-Update on UCU strikes-
(15th of September 2023)
The marking boycotts have ended for now. All undergraduate marking should be finished by the 22nd of September and postgraduate marking finished by the 6th of October. There are also delays in enrolment emails which should be sent out when all marking is completed for your course.
Dear Birkbeck Students,
We understand the recent marking boycott has raised a myriad of concerns within our student body. The Birkbeck Students' Union Officer Team has drafted an open letter to Vice Chancellor David Latchman and Deputy Vice Chancellor Matt Innes addressing these concerns, detailing their effects on our student community, and seeking urgent action. Please read on to fully grasp the depth of the situation and know that we are advocating on your behalf.
A Message from Birkbeck Students’ Union Regarding the Marking Boycott
Dear David Latchman and Matt Innes,
Your Students’ Union feels the need to address the ongoing marking boycott, a situation that has deeply affected our student body. As we navigate these challenging times, it's essential to understand the multifaceted impact this boycott has on various aspects of our lives and the broader Birkbeck community.
We have heard concerns from many students about the marking boycott. In one particularly poignant email addressed to the Students’ Union, a student expressed that they are considering taking a gap year. Their reason? They feel they are simply not getting what they are paying for, and the value of their education, given the current circumstances, does not justify the financial implications. This sentiment underscores the gravity of the situation and the tangible effects on our students.
The delay in graduation stands out as a primary concern. After years of dedication, perseverance, and countless hours of study, many students are now facing an uncertain timeline for receiving their degrees. This isn't merely an academic setback. The implications extend into the real world. As students prepare to transition into the professional realm, this delay can significantly hinder their prospects. Beyond the tangible setbacks, the emotional and psychological toll has been considerable. The added stress of the boycott has intensified feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, and frustration.
The incoming student cohort is at risk. They face potential delays in their academic schedules, uncertainty about the quality of their education, and concerns about the overall stability of the institution.
For those considering postgraduate studies or graduate positions, the situation is extremely pressing. Delays in grades can hinder applications to esteemed postgraduate courses, competitive scholarships, and coveted research positions. They also affect graduate recruitment cycles and positions with minimum grade requirements which further weakens student’s chances is an already difficult economy. For our international students, the situation is even more complex. Visa and sponsorship implications arise, with many facing potential visa expiration before graduation. This could lead to a forced departure from the country, disrupting their academic journey and future career prospects.
On the financial side, the implications are also concerning. Many students, having invested significantly in their education, now face the prospect of extended loan periods, unforeseen living expenses, and potential job losses. The issues with student housing have worsened. Due to the lack of confirmation of enrolment into the next year because of the marking boycott, many students are in a precarious position regarding their housing contracts. This uncertainty can lead to potential evictions or the inability to secure housing for the upcoming academic year. Additionally, without confirmed enrolment, accessing student banking benefits and financial support becomes a challenge, further straining students' financial situations.
For these reasons, we have come to the conclusion that while we wholeheartedly support the reasons behind the strike action and stand firmly behind its aims, we must not forget the real-life and potentially long-term consequences of such actions on the student body. We are disappointed at the lack of communication with the Students’ Union during the planning of the boycott as we could have pro-actively helped in reducing impact on students. Furthermore, we are disappointed that the inaction of the university in which the student experience is being leveraged.
Students, who are at the core of our institution, bear the brunt of these actions and we do not condone the weaponization of our students’ futures. We strongly advocate for a collaborative approach where all stakeholders, including faculty, administration, and especially our students, come together for constructive dialogue. It's crucial to find balanced solutions that drive positive change while ensuring that the interests and well-being of our students remain a top priority.
On behalf of the entire student body, we urgently request a response from you, Vice Chancellor David Latchman and Deputy Vice Chancellor Matt Innes. We seek clarity on the steps being taken to address the current situation and prevent such occurrences in the future. Birkbeck should be an example of how this matter can be resolved and in light of this, we encourage national bodies to work towards a resolution. Furthermore, we urge for more information to be made available to students and departments, providing consistent and transparent updates. To facilitate open communication, we propose the idea of a General Question Time, allowing for pre-submitted questions and live Q&A sessions both on virtual platforms like Teams and in-person, incorporating a chat function for remote participation. Finally, it is crucial to provide a clear timeframe within which students can expect to receive their grades.
The well-being and future of our students hang in the balance, and we implore you to act swiftly and decisively. The students deserve transparency, understanding, and most importantly, solutions.
We await your timely response and a comprehensive plan of action by the 15th of September.
William Sarenden – Welfare Student Leader
Ellie Rivera – Education Student Leader
Miriam Swan – Women’s Liberation Leader
Lily Boodhoo – BAME Students’ Liberation Leader
Kimberly Beerman – International Students’ Liberation Leader
Artemi Falzon – Trans Liberation Leader
Ella Edwin – Disabled Students’ Leader