What happened at Kent
UCU members taking part did not mark, or share the results of, any assessments that were scheduled during the boycott. UCU informed its members that they should not do any of the following for the duration of the boycott:
- mark, moderate, or provide formal feedback on any student coursework, exams, or other formal assessments
- post, circulate, or release any marks or assessment feedback
- participate in any exam boards or other meetings where marks are discussed or confirmed
- prepare assessment or marking materials
- engaging in any other administrative tasks directly related to the processing, confirmation, or release of marks
Some marking and assessment of work submitted - but not yet marked/assessed - before the boycott began might also have been affected.
Why did the boycott happen?
The local branch of the UCU called the boycott because the Union had requested that the University rule out the possibility of compulsory redundancies of academic staff for a period of two years. No compulsory redundancies are planned, and they would only ever be used a last resort – however as a large complex organisation working in a volatile environment, we could never rule them out completely for a protracted length of time.
What is the background to this?
The local UCU branch is concerned about reviews that are currently taking place within the Division of Arts and Humanities and one area of the Division of Human and Social Sciences.
Regular reviews are a normal part of our planning process to ensure that each area continues to offer courses that students want to study, and that will maximise their employability when they graduate. With applications to study some subjects in the arts, humanities and social sciences in steep decline throughout the UK, we need to find ways to do things differently to ensure we have a solid base to build on in the years ahead.
Do the reviews mean my course might stop happening?
No – these reviews are about our future planning, with an eye on those applying in the years ahead. Any changes would be carefully managed to ensure there is minimal impact on your studies and academic experience.
What impact did the boycott have?
How were studies affected by the boycott?
The impact of the boycott varied from Division to Division, depending on the number and spread of UCU members who took the action.
UCU recommended to its members that the boycott did not include refusal to mark or assess PhD students’ work.
We monitored closely the impact for each course, and Academic Divisions kept in close contact with all students, via Moodle and email, with updates during the boycott.
What did you do to limit the impact on students?
While we were working towards all assessment, marking and examination board processes running in the usual way, we also planned for situations whereby disruption threatened your ability to progress or graduate. While maintaining standards, we needed to ensure that our students were not disadvantaged by the industrial action.
Our mitigation plans were about protecting the essential integrity of your degree while ensuring your studies and future plans could continue without interruption. Learning objectives and necessary credits still needed to be achieved and there was never an intention to award degrees without the participation of relevant external examiners; we just had to make sure that we had options available if we needed to adapt some of our usual marking processes to make sure no student was disadvantaged.
Any adjustments required would have been notified to the Office of Students, which is responsible for ensuring we maintain the strict standards all universities adhere to. We have put similar mitigations in place on a number of occasions in the past as part of a pragmatic approach to managing disruption to studies.
What happened with handing in assignments?
We asked students to carry on submitting work as normal, in order to ensure progress with their studies, although some marking would take longer than usual.
What about exams?
We planned for exams to go ahead as usual, and had processes to enable your final outcomes to be drawn from existing information based on your previous studies if the boycott threatened the normal exam arrangements.
Would graduations have been affected?
No. Despite the boycott, graduations would have proceeded as planned, on the same schedule. Ceremony dates are available on our Congregations webpages.
What impact will the reviews have on staff?
Which staff are affected by the reviews?
There is currently only one Division (Human and Social Sciences) which is working towards a savings plan.
There is also an in-depth review underway in the Division of Arts and Humanities. If it reveals that we need to change the size and shape of the Division to ensure its long-term sustainability, staff will work together to consider options for how this could be achieved.
Will people be losing their jobs?
We want to keep experience and expertise in the University wherever we can. However, in the one area where we are currently looking to identify savings we are offering voluntary redundancy so that staff may apply if they feel this is the right option for them.
Only after all voluntary measures have been exhausted would consideration be given to compulsory redundancies - the University has also given a commitment that there would be no compulsory redundancies as a result of these reviews before the end of 2022.
Why are these areas struggling financially?
National trends in what students want to study fluctuate over time and there has been a long-term trend of fewer people wanting to take some subjects in the arts and humanities, in particular. This has in impact on the income levels in that Division – unfortunately no organisation can continue to run areas of activity that are continually losing money without exploring new ways of doing things.
Is this because too much money has been spent elsewhere?
No. Like all campus universities, we do need to spend money on making sure we have the facilities that students want – including new buildings where we need them, like the Medical School, and up-to-date equipment and technology. However, these changes are about long-term trends in the income we bring in in different areas.
Why can't other areas of the University cover the costs?
Different areas within Divisions and the University already cross-subsidise to some extent. However, where an area shows consistent decline in line with national trends, this isn’t sustainable. Unfortunately, no institution can afford to run areas at a continual loss without seeking to change their approach. We also need to ensure there is enough income to support key services like the Library and IS support.
Support and key contacts
If you have any general queries or concerns about industrial action in your Division, please email the relevant address below and they will do everything they can to help:
Division of Arts and Humanities - ARTSHUMSstrike@kent.ac.uk
Division of Computing, Engineering and Mathematical Sciences - CEMSstrike@kent.ac.uk
Division of Human and Social Sciences - HSSstrike@kent.ac.uk
Kent Business School - KBSstrike@kent.ac.uk
Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice - LSSJstrike@kent.ac.uk
Division of Natural Sciences - NATSstrike@kent.ac.uk
There are various sources of support that can help with guidance and advice on your studies and wellbeing throughout this period. Please see our Advice and Support pages.
You may also contact email@example.com with any queries or concerns