The Open University branch of the University and College Union
The OU Students Association (OUSA) recently conducted an informal poll of on UCU’s Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB). The leadership has published two statements: Association Leaders stand against UCU marking and assessment boycott (oustudents.com) (11 May, updated 16 May) and a further statement on 19 May. The UCU branch president received a letter following this announcement. We are happy to publish our reply although the Association has not made its side of the correspondence public: Branch President's letter to OUSA.
The boycott is an escalation of a national dispute that has lasted 5 years. UCU continues to be ready to resume negotiations, but the employers, represented by UCEA, are refusing. The main thing that will make a difference in this situation is student pressure. For instance, a strong campaign by students at Cambridge has resulted in the university’s Vice-Chancellor making a joint call with the local UCU branch for negotiations to re-start, view statement.
The recent Association poll did not verify that voters were OU students, and it appears it was possible to vote multiple times. In addition, as we noted in our letter, it did not ask students their views of the issues in the dispute. We hope the leadership of the Association will keep this in mind when interpreting the results and considering next steps.
The Association says it has been assured that ‘only 1% of students’ are affected by the MAB. While the source for this claim is unclear, we know from the date that the figure was provided to the Association before the university had collated staff forms for MAB participation. In contrast to this assertion the union has seen internal communications warning of ‘significant disruption’ to results.
One thing all parties agree is the desire for a quick end to this boycott. We remain in dialogue with the Association and hope that they and everyone in the OU community concerned about the MAB will put pressure on the employers to get back to negotiation.