Why did the OU Students Association poll students and release a new position statement?
The UCU’s announcement of a marking and assessment boycott was met with a great deal of concern, both by OU students and across the higher education sector. Given the timing of the boycott, students communicated that this may have significant longer-term consequences on their study, career and life plans. As an organisation that exists to represent students, the Student Leadership Team felt that it was important to consult students and provide them with an opportunity to have their voices heard on such an important issue. An informal poll (as well as more qualitative insights) were considered to be the best ways to consult the student body.
Was the poll of students secure-enough to base a position on?
No – and that’s why the position taken by the Student Leadership Team wasn’t based solely on the poll of students. The poll acted as a temperature check for the mood within the student body, but because it was done using SurveyMonkey, it was never intended to be a binding referendum. It was just one of a number of information sources for the Student Leadership Team to consider.
What other information did the Student Leadership Team consider?
In addition to using the informal poll of students as a temperature check, the position was based on the huge amount of feedback received directly from very concerned and angry students. It was also based on the view that the boycott will have a much longer-term and disproportionate impact on students, whose degree classifications and ability to progress in their studies and their careers will be impacted by the marking and assessment boycott. The Student Leadership Team considered all of these factors in making their decision.
Does this mean the Students Association now opposes industrial action taken by tutors and staff to improve pay and working conditions?
Absolutely not! The statement clearly states that we support and defend the rights of those striking to take that action. The position we have taken is to call on the UCU to use different tactics that do not so disproportionately punish students in the pursuit of their overall goals. We are also calling on The Open University to take whatever steps are necessary to mitigate the immediate term impact on students. The Students Association position on the broader dispute between the University and the UCU has not changed.
Should the Students Association always support trade union industrial action?
The Students Association exists to represent the interests of Open University students. And while we believe that better paid and happier tutors and staff has a positive impact on the student experience and outcomes, if trade union activity has a disproportionately negative impact on students, we have a responsibility to stand up for students against that particular activity. We will always endeavour to work constructively with trade unions and the University, and we continue to hope that a resolution to this ongoing dispute will be found soon, so that students can get the best possible outcomes.
What should I do if I’m affected by the marking and assessment boycott?
According to the University, if you have not received your marked assignment within 10 working days of the cut-off date (or your submission date if you had an extension), you should contact your Student Support Team. They will contact the faculty to check the reason for the delay and when you can expect to receive your marked work back.
The marking boycott may result in delays to some module results. Anyone whose module results may be delayed for whatever reason will be contacted to advise them of the revised result release date.
Click here to view our detailed guidance on what to do if you are affected by the boycot.