Information about how Graduations will be affected following the recent University announcement about the Marking Boycott
The University Council proposed mitigations for students to minimise the effect of the Marking and Assessment Boycott, these came in the form of ‘Graces’ (essentially just text that puts forward an idea or suggestion). Because there was disagreement, some academics petitioned for there to be a ‘ballot’ on this decision. There was a ballot in which any member of Regent House (the large democratic body of the University comprised of most academic and academic-related staff) could vote.
Students will have been emailed by the Pro Vice-Chancellor for Education, Bhaskar Vira, explaining this. Full information about the ballot can be found here.
You may have lots of questions and we will aim to keep this page updated as soon as we have further information from the University.
This ballot has now closed and the results can be viewed here.
What were the results and what does this mean for me?
One of the Graces (about graduations) was amended. The Grace in its original form (page 13) had called for the ability to hold an exam and enable the marking of an exam if there were not external examiners present. It also proposed that students could be split into three categories depending on if there was enough evidence to know if they would have graduated.
The amendment removes most of this. This means that there may be a delay to exam marking. It also means that some graduations may not happen on time.
The other Grace was similar but relating to M.Phil and M.Res students. This Grace has been rejected. This means these students will not have their examinations marked if there is not an external examiner present.
This may not affect every student as it depends whether your faculty or department has people taking part in the Marking Boycott. You will not know the details of this until after your exams are done. It is the responsibility of your faculty or department to keep you as up to date as possible. It may be the case that some students can receive their marks and graduate whereas others will face a delay.
Why didn’t these pass?
There were disagreements about what is best for students and staff. Some supporters of the Graces outlined that this would allow some students to graduate and therefore was a good mitigation. You can read the Fly-Sheets here that summarise the different viewpoints including one submitted by the Sabbatical Officers (p. 25) in line with Student Council policy, and one by a student member (p. 21). Fly-Sheets are like open letters that people can submit to have their voices heard even if they can’t vote.
Arguments were made that these mitigations would make exams less fair, because they would remove external examiners. External examiners are an important part of reducing bias in exams and help make sure Cambridge students are judged similarly to the rest of the country.
The Grace would have allowed some students to graduate but not others, thus disadvantaging those who are unable to take all of their exams.
Broadly, there was an opposition to the University’s attempt to ‘mitigate’ the Boycott rather than end it completely.
What should the University do?
The University plays an important role on the negotiating body (UCEA) that is in charge of communicating with UCU. If Cambridge spoke out publicly about the need to resume negotiations, and used their power in the group, we could have a huge impact on this national debate. What students deserve is full graduation and marking on time. The University could be doing a lot more to make this happen.
What should students do?
This news may be difficult or upsetting for some students, particularly those who were hoping to graduate. It is unlikely that at this time your faculty or department will have full information about what will happen as they cannot know who is taking part in the boycott until the marking begins. You should continue to revise and take all exams as normal.
If you are an international student, we know that issues like booking flights for graduations may be stressful. We are meeting with the International Students’ Campaign this week to solidify clear information for you about this issue. Please contact the International Students’ Office if you need any advice.
If you want to take action, you can:
- Email the Vice-Chancellor. We have some template emails here. Tell the University management directly how this makes you feel, and urge them to end the boycott
- Sign the student-run open letter asking the University to #SettleTheDispute
Check our page for continued updates on this issue.