Students urged to press principal to resolve marking boycott

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Photo credit: wikimedia commons
Photo credit: wikimedia commons
Photo credit: wikimedia commons

St Andrews academics are urging their students to press Professor Louise Richardson, University principal, to find a solution to the marking boycott and for more information about the University’s views on the proposals.

The boycott, which yesterday entered its second week, was called after proposals put forward by Universities UK (UUK) threatened to imperil academics’ pensions.

The boycott could be suspended next Thursday after employers and union officials agreed yesterday to work towards a negotiated settlement.

Dr Ricardo Fernandez Romero, from the Spanish department, emailed students saying: “Please email the Principal, Professor Louise Richardson, at <principal@st-andrews.ac.uk> calling on her to press their national negotiators to consider the proposals UCU is putting forward and arrive at a fair and sustainable result,” he said.

He added: ““I’m asking for your support in this action. We believe that if student bodies throughout the country make their opinions known to vice-chancellors, there is a good chance that the employers will moderate their position.”

Emma Douglas, a final year Spanish and French student, responded to Dr Fernandez Romero’s plea, voicing her concerns in an email to the principal. “As our Principal, I’m imploring you to give the students clear information about the situation, and to help your staff and their union in reaching a fair and sustainable solution,” she said.

Professor Gill Plain, head of the School of English, wrote to all English students saying: “You can email the Principal at <principal@st-andrews.ac.uk> and ask for more information about the University’s views on the proposed pension changes. The more that universities make their critical views public, the more likely it is that some constructive negotiation will take place to reform the proposals and bring the action to an end.”

“The situation as it stands is seriously affecting fee-paying students and we need your support and reassurance that we will still pass this semester and graduate in June, having received a quality education with essential feedback included.

Dr Elodie Laugt, head of the School of French, told students: “I am extremely grateful for your understanding and the support some of you have expressed regarding this particularly difficult situation. Please be reassured that the whole teaching team has, now as always, students’ best interests at heart.”

Professor John Ferguson from the School of Management said: “I would greatly regret any impact on students and will do my best to minimise this within the context of this legitimate and appropriately constructed industrial action. I am of course happy to discuss any of this with you at any time.”

The marking boycott could be suspended next week after employers and union officials agreed to work towards a negotiated settlement on reform of the Universities Superannuation Scheme.

The University and College Union’s (UCU) higher education committee will meet on 19 November to decide whether to put the industrial action on hold from the following day, after a schedule of formal and informal negotiations was agreed at a meeting with UUK representatives on 13 November.

It is proposed that further meetings would now be held ahead of the next joint negotiating committee on 15 January, the statement said.

A joint statement between UUK and UCU said: “The purpose of these meetings is to close the differences between the stakeholders’ negotiating positions, with a view to reaching agreement. This will include a meeting between the respective actuaries of the USS trustee board, UUK, and UCU.

“With the aim of encouraging productive discussions, UUK and UCU agree to consult their constituent structures on the prospect of suspending the current industrial action from 20 November 2014 until after the JNC scheduled for 15 January 2015.”

A UUK spokesman told Times Higher Education: “We are committed to seeking a joint proposal for reform that offers an affordable, attractive and sustainable pension scheme, for both current and future members.”

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