Boycott may stop Sheffield students graduating

Lecturers have walked out from Sheffield's universities several times in recent months in a row over pay.
Lecturers have walked out from Sheffield's universities several times in recent months in a row over pay.
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Thousands of Sheffield students may not be able to graduate if lecturers carry out a threatened marking boycott.

The move is the latest in a bitter, long-running dispute over pay which has already seen Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam universities hit by three one-day stoppages and three two-hour walk outs.

Members of the University and College Union say the boycott, due to start on Monday, April 28, would be the ‘ultimate sanction’.

Exams, essays and dissertations would all go unmarked leaving students without the final grades they need to graduate – or move on to the next level of their studies.

The last time such a move was taken by the UCU was in 2006 – which led to a multi-year above-inflation pay offer.

The current dispute is over a 1 per cent pay offer which the unions say is an effective pay cut for the fifth year in a row.

Dr Elizabeth Lawrence, a Sheffield Hallam sociology lecturer and local UCU vice-president, said that if a settlement was reached in the next month, there would be no boycott.

She said: “We don’t want to go to a marking boycott if we can help it.

“We would rather get what we want from a negotiation.

“However, our members feel that it is the only thing that will work.”

A national meeting between university representatives and the union is scheduled for Thursday, April 24.

Hallam journalism student Danielle Hayden said opinion was divided among undergraduates about a potential boycott.

She said: “I think it would put a real spanner in the works if they went through with it.

“It will not only stop us progressing in education, it may also sabotage employment and placement plans for students because many graduate jobs are grade dependent.

“I just hope the bosses go back to the table with a better offer.”

The universities say the dispute is a national one, but they are disappointed that the UCU is determined to cause maximum disruption to students.