Further industrial action has been announced at UK universities, including here at the University of Bristol.
Industrial action dates
UNISON strike days
Thursday 1 June.
UCU has a mandate for Action Short of Strike (ASOS) until September. A marking and assessment boycott by UCU members will start on 20 April.
Impact on assessments
You are advised to continue with your studies and take part in assessments as expected, unless you hear otherwise.
Following national ballots, Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) colleagues have a mandate to take industrial action over pay, pensions and working conditions.
UNISON colleagues also have a mandate to take strike action over pay.
Industrial action can take the form of a strike, where a trade union member does not attend work on a specific date/s, or action short of a strike (ASOS) which is defined as only working contracted hours and carrying out normal duties, not volunteering to do more.
We respect the right of our union member colleagues to act where they feel strongly about the issues that affect them. We also appreciate that the dispute may cause anxiety for our students. We are doing everything we can to mitigate the impact of industrial action on your student experience.
Boards of Examiners will consider very carefully the impact of industrial action and we will seek to put mitigations for individual students in place. In previous rounds of industrial action, students have not been prevented from progressing or completing their awards where they have been impacted by industrial action alone.
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Marking and assessment boycott (MAB)
A marking and assessment boycott has been announced by UCU. This means that potentially marking or assessment of coursework and examinations, assessment of fieldwork, exhibits, practical work, scientific experiments, presentations or posters could be impacted. However, not all staff are members of UCU and not all UCU members will choose to participate in this round of industrial action.
This is a form of Action Short of a Strike (ASOS) and not a strike. All teaching, formative assessment and support for students is expected to continue as usual.
Dates of the MAB
UCU has a mandate for strike action until September 2023. MAB will start from 20 April and continue until either the disputes are settled, UCU calls off the boycott, or the end of the industrial action mandate is reached.
Impact of MAB on scheduled assessments and your studies
You are advised to continue with your studies and take part in assessments as expected, unless you hear otherwise.
UCU staff members do not need to let us know if they are planning to take part in the MAB so at present, we are unable to confirm which subjects will be affected. If you are impacted, your school office will be in touch with more information. Disruption to scheduled teaching is not expected at present so please attend teaching as usual.
We are working to mitigate the impact of the MAB and will keep you updated on plans.
Working to resolve the MAB
These disputes are national issues, not ones that we can resolve on our own. We are continuing to work with all the trade unions and with the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) which is negotiating nationally on these issues with UK universities.
Our main priority is to protect your interests. All school, faculty and departmental managers not involved in this form of industrial action will prioritise marking and assessment work during this time.
Impact of MAB on other University services
We do not expect other University services, such as libraries, student support, Residential Life and wellbeing to be affected at this time.
Ability to graduate this summer despite the marking and assessment boycott
We expect that most students' academic outcomes will not be affected, in which case normal academic regulations will apply.
We have otherwise put in place temporary academic regulations to mitigate the impact of the marking and assessment boycott, which will allow examination boards to make awards to students even when industrial action has had an impact.
Read the recent communications to continuing UG and PGT students and UG finalist students outlining the University's approach to supporting student academic outcomes.
Graduation ceremonies will run as normal this summer.
Impact on plans to progress onto a postgraduate programme
If you plan to progress to a postgraduate programme which is dependent on your final award and your result has been affected by the marking and assessment boycott, we will make every effort to ensure you receive your classification as soon as possible so that you can still proceed.
As this is a nation-wide issue affecting many UK universities, we expect our admissions processes and those of other institutions to be flexible so that the marking and assessment boycott doesn’t affect your ability to continue postgraduate studies.
Impact on future employment plans that are dependent on your degree classification
If you plan to start employment which is also conditional on the classification of your final award, we will support you with communications with your new employer about any impacts of the marking and assessment boycott which may have affected your degree programme.
Receiving your final degree classification
We will aim to notify you of your classified award as soon as possible. We will send this information to your University email address and your degree certificate will only be issued when this information is available.
The boycott might affect oral examinations (vivas) if any examiner or independent chair participates in the marking and assessment boycott. However, you should continue to prepare as normal unless you are told by your School that the oral examination will be postponed. If it is postponed, it will be rearranged as soon as possible after the boycott has ended.
The Turnitin review might also be affected resulting in a possible delay in it being completed.
You must submit by your final submission deadline even where the examination might be affected by the boycott. The normal expectation that an oral examination will be held within four months of submission is not in force where there is a postponement.
Where a student needs their award urgently for visa or career requirements and this is jeopardised by a postponed oral examination, the School will prioritise those examinations. In some urgent cases, new examiners might be appointed.
Preparations and the operation of the Research Degrees Examination Board might be limited by the boycott. We anticipate that the Board will function and that research degrees will continue to be awarded.
PGR annual progress monitoring
In some cases annual progress monitoring might be affected. However, you should continue to prepare as normal unless you are informed by your School that the review will be postponed. If there is a postponement, the review will be rearranged as soon as possible after the boycott has ended.
PGR plagiarism panels and student appeals
Investigations of suspected plagiarism and student appeals could also be affected, resulting in possible delays in these activities.
Contact your Faculty PGR Director.
- Arts: Dr Damien Mooney,firstname.lastname@example.org
- Engineering: Dr Flavia De Luca, email@example.com
- Life Sciences: Professor Harry Mellor, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Health Sciences: Professor Tom Gaunt, email@example.com
- Science: Professor Walther Schwarzacher, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Social Sciences & Law: Professor Jutta Weldes, email@example.com
For more information on MAB and Universities and College Union (UCU) strike action, you can visit the Bristol SU UCU strikes page.
Support for you
If you're feeling any impact on your health or wellbeing, you can request wellbeing support.
Mitigating the impact of industrial action on your studies
Your school will monitor any teaching or assessment activities that are affected by industrial action and make the necessary arrangements to minimise the impact upon you as much as possible.
We will only have a full picture of the impact after industrial action has ended and can then consider appropriate measures in mitigation. The impact will vary across schools, programmes and even between individual students taking the same unit. As a result, mitigations can take various forms:
- Providing alternative learning opportunities;
- Substituting teaching activities;
- Revising the format and/or content of your assessments;
- Extending coursework and project deadlines;
- Changing the weighting of a particular assessment in your overall results.
Anything we put in place needs to be fair to all our students, practically feasible and in keeping with the standards that underpin the quality of your degree.
The Board of Examiners will know the full details of the impact of the strike and will ensure that any mitigation is fair and reasonable in its decision making. The Board can also apply further mitigation if necessary. Your academic outcomes will be safeguarded.
If you have further concerns, contact your school office.
Student visa holders
The industrial action should not affect your Student Visa. Unless you are told that a specific class or contact point has been cancelled, you should attend as normal. Any classes or contact points which are cancelled as the result of industrial action will be recorded as an authorised absence with a note to say that this is due to industrial action.
If you have concerns about the impact of the industrial action on your visa, contact our International Student Visa Advisers.
Information about the Graduate route visa and the marking and assessment boycott is available on the Visa web page.
Extension requests for PGR students
If you are nearing your final submission deadline and your supervisor is not able to provide support on your final draft because of industrial action, you may request an extension in the normal way. Extensions linked to a strike will be automatically approved for an appropriate length, considering funding body or visa requirements. This will be treated separately from any two-week extension requests allowed to cover unforeseen circumstances near the final submission deadline.
If any courses are affected by industrial action, we will address this on a unit-by-unit basis, not via individual extenuating circumstances claims.
If you’re already in touch with your school (via a personal tutor, senior tutor, school office, wellbeing adviser etc), continue to seek their support and advice. If you believe that the current situation has exacerbated your circumstances, you should seek advice about submitting additional evidence to support your extenuating circumstances through your school or department. This will ensure that the Board of Examiners are fully aware and can act accordingly.
All students can access our online wellbeing resources or get in touch with wellbeing support.
Industrial action reimbursement fund
Students who experience disruption due to the industrial action are eligible to claim from the Industrial action reimbursement fund for costs incurred, for example childcare, subsistence and travel.
Student fees cover all aspects of the provision to students (not just a ‘cost per class’) and are based on delivery of the overall learning outcomes for students in any given programme. These education outcomes are delivered and accessed in a variety of ways. They also contribute to other areas including, pastoral, social and extracurricular provision, buildings, facilities, research, technology and software and libraries. If you withhold tuition fees, then you will not be able to graduate while the debt is outstanding. We would follow our standard processes to pursue payment.
Residential fees are not the same as tuition fees; they may include all gas, electricity and water rates, plus internet and a bus pass. If payment for residences is withheld, we will put in place our standard measures to enforce repayment. You will still be able to graduate.
We aim to resolve complaints informally wherever possible, so before making a formal complaint, contact your school office to find out what mitigations have been put in place for any lost teaching/education, or to find out when the mitigations are likely to be known. We may not be able to advise you about mitigations immediately as first, we will assess the impact the industrial action has had, which may take some time.
If you have contacted your school and found out what mitigation is, or will be put in place, and you feel that your concern or complaint cannot be resolved by the school, please complete the Industrial Action Complaint form. If you have further queries about the complaints process, email firstname.lastname@example.org so we can help you.
Formal complaints will be considered in accordance with the Student Complaints Procedure (PDF, 179 KB).
We understand that the impact of industrial action will vary between students. In reviewing your complaint we will consider whether we have a full picture of the impact of industrial action and what appropriate measures in mitigation were put in place. We may not be able to ascertain this until the industrial action has ended and therefore it may take us some time to be able to respond to your complaint. We will keep you updated on the timeframe in which you should expect to receive the outcome of your complaint.
You can also seek independent support from the SU's Academic Advice service.
Appeals should be submitted in the normal way after notification of an Examination Board outcome in accordance with the provisions of Sections 10 and 11 of the Examination Regulations (PDF, 265 KB). Under the Examination Regulations, you can graduate if you have an appeal outstanding.
The University participates in a national bargaining arrangement to agree the annual pay award. As one of 147 employers in the scheme, we are represented by UCEA, who negotiate with all the unions on our behalf.
With our union colleagues, we have made progress on issues like closing the gender pay gap and reducing casualisation in our workforce.
The negotiated pay award for 2022/23 was not agreed by all unions representing HE staff. However, it was felt to be fair and reasonable collectively by employers and was implemented in Bristol in August 2022. The pay award ranged between 3% and 9% depending on pay grade. In addition, a significant percentage of staff also received an annual incremental award.
Negotiations for the 2023/24 pay award ended in February. The final award was also not agreed by unions. This new pay award amounts to an increase in salaries of 5% - 8% depending on pay grade.
In addressing the other elements of the pay claim, we have been working closely with our Union representatives to make progress. At the national level UCEA have also proposed terms of reference for negotiations on these issues with a view to reaching sector wide agreements. The Unions have been consulting on whether they wish to enter those negotiations, a condition of which would be the suspension of further industrial action.
USS pension scheme
The USS Trustee proposed significantly increased contribution rates based on a valuation of the scheme made in March 2020. The increased contribution rates would make the scheme unaffordable for many members and university employers. The valuation of the scheme and the subsequent recommendations from the USS Trustee are disputed by UCU.
We have had direct conversations with the USS Trustee and lobbied hard through UUK, who sit on the Joint Negotiating Committee alongside UCU and the USS Trustee, to keep the scheme affordable and to challenge the scheme governance and seek reform.
We supported the proposal put forward by Universities UK (UUK) which recommended lower contribution rates for members than those proposed by the USS Trustees, and we were supportive of employers paying a higher share of contribution increases to help conclude the current scheme valuation. The UUK proposal was legally accepted by the USS Trustee in March 2022.
However, the proposal included cuts to pension benefits for USS members. UCU rejected the proposal and put forward an alternative plan which was not supported by the Joint Negotiating Committee.
We are one of 340 organisations that are part of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), so any changes would need to be agreed by USS and the Pensions Regulator. For Bristol, every 1% additional contribution to the scheme would cost around £1.5m.
Universities UK (UUK, representing employers) and UCU negotiated for many months on how to address pension costs and retain benefits for members. In March they issued a joint statement regarding their aims in light of an anticipated improvement in the valuation of the pension fund, which you can read here.
We continue to protect staff benefits by working with our Staff Pension Working Group and the local UCU branch to advocate keeping cost increases to an absolute minimum, and only where necessary.