Edinburgh University told to 'act swiftly' over students having to graduate with unclassified degrees
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Staff at the university are taking part in the nationwide marking boycott as part of a dispute between management and the University and College Union (UCU).
Three Edinburgh and Lothian MSPs have now written to Edinburgh University principal Professor Sir Peter Mathieson, warning the situation could have “serious consequences” for students' future employment prospects and their own mindset. And they urge him to consider offering students provisional degree classifications to protect conditional offers of work or further study.
The MSPs – Scottish Lib Dem leader and Edinburgh Western MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton, Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs and Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack – said their intervention was prompted by concerns of students and staff at the university about the current situation where students are graduating without a classified degree, and their final marks are to be withheld indefinitely.
In their letter they said: "This has serious consequences not only on students' future employment and education prospects but also on their personal mindset, after giving four years of hard work and tuition fees with very little to show for it. Throughout their time, students have had their studies consistently disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and industrial action. We have all heard from students who feel woefully let down by the lack of support that the university has given throughout this disruption."
The UCU began the marking and assessment boycott at institutions across the UK in April amid a row over staff pay and conditions. It has been reported that overseas students at Edinburgh were told they may have to return to their home countries to apply for a new visa if they intend to take up places on Masters and PhD courses this autumn. University bosses have said those still waiting for their results would be unable to apply for their next student visa from within the UK, though the Home Office said students could apply to extend their visa while awaiting their results.
The MSPs’ letter added that staff had meanwhile “had to endure unacceptable working conditions such as insecure contracts, long hours of overtime, and low pay". And it continued: “You must act swiftly to present a solution. This includes short-term solutions such as offering provisional degree classifications to protect students' conditional offers of study and work opportunities. In addition, a solution must also make sure students receive their final marks in a timely manner and their four years of hard work is recognised. This is imperative to protect the futures of young people, uphold duties to students and staff, and to preserve the University of Edinburgh’s long-earned reputation.”
A spokesman for Edinburgh University said: "We are deeply sorry that we have not been able to shield our students from the impact of this national dispute, which is affecting 144 higher education institutions across the UK. We cannot resolve it alone without national compromise and we welcome the confirmation of exploratory talks between the Universities and Colleges Employers Association and joint union representatives, due to take place this Friday, aimed at bringing an end to the marking and assessment boycott.
"We will continue to engage in conversations with UCU Edinburgh on other employment matters which are within our local control and where we can make improvements in the ways we support our staff at the University of Edinburgh."