Industrial action by the University & College Union
Text updated on 12 September 2023 for FAQ updates.
The University of Nottingham is among 150 universities across the country that are currently experiencing national industrial action by members of the University & College Union (UCU).
Members of the University & College Union will undertake five days of strike action across the period Monday 25 to Friday 29 September 2023. This covers most of our Welcome activities.
The University will remain open throughout the industrial action and the vast majority of Welcome activities and teaching and learning will proceed as usual. Please assume that your events, lectures, seminars and classes will take place unless notified otherwise.
UCU has stopped the marking and assessment boycott activity that has taken place over the summer, although all other action short of a strike will remain effective.
The following FAQs have been published to help you understand how we will minimise disruption for you and the university’s position on what is a national dispute affecting universities across the country.
The industrial action
What are the issues under dispute and can the University resolve them??
- The dispute concerns pay rises and pension contributions that are set at a national level for all universities, so it cannot be resolved at the University of Nottingham alone. However, action is already being taken that would address some of the grievances expressed in the industrial action.
- Universities have implemented a revised national pay offer for 2023-24 for staff who are covered by the national pay settlement. This will provide a national uplift for 2023-24 of either 5% or 6% depending on their point on the pay spine.
- Whilst the full award will be payable from 1 August 2023, a 2% uplift or £1,000 – whichever is the greater – has been paid backdated to 1 February 2023.
- UCEA has also advised that around half of the staff covered within national negotiations are also eligible for an additional pay progression increase (increment), this will apply from 1 August 2023 and is expected to be a further 3% increase.
- Pay for staff at lower grades is negotiated locally and the University is implementing a three-year pay offer for these staff of 8.2% in year 1, and a 3-year total of 18.5% that exceeds any other offer available in the higher education sector. This is in addition to reforms that will also see these staff receive increased annual leave, pension benefits and enhanced pay rates for bank holiday and closure days.
- Nottingham is also introducing Graduate Teaching Assistant contracts to end the use of so-called casual contracts, which will be extended to all Schools for the 2023/24 academic year.
- Backed up by £1.3 billion support from universities, reforms were introduced in April to the USS pension to tackle a significant deficit in the scheme and keep contribution rates for members affordable. A new, full valuation of the scheme is scheduled for March 2023.
- The latest quarterly monitoring figures of the USS pension scheme continue to show an improvement in the scheme’s financial position since the last valuation. In a statement issued on Friday 17 February, Universities UK and UCU said this would allow for a return to a comparable level of future benefits as existed before the April 2022 changes, as well as achieve a reduction in costs for members and employers.
How might picket lines affect me?
- Picketing is where staff taking part in industrial action gather outside their place of work in order to seek to persuade others not to work. Picketing is only allowed at or near entrances to and exits from the picket's own place of work.
- Pickets can request permission to explain their dispute to those entering or leaving the workplace - including students - however, these activities must be carried out peacefully at all times.
- Pickets do not have the right stop any person crossing the picket line; force a person to listen to them; stop any vehicle; assault, threaten, intimidate, abuse, harass or defame anyone; cause alarm or distress; or obstruct any path, road, entrance or exit.
- Please note that unless a class has been disrupted, normal attendance monitoring will take place. It is worth remembering that the student Attendance Policy means you must attend all activities to pursue your studies required by your school.
Teaching and learning
What happens to teaching and learning during industrial action?
- Please assume that teaching and learning activities are going ahead, including the supervision of projects and dissertations, and that you attend as planned unless you hear otherwise from your lecturer or School. Similarly, you should continue to submit assignments to existing deadlines.
- Schools are exploring options to reschedule lost learning wherever possible, provide catch-up resources through Moodle and extend deadlines where helpful. Please keep in touch with your School for information specific to your circumstances.
How will I know if my seminar, lecture or other session is disrupted by industrial action?
- Where sessions are likely to experience disruption, your School will endeavour to give you advance notice where at all possible. However, staff do not have to inform the University in advance that they intend to take industrial action, so this might not be possible in every case.
- Should a member of staff not arrive for a teaching session at its planned start time, you should wait for a few minutes to be sure that your lecturer is not late before leaving the room.
- Please note that unless a class has been disrupted, normal attendance monitoring will take place. It worth remembering that the student Attendance Policy means you must attend all activities to pursue your studies required by your School.
What should I do if my session is disrupted by industrial action?
- Please accept our apologies if this does occur. Our libraries, computer rooms, and other learning environments and services will be available throughout the period to enable you to continue your studies and independent learning.
- Schools are exploring options to reschedule lost sessions where possible, provide catch-up resources through Moodle and extend deadlines where helpful. Please keep in touch with your School for information specific to your circumstances
Exams and assessments
If my sessions are disrupted and not rescheduled, how can I be assessed on those topics in examinations or assessments?
- For your assessments and exams, we will ensure that you are not disadvantaged if you have missed any learning due to the strikes, while of course maintaining the highest standards.
- Schools will ensure that assessments, exams, coursework and other assignments reflect only the learning that has taken place.
- In the event that an exam question or assessment task requires learning that has been disrupted by strikes, this would usually be changed or replaced with an equivalent question or task covering material which has been delivered.
- Assessment methods will be maintained in the same proportions, for example, 10% presentation, 30% coursework, 60% exam.
- Importantly, we will maintain our quality and standards at all times, with full regard to the Quality Assurance Agency and our Quality Manual, so that you can be assured that your exams assessments will be as robust as they always are.
What if the assessment cannot be changed?
- On the limited occasions where an assessment cannot be changed, then Boards of Examiners would make overall adjustments to marks in recognition of the additional difficulties faced by the students on the affected module.
- The intention would be to ensure that the cancellation of teaching has no detrimental effect on any student in terms of the marks they receive. In such circumstances you would not be required to submit a claim for extenuating circumstances.
What if my viva, oral examination or presentation is disrupted?
- Should oral examinations, assessments and vivas coincide with the industrial action they will be rescheduled at the earliest opportunity.
Will we be entitled to an extension for dissertations or other submission of work due to the industrial action?
- You should assume that any deadlines set for submitting work, including dissertations, still apply as normal. Your Schools will aim to maintain assessment deadlines, but also look at where revised deadlines might be helpful for you.
- Unless you have been told of a change to a specific submission date, the stated deadline will stand, and you will not be automatically entitled to an extension if the submission or dissertation deadline falls within the period of industrial action.
- If the industrial action has a specific detrimental impact on your personally, you might be able to make a request for Extenuating Circumstances, which supports students with exceptional, unforeseeable, short-term circumstances which affect their ability to study or take assessments.
Marking and assessment boycott
When will all outstanding progression and classification decisions be complete by?
- Updated progression and classification decisions will be available on Blue Castle from 10am on Tuesday 19 September. In a very small number of cases progression and classification decisions may not be available. If this affects you, please contact your School and they will advise when they expect to be able to confirm your results.
I’ve heard MAB has ended early – does this mean my progression or classification decision will be available earlier?
- Where work has been marked over July and August, results have been submitted by schools to our Registry and Academic Services (RAA) team. They are currently being processed for the next progression and classification release date of Tuesday 19 September.
- Any marks subsequently submitted to RAA must wait for the next processing date for a progression or classification decision to be produced. This is likely to be in late October.
- If this affects you, please contact your School and they will advise when they expect to be able to confirm your results.
Will the five days of strike action taking place at the end of September affect marking?
- Potentially, yes. Where marking is outstanding, the priority is to complete that marking to ensure that results are submitted in time for the next marks processing activity.
Those taking part in the planned strike action will not be completing marking during that period.
I previously accepted my derived or part-for-whole mark, and the resulting progression or classification decision. Now that the MAB has ended, will my work be marked?
- No. The progression or classification decision that you accepted is the final decision. Your work will not be marked.
What will happen if the marking for my module is completed?
- Marking completed and submitted in time for the June exam boards was included as usual for progression or award consideration. Thereafter requested marking was included, for example, for students who declined their progression or classification award
What is a ‘part-for-whole’ mark?
- Where possible, we used your actual marks to calculate your overall module mark. If marking hadn’t been completed for all elements of assessment, then as long as you had completed assessments worth at least 40% of the module, we will normally be able to use this as your module mark on a ‘part-for-whole’ basis.
- This mark would count as the full number of credits for that module. For example, if you had completed 40% or more of assessment for a 20-credit module, that mark would count as 20 credits of completed marks.
I have marks for a module that are worth less than 40% of the module. Or I have no marks for a module but I have completed all my assessments: what overall mark will I get?
- If, because of the marking boycott, we were not able to mark assessments worth at least 40% of your overall module mark – and you have submitted all your assessments - then we used a derived mark based on your completed marks where possible.
- We used completed marks from the same academic year where possible. But if you had less than 60 credits of marked work in the current year, we would look to use the previous year’s marks too.
- We gave you that derived mark for any elements of assessment that are unmarked.
How is a derived mark calculated?
- Full information on how a derived mark is calculated is available on our Quality Manual webpages. The derived mark is based on actual achievement from the current academic stage and level, as far as possible. If you have 60 credits of completed marks available from before the derived mark cut-off date, we will use a weighted average of those marks as your derived mark.
- If you have fewer than 60 credits of completed marks in this stage from before the derived mark cutoff date, we will include a weighted average of those marks in combination with your work from previous years.
How do you calculate the 60 credits to be used for derived marks?
- We add up the credits of your completed marks – whether these are completed through actual marks or part-for-whole marks. This will include all marks for completed modules that are available prior to the derivation cutoff date. If circumstances permit, this will also include actual marks from incomplete modules – for example, where you have marks for assessments totaling less than 40% of the module credits.
- A student on a 20-credit module who has completed 100% of the assessment for that module has completed 20 credits of assessment.
- A student on a 20-credit module who has completed 50% of the assessment for that module has completed 20 credits of assessment under the part-for-whole regulations.
- A student on a 20-credit module who has completed 30% of the assessment for that module has completed six credits of assessment.
What happens if I have fewer than 60 credits of completed modules in this stage and this is my first stage?
- We will not have a fully robust sample of your performance and will be unable to use a derived mark for you. Note, we require 60 credits of completed marks (which may include completed modules but it may also be possible to include marks from summative assessment marks from incomplete modules too) to be able to calculate a derived mark.
I am a finalist and I have marks for 40% of the assessment for a module. I understand that not everyone might want them, but I would like my actual marks because I think it would improve my grade. How will this be accounted for?
- If you have 40% of the assessment for a module, then a part-for-whole mark can be used for the entire module mark. This feeds into your classification decision.
- If your classification included part-for-whole and/or derived marks you have been given the option to accept that decision, or to wait for your assessments to be marked, or to repeat the assessment as applicable. The first deadline was Friday 14 July. The current deadline is 5pm on Friday 22 September for those with outstanding decisions.
My classification decision includes the use of part-for-whole and derived marks. Can I choose to do resits in these assessments?
- Where your classification or progression decision uses part-for-whole or derived marks, then it is your choice whether to accept that decision or not. If you do not accept the decision, you will be informed whether you must wait for your marks or whether you will need to do an equivalent sit of the assessment.
- We will ask you to do an equivalent sit of the assessment(s) if the original assessment(s) did not take place for reasons outside of your control or if the original assessment(s) will never be marked. You will not be able to choose between waiting for marks or a reassessment. Your school will inform you which applies to you.
I am a non-finalist who is progressing into my next year of study and I have marks for 40% of the assessment for a module. I understand that not everyone might want them, but I would like my actual marks because I think it would improve my grade. How will this be accounted for?
- If you have 40% of the assessment for a module, then a part-for-whole mark can be used for the entire module mark. This would feed into your progression decision.
- If your progression decision includes part-for-whole and/or derived marks you will be given the option to accept that decision, or to wait for your assessments to be marked, or to repeat the assessment as applicable.
- If you opt to wait, or to repeat assessments (if required), you must do this for all your affected modules, not just particular ones. If you do, it may delay your progression into the next academic year. You must accept that your marks could go down as well as up.
Will all work from finalists or non-finalists eventually be marked?
- No. If students accept their progression or classification decision, any unmarked work will not be marked.
I am progressing into my next year of study with part-for-whole or derived marks. What marks will be used in my future award classification?
- If you accept your progression decision, then your unmarked work will not be marked. The marks used to determine the progression decision – whether actual, part-for-whole or derived – will be used for that year’s marks. These marks will then be used in future award calculations as relevant.
My course has a Professional or Statutory Regulatory Body (PSRB) requirement, do these contingency regulations apply?
- Courses with PSRB requirements may need to make more stringent arrangements after receiving advice from the relevant body. The contingency regulations will be applied unless they are in conflict with PSRB requirements where the PSRB requirement will need to be met at the first available opportunity. Your School will have contacted you if this is the case.
What if I haven’t satisfied all of the Programme Learning Outcomes because of work that has not been marked?
- In those cases, you will need to wait for your work to be marked. Your School will have contacted you if this is the case.
I’ve heard that a derived mark may be used this year – why is there no safety net option like students benefited from in 2019/2020?
- The Covid-19 pandemic was very different to the situation that we are in now. Industrial action presents a serious disruption, but it is over in relatively few days and it can be mitigated for. The pandemic impacted health and wellbeing and potentially affected the performance of all students. The marking and assessment boycott does not affect student performance, but rather the assessment of student performance.
- The majority of students will progress and be classified as usual this year. The Contingency Regulations should offer students reassurance that the Uni has properly thought-out regulations ready. They uphold the quality of our degrees by ensuring that we can safely progress and graduate most of the students affected by the marking boycott.
- The university’s Contingency Regulations allow for a ‘derived mark’ or a ‘part-for-whole’ mark to be calculated for you and for this to substitute for missing marks. They will only be used where actual marks are not available at the time of the exam board cut off deadline.
- Students will know if their classification/progression grade has used derived /part-for-whole marks before they decide if they wish to accept the decision or wait for marking to be completed/take an equivalent assessment (if applicable).
- You do not have to accept derived/part-for-whole marks and can choose to wait for all your work to be marked (or an equivalent sit assessment, if applicable). If you wait for work to be marked/equivalent sit, your overall marks could go up or down as assessment has been undertaken and actual marks based on your performance will be used.
If I accept my derived marks and my work is marked in the future and I fail, will I have to do resits?
- If you accept a classification/progression decision which includes derived or part for whole marks then that work will not be marked and your progression or award status will be unaffected as actual marks will not subsequently replace derived or part for whole marks for you.
If I’m dissatisfied can I appeal?
- The majority of students will progress and be classified as usual this year. Many students will be unaffected and for those that are, the Contingency Regulations provide reassurance for students.
- If part for whole or derived marks have been used for you then you have the choice of whether to accept these or wait for work to be marked/equivalent sit (as applicable). This would not normally represent grounds for appeal. The University’s appeal process is published on our academic appeal webpages.
If I’m dissatisfied can I complain?
- You are able to use the University’s complaints procedure to express dissatisfaction about the university’s action or lack of action, or about the service provided by or on behalf of the university. You are encouraged to provide feedback through the appropriate school or department representative, Students’ Union, Learning Community Forum (LCF) or service provider in a prompt and constructive manner.
- The University’s complaints procedure is available on our Academic Serivces webpages.
Have students been asked to agree for their work never to be marked?
- No. It is important that students have a choice. They can accept the decisions that have been calculated for them under the contingency regulations or they can wait for their actual marks.
Will MAB affect international students’ visas?
- No. The Home Office is allowing flexibility in the visa system for international students whose assessments are affected by the UCU marking and assessment boycott.
- Students who do not know when they will receive their results due to the marking and assessment boycott will be able to apply to extend their permission whilst they wait for their results.
Will students affected by MAB or waiting for marks be able to attend graduation ceremonies?
- Yes. It is important that students have a choice whether to accept the decisions that have been calculated for them or whether to wait for their actual marks.
- In the event that students completing their final year and affected by the boycott choose to wait for their marks, they will still be able to attend their graduation ceremony with their cohort.
Will non-finalist students affected by the boycott still be able to progress to their next year of study.
- For some students, we do not have enough previous marks to generate a derived or part for whole mark in their assessments. This means that we do not have enough marks to generate a progressions decision.
- Where possible, in the absence of a progression decision, students will be allowed to proceed into the next academic year before marks are known. This is not always the case. Your School will discuss your circumstances with you. Your progression outcome will be confirmed to you once your actual marks are available. We will add those marks to your record and they will be included in your final transcript.
- If your marks require you to take action before you can progress further - for example reassessment whilst continuing with your studies or retaking modules before progressing to the next level of your programme – we will contact you direct to discuss what is best for you.
Will the boycott affect postgraduate taught (PGT) students?
- We do not expect to apply the contingency regulations to marks for the vast majority of PGT students.
- The boycott ended on Wednesday 6 September. This means that PGT work should be marked before the November exam boards.
- In many cases, marks for semester two taught modules may be visible on Blue Castle as early as July. If you can’t see them, don’t worry. These marks are expected to be available before your final exam board takes place in the autumn. Your school will contact you directly if this changes.
- In a small number of cases, we may need to apply contingency regulations to PGT students. If you fall into this category, you will be contacted by your School.
I am an exchange student – how will my home institution confirm my marks? Will they accept part-for-whole or derived marks?
Your School will manage this process with your home institution. They will be in touch to help you with next steps.
How will the strikes affect my Visa in terms of my attendance record?
- Your Tier 4 visa conditions are not affected by the industrial action. Unless you are specifically advised that a session has been disrupted, you should attend as normal, and the normal processes for attendance monitoring will apply to sessions which are not disrupted.
- If a session is disrupted due to industrial action, this will be recorded by the University as a cancelled session, and this will not have a detrimental impact on your attendance record for the purposes of your Tier 4 visa.
As an international student, do I still need to ask for permission if I want to return to my home country during the period of industrial action? What are the implications for my visa?
- The industrial action does not change the normal requirements for compliance in terms of your Tier 4 study visa. You should continue to request permission for absences in the normal way.
Complaints and compensation
Can I request compensation or a refund of fees?
- Given the actions we are taking to minimise disruption, any circumstances giving rise to a right to financial compensation are unlikely to arise.
- The University will remain open throughout the strike action. Libraries, computer rooms, and services will be available to enable students to continue studies and independent learning.
- Student fees cover a very wide range of services, not just tuition, and our focus remains on addressing any disruption where it occurs, rather than providing financial recompense.
- Of course, if students are demonstrably affected by strike action, a complaint can be raised through the recognised Student Complaints Policy - and students can also contact the Students' Union Advice Centre for advice - with evidence in support of the complaint.
Why do you deduct salary from staff who take strike action, and what will you do with it?
- It is standard employment practice not to pay staff who are on strike for the time they are not working.
- During periods of industrial action, the University will reinvest the money not paid to striking staff to support students who are affected by strikes and the cost-of-living crisis.