The University and College Union (UCU), the largest post-school union in the world, have announced that a nation-wide marking boycott is set to take place across 69 British universities beginning this Thursday 6 November.
During the boycott, members of the UCU at the University of Edinburgh will not give out coursework, formal marks or feedback. Planned exams and graduations will be also be put on hold.
The boycott is a reaction to proposed revisions to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), the current pension scheme for academics and senior administrative staff at pre-1992 universities.
Over 78 per cent of voters at the UCU have voted in favor of strikes while 87 per cent supported action short of a walkout.
When the UCU balloted USS members from across the participating universities, the turnout was 45 per cent.
Universities UK (UUK), a representative body for university employers, has deemed that the USS in its current state is unaffordable and unsustainable.
UUK came to this conclusion after USS trustees carried out an actuarial valuation in March, discovering an £8 billion shortfall after weighing up the value of the scheme’s assets against the amount needed to pay pension rights at present.
The Employers Pensions Forum (EPF), a body that represents UUK and the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association on pension issues have warned the continued cost of running the USS in its current state would result in job cuts, pay freezes and recruitment freezes.
UUK has proposed ending final salary arrangements, replacing them with pensions based on the employees’ average career earnings up to a threshold of £50,000.
The UCU have said that they are “unhappy the employers had presented their proposals as a fait accompli, especially as much of their work has been discredited by statisticians, universities and UCU”.
A number of critics, notably the University of Oxford, have come forward to argue that the figures provided by the UUK and the EPF are misleading and that the deficit had been artificially inflated.
UCU members at the University of York have been threatened with a 100 per cent pay dock sanctioned by the University’s management in an attempt to discourage York UCU members from taking part in the boycott.
The UUK argues their proposal to end to final salary arrangements would only concern members who joined the USS before 2011, as everyone else have automatically entered a career average scheme, while the introduction of the £50,000 cap would affect the top third of earners.
Talks between the factions will take place on Friday 7 November, the day after the boycotts initiation, although the UCU have mentioned it was willing to “clear their schedules to meet sooner”.