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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 June 2006, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
Student exams boycott: what now?
Graduation ceremony
There have been fears graduations could be disrupted
The main university lecturers' union says the suspension of its industrial action should mean an immediate resumption of the setting and marking of students' exams and other work.

The pay deal negotiated with employers is subject to a ballot of the members of the University and College Union (UCU).

This will start later in June and close on 17 July. A union spokesman said that if the deal were to be rejected, the marking boycott would be resumed.

But in the meantime members should be working as normal.

Their three-month boycott of assessment has brought increasing stress for students, especially those hoping to graduate this summer and needing certain grades to take up job offers.

Many have not been affected because their course tutors were not taking action.

The thousands of students who have been disrupted have been affected in different ways, depending on the action being taken locally:

  • Some lecturers marked work but did not report the grades to their departments - so-called "marking and parking". The chairman of the employers' association, Dr Geoffrey Copland, said: "If they had been doing that and the papers had been sitting in their cupboards, the results could be out in five minutes."
  • Some refused to mark work - which they should now do. Part of the negotiated agreement says university employers "should not impose unreasonable deadlines as part of the necessary rescheduling of assessment processes". Dr Copland said: "If there was no marking, it could take a lot longer."
  • In the most severe cases lecturers refused to set exams altogether and timetabled exams had to be cancelled in a few institutions. A spokesman for the vice-chancellors' organisation Universities UK said they were now trying to put on exams "a.s.a.p."
The National Union of Students welcomed the suspension of industrial action but said students were still experiencing "very serious problems".

"As we wait for a resolution, and indeed even after a resolution has been reached, we will be doing everything in our power to support students at what remains a very stressful time," it said.

Its incoming vice-president for education, Wes Streeting, said: "Over the next week we will be calling for a meeting with UCU to discuss how best we can work together to resume a normal service to students as quickly as possible, whilst industrial action is suspended."

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