Students’ right to appeal marks and grades

Dear students,

On 24 May, UCU@GCU published the blog post ‘Students – we believe management are endangering the integrity of your degree –UCU@GCU. In it, we expressed our worry that GCU management has implemented corner-cutting measures in marking and assessment that may endanger the integrity of your degree. GCU management has implemented these measures in order to try to get around the lawful Marking and Assessment Boycott that UCU has needed to activate. UCU has taken such action in an attempt, finally, to get the University and College Employers’ Association back round the negotiating table in the current industrial dispute.

Among other things, we worry that the marks and grades that you receive as a result of these temporary measures may not properly reflect the effort that you have put into your studies during your time at GCU. This may result, among other things, in employers and accreditation bodies choosing not to risk taking on students who graduate this year.

If, then, you feel you have any cause to feel angry or suspicious about the marks or grades that you have received, remember that every student has the right to appeal an assessment board decision on their marks and grades. The appeals process can be found in the university’s Academic Appeals Policy and Procedures document, at

Yours in solidarity,

UCU Branch Committee, Glasgow Caledonian University

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Management threat to access staff e-mails due to dispute shocks campus unions

The UCU are in a legal and legitimate dispute with management at GCU over wages pay and conditions. Currently the dispute is taking the form of members working to contract and implementing a Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB) by refusing to mark and assess students work.

Staff had made a cogent case for no deductions to be taken from members involved in the MAB, since staff are continuing to working well above agreed workloads, and those staff not marking were already doing other work. The union had also specifically indicated that following discussions with line managers, members would take alternative work to that of marking and assessment.

Although being Scotland’s university ‘for the common good’ after almost a week’s consideration, management turned this chance down, and confirmed all staff involved would be deducted 30 percent of their wages over a three week period.

All campus unions were shocked however, when one of the union members involved in the MAB was contacted by a member of senior management to indicate that if marks were not processed then the staff members e-mail mail account would be accessed and ‘details retrieved’ from it

In the words of the e-mail

If I don’t not (sic) have this by the end of today,  I will be forced to retrieve these from your university email account which is clearly not my preferred position. 

On contacting HR to ask under which policy this could be justified, and who would authorise it, we were only informed that this ‘this would not be necessary’ if the local branch followed UCU guidance.

The UCU believe they are following UCU guidance on the MAB and have confirmed this with their Scotland Office.

Monitoring e-mails to further management position in a trade dispute

The Combined Union Committee at GCU issued this statement today regarding this draconian approach, which we do not believe has been suggested in any other of the 145 universities taking part in the current dispute.

“The intention expressed to monitor and retrieve information from staff e-mails we believe would be a misuse of current GCU policies, and also a breach of GDPR approaches which all staff are currently being instructed to follow.

There is trust between staff and management regarding the privacy of e-mails and an acceptance particularly that correspondence that may pertain to issues within a trade dispute should never be monitored or accessed. We intend to table a discussion on this question at a forthcoming Joint Consultative Committee and will be contacting the Principal and Chair of Court over the matter. We believe that management will see sense over this issue, but ask all staff to let us know if there is any further suggestion that their e-mails have or will be be accessed to further management’s position in this dispute”

Stop Press Edit: Following the publishing of this blog post, the UCU was subsequently contacted by by a member of the senior management team who stated: “Just to be clear, we are not monitoring emails”.

We are glad to hear this, and would now hope that this position is made clear to all senior management members.

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Solidarity towards UCU @ GCU

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Colleagues in Media and Journalism were copied in to this e-mail from UCU member @ Ulster University, Dr Anthea Irwin, who felt compelled to resign as external examiner for the Media and Communications degree following GCU Management’s actions over deductions.

The e-mail is self explanatory

Subject: Resigning my position as external examiner

Dear Professor Stephen Decent 

I am writing to resign my position as external examiner for the BA (Hons) Media and Communication at Glasgow Caledonian University in protest at GCU management’s decision to join with many other HE institutions represented by UCEA to take punitive pay deductions from UCU members participating in lawful action short of strike in the form of a marking and assessment boycott. I am not prepared to take part in assessment and quality assurance procedures in the context of such disregard for the rights of staff at GCU. 

I started to consider my position some time ago upon learning of the initial deduction plans, but I held off from tendering my resignation for as long as possible in acknowledgement of your ongoing negotiations with the UCU branch which reduced the deductions and the aim of which was to remove them completely. Unfortunately, upon having learned of your refusal to remove the deductions, I must now resign.  

I do this with a heavy heart because I know the institution and the department very well, and have the utmost respect and admiration for the exceptional work the colleagues do in facilitating the next generations of media and journalism professionals to enable us as a society to be informed about, analyse, and develop ourselves in the spirit of the ‘common good’ values of GCU.  

However, to deduct any proportion of pay for action short of strike fails utterly to acknowledge the efforts of the colleagues. It is in my opinion offensive in the context of a dispute about, amongst other things, unsustainable workloads that see colleagues across the sector consistently working well above and beyond 100% of their contract to support students, provide excellence, and uphold quality. In an institution with amongst the highest staff student ratios in the country, the workload crisis is all the more acute. In any case, I have not seen evidence that your chosen deduction figure is based on a reliable calculation of workload proportion that represents work lost, and I understand that the UCU branch actually offered to take on additional other duties in good faith.  

I share your concerns about the impact of the conditions the industrial action exists in on students across the UK. However, insufficient progress has been made in national negotiations and, in my opinion, efforts should be focused on encouraging UCEA to improve our members’ conditions sufficiently, rather than punishing your own colleagues in this way. Furthermore, appointing alternative markers outwith the areas of expertise of the colleagues taking part in the marking and assessment boycott undermines the quality of assessment and by extension the integrity of the degrees affected by it. 

I hope that there may be a small window in which you can reverse this punitive action, in which case I will be happy to rescind my resignation.  

Kind regards 

Dr Anthea Irwin, Lecturer in Communication, Ulster University

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Students – we believe management are endangering the integrity of your degree – UCU@GCU

The following statement was made public by UCU@GCU today (24th May 2023). On 16th May, a draft of this was given to GCU management to comment on as they might wish, and the publishing of the statement was delayed but the opportunity to comment was not taken up. If management wish to comment on the statement the blog will of course publish any response.

Degree by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

Dear students,

GCU management: endangering the integrity of your degree

As your lecturers, tutors and supervisors, we recognise the energy and commitment you bring to your studies at GCU, your efforts to juggle them with work and family commitments, and the demands and stress all this places on you. So we are committed to carrying out the process of your assessment marking and degree classification with great care and responsibility, and in doing so protect the integrity of your qualifications. In particular, it’s essential that employers are confident in the quality of GCU degrees and, by extension, the abilities of GCU graduates.

We are therefore very concerned by the actions taken in recent weeks by GCU management to undermine the lawful and last resort Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB) action taken by GCU teaching staff alongside colleagues nationally. We believe these actions pose a major threat to the integrity of your degree and the confidence employers will have in it. In particular, we have become aware that in some cases:

  • Marking has been reallocated to temporary staff who have not been involved in setting assessments or teaching on the modules being assessed.
  • Dissertations are being marked without involvement of dissertation supervisors, making it much more likely that they will be marked by someone with no close knowledge and understanding of the projects being assessed. Some marking of dissertations is being done by PGR students who have not been involved in dissertation marking previously and have little knowledge of the topic.
  • Examinations are being re-organised without no involvement by module leaders, and with content and formats being subject to change.

We believe these extraordinary measures disrespect the time and energy you have invested in preparing for and undertaking assessments, and endanger the integrity of the very marking process that gives future employers a confident picture of your abilities. In choosing to devalue the assessment process rather than encourage national employers to settle the ongoing dispute swiftly, GCU management are prioritising their institutional interests over your education and employment prospects.  

If you too are concerned, please contact GCU Principal Professor Stephen Decent ( and encourage him to work with national employers to settle the dispute swiftly. Please copy in the chair of Court Rob Woodward:

We also want to thank you for the magnificent support GCU students are showing staff during this industrial dispute. As you likely know, the MAB has been called by the University and College Union (UCU) in response to our national employers’ refusal to negotiate a reasonable offer on pay amidst a national cost of living crisis, on the back of a 25% real-terms pay cut since 2009. This is part of a broader disinvestment in and devaluation of Higher Education, which has caused unsustainable workloads and casualisation among university staff, and failed to address gender and ethnic pay inequalities. Many of your teachers are overworked, underpaid, undervalued and on insecure contracts, with some unable to buy a home or start a family. In recent national negotiations, employers failed to offer concrete progress on any of these matters.

We deeply regret the impact of the ongoing industrial dispute on your education. But we strongly believe that the quality of higher education in the UK, and students’ academic experience, depend on teaching staff being afforded the dignity and respect of manageable workloads, fair pay and secure conditions. Similarly, the future standard of living of students seeking graduate jobs must be protected by the committed action of working people, amid a cost of living crisis pushing many individuals and families into poverty.

As always, we value the enthusiasm, insight and knowledge you bring to your studies and look forward to continuing to work together to build a University where we can all grow and flourish.

Yours in solidarity, 

UCU Branch Committee Glasgow Caledonian University

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We deeply regret university management’s failure of vision and of nerve – UCU@GCU

Vision by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Pix4free amended by UCU@GCU

Glasgow Caledonian university branch of the UCU today expressed their deep disappointment with GCU management for what the branch see as a failure of vision and of nerve.  This follows the management declining to take what the branch had seen as a helpful approach within the current stage of the marking and assessment boycott.

Two weeks ago, Queen Margaret University (Edinburgh) decided to remove their punitive deductions for those taking part in the MAB from  100% to zero, on the basis of staff involved accepting alternative non-marking work. 

For almost a week, the UCU officers at GCU have been waiting for a GCU management response to the request that a similar approach might be adopted here. Currently staff taking part in the MAB will have 30 percent of their salary deducted for three weeks.

One of the reasons eventually given for  rejecting the UCU suggestion was (in the words of the management spokesperson)  ‘many of [the Executive Board] felt this was too late given where we are in the marking and assessment period. It was felt that to change the rules midway through this period of assessment would be unfair to those who have picked up additional marking’.

We do not believe the Executive Board are talking in the name of those still currently marking.

None of those involved in the marking boycott have at any time heard staff who are not involved arguing that they would feel better if the reward for them marking was that those not marking should be penalised by thirty percent of their salary being deducted.

The logic of our request to follow the position of Queen Margaret University was simple however, and we believed fair. 

We are the University for the Common Good (Queen Margaret are not, yet they are acting perhaps as if they were).

The lack of logic in the deductions being imposed is the following. Currently a member of staff at GCU who refuses to mark two dissertations, can have 30 percent of their wages deducted for three weeks, while similarly a member declining to mark say 80 essays suffers the same penalty.

This is based on the view of staff actions being ‘partial performance’ yet there is no logic as to where the figure of 30 percent comes from. We will be asking any staff affected to request the basis upon which the calculation of their partial performance was carried out.

In reality none of the staff undertaking the MAB are doing less than 100 percent work – although it may not include marking. Workload has been an issue here for years with the student staff ratio the third highest in the whole country.

Given that 30 percent of our salary will be withheld, then the logic of this position would be that our staff, should work out what thirty percent of their workload is in reality and just not carry it out, given that they are already being penalised blindly for this. However, the union are aiming to be the adults in the room here.

This approach from management really is not what a university for the common good should be implementing. 

Our branch had circulated a draft critique of how the operation of a marking and assessment boycott was being acted upon in terms of how students were marked. We had asked for comments on this from the Executive Board

At the request of management we delayed issuing this ‘until the Executive Board made a statement on the unions suggestions regarding the marking and assessment boycott’. This time has now come and passed and no comments have been made on our draft statement on the integrity of the marking process under the MAB, and therefore the statement is being issued to students currently.

We also suggested to the Executive Board that together with us, they might follow the example of the University of Cambridge and Cambridge UCU, in issuing a joint statement asking for UCEA to return to the negotiating table. We believe this is also in line with the actions of a university for the common good, but there has been no response on this.

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UCU and Student Officers discuss Marking and Assessment Boycott

UCU Postgrad rep Lucy MacKay, VP Douglas Chalmers, Student officer Jennifer Abali, UCU VP Elect Karen Lorimer, Student President Chidozi Nwaigwe, Student Officers Wilfred Obi and Solomon Ajala

UCU branch committee members had their first meeting with the newly elected Student Association Sabbatical officers last week (Tuesday 16th May) where we welcomed them to their posts, and intimated that together with the other campus unions we looked forward to working constructively with them over this coming year.

In a wide ranging discussion over areas in which we would hope to work with them, including student accommodation, and student facilities in general, we discussed our proposed statement on the effects of GCU management’s response to the marking boycott. This statement which is with management for comment and which will be released shortly, expresses our deep concern at how we believe the integrity of student degrees is threatened by the manner in which the marking and assessment boycott has been reacted to by the university.

At a special meeting of the University Senate, UCU members on the Senate voiced criticisms of the proposed manner in which the marking and assessment boycott would be handled. However the proposals to Senate from the VP learning and teaching were passed nevertheless.

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UCU launches Marking and Assessment Boycott

After an overwhelming positive vote which renews UCU’s mandate for industrial action over the next six months, UCU members at over 140 UK universities today (Thursday 20th April) launched a marking and assessment boycott.

Below you will see the message to all members from Jo Grady the General Secretary of the union.

The University and College Union has today [Wednesday 19 April] confirmed that a marking and assessment boycott will commence tomorrow [Thursday 20 April] at 145 UK universities after employers failed to produce an improved offer in the pay & conditions dispute.

Earlier this week, UCU members working in UK higher education voted to reject pay & conditions proposals agreed with employers.  

A marking and assessment boycott will cover all marking and assessment, including that in writing, online, or verbally. The boycott will also cover any assessment-related work such as exam invigilation and the administrative processing of marks. This is expected to impact graduations. 

A number of university employers have already announced that they will make wage deductions of up to 100% for staff taking part in the boycott, despite staff continuing to teach, lecture and support students as normal. The union has condemned the threats and said further strike action could be called in response.

The boycott will continue until employers make an improved offer, at which point UCU will decide whether to continue the action or call it off. 

In the pensions dispute, the union will now move forward proposals with employers to restore benefits after 85% of UCU members voted in favour during a recent consultation. UCU has been clear, however, that it retains the right to take action if employers backtrack.  

Last month, UCU successfully renewed its industrial action mandate, allowing industrial action to be called for a further six months. 

UCU general secretary Jo Grady, said:

‘Ample opportunity has been given for employers to improve their offer in the pay & conditions dispute, but they have refused and now a historic marking and assessment boycott will begin at 145 universities. Staff have been crystal clear that they are worth more than what has been put on the table and now bosses need to wake up and prevent widespread disruption hitting graduations. 

‘We never wanted to be in this position, but for over a decade pay has been held down and conditions attacked. Those who run our universities only have themselves to blame, but rather than resolve the disputes they are instead threatening to take 100% of wages from staff who are still performing the majority of their duties. It is disgraceful and vindictive behaviour.

‘Our message to students is this: we do not want this boycott to go on any longer than it needs to but the status quo cannot continue. Please contact your vice chancellor and tell them to get back around the table with a fair offer.’ 

UCU@GCU will be intending to keep the blog updated regarding our actions in the Marking and Assessment Boycott.

To put pressure on the University to act to bring an end to the dispute please e-mail the Principal, Stephen Decent at copying in Rob Woodward, the chair of the GCU Court

You can contact the local UCU branch officers here: President Catriona Mowat:; Vice President Douglas Chalmers:; Secretary Lyle Gray:; and Vice President elect Karen Lorimer:

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Over (part 1)…….. but certainly not out

Today saw the last of the current UCU strike days in the on-going HE unions’ dispute with management over the unacceptably meagre salary increase of approximately 5 percent being imposed on all staff.

Ironically, while university sector chiefs are expecting staff with higher than ever workloads to do more for less, official inflation figures indicated a further rise in the yearly cost of living up to 10.4 percent for the twelve months ending February 2023

While our pickets endured frostbite like conditions last week, and dreich conditions earlier this week, today brought storm like winds as part of a yellow weather warning – but failed to daunt our spirits – or uproot our gazebo, which was well tied down.

Our reballot finishes on the 30th and we’ll be meeting soon after that to consider next steps.

Some pictures from today’s picket below:

At least there was no rain…
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A love song to Education from the UCU…..

Just a snippet of some of the energy, joy and determination on the UCU picket line this month and last

Our Vice Present elect Karen Lorimer has done a marvellous job above, encapsulating just some of the moments the branch shared on the picket line during the current period of dispute. Below are some of today’s photos as well. Tomorrow (Wednesday 22nd March) is the end of the current round of strikes as we wait for the result of the reballot about possible action over the next six months.

We’re still in dispute however, so if you haven’t posted your ballot – please do this week – you want your voice to count!

And of course….. all are welcome to tomorrow’s final picket in this part of the dispute – hope to see you there!

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Another University is Possible……

Some images from the lively teach in held in the Students Association building

Another university is possible – one that really does live the values of the ‘common good’ but is also one where a new generation of students is created – a generation that lives our values, debates them with staff, and helps ‘co-create’ a curriculum that helps change Scotland, the UK and indeed the planet in this time of Climate Emergency.

Dr Ben Shepherd, of History/ Social Sciences department, Dr Gill Murray, Yunus Centre, and Laura Yapp, 2nd year Social Science student and member of Student Solidarity engaged their audience of staff and students with three short talks, which were so interesting that the conversations were still going after we had finished our allotted hour slot in the Student discussion space in the Students Association building, and had to take the conversations upstairs to the coffee space. (Thanks to Ewan Kerr for organising this!)

Ben as usual, used his encylopeadic knowledge of history and some great insights into what universities should do to help create democratically active citizens. His particular interest was how to help create a new generation of informed students willing and able to intervene positively into society to promote progressive values

Gill looked at the lessons of the Covid pandemic and quoted three quite frightening facts. Firstly,  that age standardised deaths were twice as hight for those living in the poorest 20% of the population than those living in the richest 20%. (As we know, GCU recruits more students from this first group, than any other Scottish university – apart from the University of the West of Scotland). Secondly that digital poverty became a severe barrier to poorer communities were there was a turn to on-line teaching during the pandemic – again something experienced by our staff’s observations.Thirdly that existing inequalities were exacerbated with a stalling of mortality improvements – with 300 thousand excess deaths caused due to austerity policies (figures from the Glasgow Centre for Population Health).

Laura, finished off by describing how relentless work (and FOIs) had unearthed the fact that although GCU direct investment in Fossil Fuels and other undesirable areas may have finished in 2017, indirect investment in this area had continued and was only drawing to a close now. Watch this space for further information on this soon.

This all followed a very collegiate, if also very dreich picket earlier in the morning where we said hello to three paramedics, Logan, Chloe and Phil, some of whom were student members of the union. Ben Shepherd was interviewed by the GCU postgrad journalists, on the Teach-In – (many thanks Ben). However, we missed Karen and Catriona’s usual uplifting Spotify playlists, and were left with granddad’s choice from myself till Suzanne stepped in to bring a bit of quality back.

Will see you all tomorrow and Wednesday at the main gate from 8!

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