The University and College Union (UCU) has announced a marking and assessment boycott as part of action short of strike (ASOS). This commenced on Thursday 20 April. During the boycott, staff who are UCU members might not carry out tasks like setting assessment questions, invigilating exams, marking papers, attending exam boards, or similar. We are making every effort to ensure that students are not adversely affected more than is unavoidable.
What is the University doing to mitigate the impact of the marking and assessment boycott on our students?
The University and College Union (UCU) has confirmed the commencement of a marking and assessment boycott by their members at 145 UK universities, including Queen’s University Belfast, from Thursday 20 April 2023. This is an extension of the current Action Short of Strike (ASOS).
This remains primarily a national dispute regarding the USS pension scheme and national pay negotiations that the University cannot resolve unilaterally. We will, however, continue to use our influence to shape and inform the national debate and to work with colleagues in our local branch of UCU to address their concerns around workload and casualisation.
Please be assured that maintaining the integrity of our awards and supporting you to achieve the assessment outcome you have worked for are of paramount importance. The university has in place longstanding regulations which mean that we will work to ensure you can progress or graduate, knowing that you have achieved the learning outcomes and with confidence in the value of your degree.
Please continue to read the information set out on this page for information on how we are working to mitigate the impact of the marking and assessment boycott on our students.
- Where can I read more about this industrial action and the University’s position on it?
For more information on the current industrial action, including the University’s position, please read our Industrial Action FAQs for students.
- How many assessments will be affected by the marking and assessment boycott?
We expect that the impact of this action will vary across the University and will be very limited in some areas. Many students will not be affected at all.
It is anticipated that the majority of assessments will proceed as planned.
Students should therefore continue to prepare for and submit any form of assessment scheduled during this industrial action as normal.
- Should I still submit my assessment during the Marking and Assessment Boycott?
Yes, you should continue to prepare for and submit any form of assessment scheduled during strike action as normal.
It is important that you continue to submit assessed work by the relevant deadline and attend all examinations on the published dates.
Normal penalties will apply to coursework/continuous assessment that is not submitted by the deadline.
- What will happen to the assessment I submit during Marking and Assessment Boycott?
We expect the impact of the action to vary across the University and to be very limited in some areas. The majority of students will not be affected at all which would mean that your assessment would be marked in adherence with standard procedures.
If the marking and assessment boycott means that your assessment is not marked, then the University’s Supplementary Study Regulations for Taught Programmes will apply and the Board of Examiners will consider assigning a mark for that assessment, where possible.
This must be a valid submission in order to be considered under these regulations.
Please note that your School will be unable to advise you on the status of your submitted assessment; for example, if it will be marked or considered for an assigned mark. This can only be communicated after the Board of Examiners, with your published results.
What happens if my assessment is significantly disrupted or cancelled due to the marking and assessment boycott?
It is anticipated that the majority of assessments will proceed as planned; therefore, you should continue to prepare for and submit any form of assessment scheduled during strike action as normal.
If it is not possible for scheduled assessments to go ahead, your School will inform you of any alternative arrangements. The Board of Examiners may consider assigning a mark for that assessment, where possible, under the University’s Supplementary Regulations.
- What should I do if I experience circumstances that negatively impact my performance or ability to undertake assessment during the marking and assessment boycott?
The University has in place an exceptional circumstances process to ensure that you have the opportunity to have any exceptional circumstances that directly impact on your academic performance in a summative assessment taken into consideration, if needed. Exceptional circumstances, by definition, are circumstances that are unexpected and outside of your control. Further information is available online within the Guidelines for Students on Exceptional Circumstances which continue to apply during this period.
Where you believe that your academic performance has been adversely affected by exceptional circumstances, during the Semester Two Examination Period, the deadlines for submitting an Exceptional Circumstances application are:
- 4pm, Wednesday 24 May 2023 for undergraduate students
- 4pm, Wednesday 7 June 2023 for postgraduate taught students.
Some Schools may set their own deadline for exceptional circumstances applications. It is your responsibility to ascertain the correct deadline applied by your School and to submit any exceptional circumstances application (and supporting evidence or self-certification statement) to your School within the specified time.
- What happens if I do not submit my assessment?
If you do not submit your assessment without approved exceptional circumstances, you will be recorded as absent from this assessment and awarded a mark of zero, which will be processed in accordance with the relevant standard Study Regulations.
If you experience disruption during an assessment, you must report this to your School or exam invigilator immediately, and submit an exceptional circumstances application as per the Guidelines for Students on Exceptional Circumstances.
- What is a Board of Examiners, and how does it determine final marks?
Each Subject has a Board of Examiners, which is drawn from the academic staff teaching the subject, and also includes an external examiner. The external examiner is normally a senior academic from another University or, where relevant, a senior practitioner.
The University uses a conceptual equivalents scale for the assessment of student work and the marking of all summative assessments should be in alignment with the relevant descriptors and criteria. The use of this scale promotes accuracy, reliability and transparency in marking and fairness in the way all students are assessed which is crucial to maintaining academic standards and ensuring a high-quality degree.
Boards of Examiners agree final marks for all modules in their subject by ensuring that appropriate moderation procedures have been applied. Normally, these procedures include:
- The production of assessment criteria for each module.
- Internal procedures for marking and checking of marks.
- Internal procedures for ensuring consistency and equity of marking, both within a cohort and over time.
During this period, Boards of Examiners are encouraged to take additional measures to ensure the normal moderation procedures take account of the general impact of industrial action. These measures include:
- Recalibration of the assessment criteria, where necessary, so that academic standards are maintained at the appropriate level while taking account of the degree of impact of the industrial action.
- Increased scrutiny of the average result of each assessment taken during Semester 2, 2022-23, to ensure they are comparable with previous cohorts.
The Supplementary Study Regulations for Taught Programmes have also been invoked to give Boards of Examiners a framework in which they can determine student progression and awards when the normal course of assessments has been disrupted due to the Marking and Assessment Boycott.
External examiners play an important role in assuring the Board that its assessment standards are comparable with those of other institutions. External examiners provide formal feedback to the University via annual reports which are made available to students.
If you have specific questions regarding your School’s Board of Examiners, please contact your School Office.
- What are the Supplementary Study Regulations, and how are they used to assign marks?
The Supplementary Study Regulations for Taught Programmes are a set of contingency regulations and procedures which enable Boards of Examiners to assign marks where assessment results are not available.
In order to enable progression and completion, Boards will assign marks where possible. However, Boards will only assign marks where they have sufficient data to do so. Where a Board is able to assign a mark, this will normally be based on one or more of:
- The marks which you have already achieved in the module to date, where these have assessed the same programme learning outcomes as the missing assessment(s).
- The marks which you have already achieved in assessments on other modules, where these have assessed the same programme learning outcomes as the missing assessment(s).
What happens if I do not get an assigned mark?
Marks will only be assigned if the Board of Examiners can be sure that you have met the relevant programme learning outcomes elsewhere.
To assist progression, where marks were unable to be assigned, Boards may permit undergraduate students to progress from one stage to the next having passed a minimum of four modules (80 credit points) in the current stage of study. Postgraduate taught students may be permitted to progress to their dissertation if all taught modules have not been completed. However, this concession will only be applied on a case by case basis based on the student’s academic standing if the Board determines that it is appropriate, and if its application is not prevented by programme specific regulations. This decision will be made in the best interests of each student.
- I am a final year student. Will this delay the award of my degree?
If you have achieved or been assigned marks for all of your modules, you will be awarded your degree and issued with your parchment, subject to having met all relevant academic and professional requirements.
If all assessment outcomes are not available and the Board is unable to assign a module mark, we will not be able to award your degree until the Marking and Assessment Boycott ends. If you are a student visa holder and are concerned this may delay your studies past your visa end date, please contact email@example.com for advice.
Please note that marks can only be assigned where the assessment has been submitted.
- When will I receive my results?
We hope that module results, where available, will be published on Qsis by 15 June 2023.
It may be necessary, for subjects heavily impacted, to prioritise the publication of results for graduating students. Therefore, if this date changes, we will let you know.
- Can I appeal a decision of my School Board of Examiners to the Faculty Student Appeals Committee?
Under the Academic Appeals Regulations (Taught Programmes), you may appeal a decision of the Board of Examiners about progression, assessment or awards.
However, you cannot challenge academic judgement. Therefore, you cannot appeal a mark you have been assigned, the decision not to assign a mark, or the decision not to apply the concession relating to progression requirements, and additional marks will not be awarded.
Further information on the appeals process is available on the Academic Affairs website.
I am a Postgraduate Research student, how will the marking and assessment boycott impact me?
We expect the impact of the action to vary across the University and to be very limited in some areas. The majority of students will not be affected at all which would mean that your assessment, for example, Annual Progress Review and viva, is likely to proceed as scheduled. Therefore, you should continue to prepare for and submit any form of assessment scheduled during industrial action as normal.
If the marking and assessment boycott means that your assessment does not go ahead as planned, it will be rescheduled at the earliest opportunity. If you are a student visa holder and are concerned this may delay your studies past your visa end date, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for advice.
You are encouraged to speak to your supervisor, in the first instance, if you have any specific concerns.
- Where can I get further help?
If you have specific questions which are not answered above, please contact your School.
Your School will endeavour to respond promptly to your question but may not always be able to provide an immediate response and, in some instances, questions will need to be escalated. Reponses will be communicated as swiftly as possible.