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Marking and Assessment Boycott: an update from the Vice-Chancellor

11 July 2023

We are currently expecting the vast majority of Bristol’s students to graduate this summer. However, we are very disappointed that about 7%* out of 5,460 final year undergraduate students considered to date will have their degree outcome delayed beyond graduation due to the marking and assessment boycott. These students are concentrated in a small number of subjects at the University. Our examination boards continue to meet and we will be updating students on their results over the next few weeks.

I know that those impacted are feeling frustrated and anxious. I am deeply sorry about the continued uncertainty they face and I share their disappointment that a national dispute is having such a significant impact on their lives.

While it may be little consolation, we are offering a goodwill payment of up to £500 to those students most affected. I also want to reassure students that we have been working extremely hard to ensure they are able to graduate and progress onto other courses or employment. Maintaining the integrity of our degree awards and supporting every student to achieve the outcome they have worked so hard for are our absolute priorities. The robust contingency measures we introduced to mitigate against the impact of the boycott have helped examination boards make sound decisions that will maintain the quality and high standards associated with a Bristol degree.

Graduations are continuing as planned this summer. If they are awaiting a classification for their degree, students can choose to attend a later ceremony in the Autumn. Affected students can request a letter of completion of studies, which can be provided to employers or other institutions to clarify what marks they have received so far and the courses for which marks are still pending.

Last month we extended a fresh offer to Bristol UCU, capping the number of days to 10 at 50% pay if striking members started marking again. This is one of the most generous offers made to striking staff by any of the universities involved in the dispute. It was made in a bid to get those taking part in the boycott to reconsider their position and to help our students graduate; this is what they deserve after years of hard work and, ultimately, the outcome we all want.

I also recognise that our staff are worried about cost-of-living and inflation and we are always looking for ways to recognise their achievements and efforts. With our union colleagues, we have made good progress on issues like closing the gender pay gap and reducing casualisation in our workforce. We are one of 147 universities which participate in a national bargaining arrangement to agree the annual pay award, which this year amounts to an increase in salaries of 5% to 8% depending on pay grade. This is the highest uplift offered in two decades and recognises the current cost pressures faced by both employees and employers.

While we are working closely with our local unions here at Bristol, this is a national dispute that requires resolution at a national level. Universities and graduates are vital to the success of the United Kingdom. The sector and the government need to work together to find affordable, long-term solutions to higher education funding and seek better ways of resolving these ongoing issues for the good of both staff, students and our wider community.

Professor Evelyn Welch, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Bristol

Further information

*Updated 26 July to reflect the latest figures. Of this 7%, 39 undergraduate finalists have insufficient marks to be awarded a degree at this time.

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