has asked staff to return to marking assessments as normal. The University has introduced a deadline of 16th October 2023 for approved marks and class lists to be sent to the University's Examinations Office. Results should be published to students via their individual CamSIS accounts shortly afterwards (within 48 hours).
- In exceptional circumstances, faculties or departments that believe they will not be able to meet this deadline will have to apply to the University to receive an extension.
- It is incumbent on faculties and departments to communicate to their students within the next two weeks the date on which the relevant exam board will be held, and therefore when they can expect their final marks.
4) What should I do if I’m concerned about my exam results?
- Your Tutor or Director of Studies can act as a first point of contact if you have any concerns about your exam results, including about continuing your studies in the next academic year. The SU’s independent Student Advice Service can also provide you with free, confidential and impartial advice and support on the options available to you. It also supports students with taking options forward including liaising with faculties, departments, and colleges and can help students with putting together applications and statements.
5) Is this a breach of contract, and can I get compensation?
- The University’s position is that the delay to students receiving their grades isn’t a breach of contract, as students’ terms of admission include a clause stating that the University isn’t liable for ‘matters outside the University’s control’, which explicitly includes industrial action.
- The Pro-Vice-Chancellor’s email of 4th July about procedures for exam review and claims for compensation to all students offers more information about lodging a compensation claim. As that email outlines, any student can submit a complaint about the impact of the MAB, within 28 days of their results being published.
- Students can make a complaint about the impact of the MAB if they believe that they have incurred significant financial loss or damage as a consequence of industrial action, for example losing employment or having their continuation to further study disrupted. The University provides further information about the process for submitting complaints here.
6) What is the SU’s position, and how is it standing up for students?
- The SU stands in solidarity with the UCU, as determined by SU Policy, which is set at regular intervals by students. Supporting the UCU functions as a way of protecting students’ learning conditions in the long term, as these are negatively impacted by declining pay and worsening working conditions for lecturers and University staff. Improved working conditions and pay for academic staff will benefit future students studying at Cambridge. Moreover, a significant number of postgraduate research students are members of Cambridge UCU right now: the SU is committed to supporting them in their fight for better pay and conditions.
- In terms of the MAB’s immediate impact on current students, the SU’s primary focus over the past few months has been to promote positive steps by the University to mitigate the impact of the MAB and facilitate its early end on a national scale. In concrete terms, this included encouraging the University to lobby UCEA to reopen negotiations about its pay offer nationally, and encouraging the University to restore pay deducted from boycotting staff. It is very welcome that the University has now agreed to refund all MAB-related deductions for all staff who submit completed marking by 30th September.
- The SU has also engaged with our partners in the University to support the current plans for how outstanding marking can be completed and results released, now that the MAB has ended. This will facilitate students receiving their grades as promptly and smoothly as possible.