From Professor Richard Reece | DVC Education and Student Experience
Next week we are due to have five further strike days by the University and College Union (UCU) from Monday 28 March to Friday 1 April. As with the previous strikes, this is the result of the ongoing national dispute about staff pensions and pay and working conditions. It also sits alongside the ongoing marking and assessment boycott.
I know this will be frustrating news for all of you and we are equally frustrated that this is happening again. Throughout this period of industrial action, we have continued negotiating with our local union representatives on issues we can influence here at Kent, while also campaigning for change at a national level where we are able to. The issues are important, but it is our firm view that industrial action is not the right way to go about this while discussions continue. You can read more about what we are doing to address these issues on our industrial action webpages.
Supporting you and your studies
Above everything else we regret the effect that the UCU’s action is having on all of you. I know that industrial action inevitably brings stress, frustration and uncertainty. It has been a difficult couple of years for you all, and I know that this new strike will be further unwelcome news.
While we will continue to do all that we can to reach agreement with our local UCU colleagues before the strike is due to start, our focus will remain on mitigating the likely impact on you and your studies as far as we can. While we won’t know who will or won’t be taking strike action, we will let you know wherever we can where there will be an impact on your studies.
We also often won’t know what mitigating action we will need to take around marking and assessment, or when affected marks will be available, until nearer to when the exam boards themselves take place. I understand this is frustrating but want to be clear on that so that you know what to expect.
Maintaining academic standards
I am aware of some confusion circulating about the University’s response to the marking and assessment boycott and I want to offer some reassurance about how we will be managing the award of your marks this year. It is important that I address these inaccuracies today to avoid unnecessary stress and upset for all of you through not having a fuller picture.
The ability to award your degree is a privilege to all of us at the University. It is a mark of your commitment, dedication to learning and, above all, your hard work. There are no circumstances in which we would risk the integrity and value of that award, and our decision-making over the last two years has had that point at the forefront throughout – our intention is also always that all assessment, marking and exam board processes run in the usual ways.
Managing disruption to studies
Alongside this, our University Senate is planning for situations where disruption could threaten your ability to progress or graduate. This is about protecting the essential integrity of your degree while ensuring your studies and future plans can continue without interruption. Learning objectives and necessary credits still need to be achieved and there is no intention to award degrees without the participation of relevant external examiners; we are just making sure that we have options available if (and only if) we need to adapt some of our usual marking processes to make sure no student is disadvantaged.
These would only ever be a last resort and any adjustments that were required will be notified to the Office for Students as usual, who are responsible for ensuring we maintain the strict standards all universities adhere to. We have also put similar mitigations in place on a number of occasions in the past as part of a pragmatic approach to managing disruption to studies.
Marking & Assessment Webchat
I am aware that these issues are a cause of concern for many and that the thoroughness of the potential mitigations prepared with Senate mean they can sound more alarming than they are. With that in mind, I would like to invite all of you to a Webchat via Teams this Friday at 12.45 so that I can update you directly on this and answer any questions you may have. You can sign up for this via the form and the session will also be recorded for those who can’t make it.
Do also visit our industrial action webpages for further information and make use of support available if you are feeling concerned or anxious about this, including our Student Support and Wellbeing Team, the Kent Union Advice Centre and Divisional contacts.
With my thanks for your continued patience with this,
Professor Richard Reece | DVC Education and Student Experience