Exclusive:Edinburgh University marking boycott: Canadian exchange student blasts 'uncaring' university after being given two weeks to leave the UK

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Student is being forced to abandon plans to stay in Scotland because a marking boycott means she is unable to graduate

A Canadian student has criticised Edinburgh University after being told she will be forced to leave Scotland in two weeks as a result of an ongoing staff marking boycott.

Emma MacKenzie said the university had been “completely unwilling” to help her resolve a visa issue caused by the industrial action. The marking and assessment boycott was launched by the University and College Union at institutions across the UK in April amid a row over staff pay and conditions.

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Edinburgh University has come under fire from its own staff and students in recent weeks over its response to the action.

Ms MacKenzie, who completed her studies a few weeks ago, secured a job and signed a lease on a flat because she intended to stay on in the Scottish capital. But now she has been left in limbo because the visa that would have allowed her to remain in the UK requires her to have graduated.

And the English literature student is unable to graduate from Toronto University, in Canada, because she has not received her grades from Edinburgh, where she spent the last year of her studies as an exchange student.

She says she will have to leave the country by July 26 unless the impasse is resolved.

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Ms MacKenzie said Edinburgh University had been unwilling to provide her projected marks for the term, which she could use to apply for the High Potential Individual (HPI) visa, offered to graduates from some top universities, including Toronto.

"I’m really just in a standstill situation where there is not much else I can do at my end – it’s not looking very promising,” she said.

She said Toronto University had been “very accommodating”, telling her they would just need letters from Edinburgh saying Ms MacKenzie was likely to pass their course.

But after getting “blank response after blank response” in Edinburgh, she was eventually told the university had received legal advice saying it could not help.

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"I’ve had a job lined up, all of these things, and for it all to suddenly come to an end, and to have it be so up in the air, is just so, so infuriating,” she said.

"It’s like ‘am I going back to Canada in two weeks? Am I staying?’ No-one is giving me any kind of updates.

"Am I going to have to pay for a last-minute trans-Atlantic flight, which is not cheap? Am I going to have to sub-let my flat? It’s just very, very anxiety-inducing and the school doesn’t seem to be caring very much about that.

“And the fact they don’t have policies in place to support their students in these kinds of situations is enraging.”

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Ms MacKenzie added: “I’ve paid international fees to come to this school, and I’ve paid for a four-year degree, which I’ve rightfully earned.

"I’ve completed all that has been required of me, and now for my degree to have essentially been withheld from me indefinitely, without any indication of when that might become available, is just infuriating.”

The only advice Ms MacKenzie said she received from the UK Visas and Immigration department was to “get an immigration lawyer”.

An Edinburgh University spokesperson said: “We recognise the significant impact this industrial action is having on our students’ lives and future plans. The impact of the boycott varies from student to student and we are supporting individuals on a case-by-case basis, including arranging individual meetings to advise on alternative visa options where there are delays in providing marks to a visiting student’s home institution. We are profoundly sorry that we have not been able to shield our students from the impact of this UK-wide dispute.”

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