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UCU Industrial action and marking and assessment boycott

Roadside entrance to UAL's High Holborn office building. A number of individuals are stood by the door.
  • Written byStudent Communications
  • Published date 13 September 2023
Roadside entrance to UAL's High Holborn office building. A number of individuals are stood by the door.
Entrance to UAL's High Holborn building, 2018, UAL | Photograph: Ideal Insight

Marking and Assessment Boycott

The Marking and Assessment Boycott, which has been in place since April 2022 has now ended. We have written to staff and asked them to complete the marking as soon as possible. If you are waiting on any marks, you can check to see if they are available by logging into the Assessment Feedback system.

Upcoming strike dates

UCU, the trade union which represents members of UAL’s academic staff, have informed us they will be calling on members to take 5 days of strike action from Monday 25 September-Friday 29 September. We will do everything possible to mitigate the impact on your studies and will be in touch with further information this month.

GMB is also calling upon support staff, including cleaners, to take part in strike action from 2 October – 6 October as part of a pay dispute. OCS, the company who hire our cleaning staff, are working on a contingency plan and will ensure buildings remain open and hygienic.

How is UAL supporting students during the industrial action?

The University will do everything possible to mitigate the impact of any industrial action taken by staff on your course. Your course team will let you know about any changes to your timetable or assessments as a result of strike action.

If you are dissatisfied with the arrangements that are put in place you can submit a formal complaint. Find out more about the complaints procedure at UAL.

Student support

Information for students who are missing marks due to the Marking and Assessment Boycott

Students with missing marks from final degree year

How do I get formal proof that I have passed my degree?

We are prioritising final year degree students when it comes to processing missing marks.  We will run the formal exam board as soon as we are able and let you know the result straight away.  As soon as you have your result you will be able to access your electronic degree certificate.

Students with missing marks on years 1 and 2 of undergraduate degrees, and interim units on postgraduate

When will I get my result now that the Marking and Assessment Boycott has ended?

Staff have been asked to mark now and we hope most student results that were missing will come through within a few weeks. Students will be able to see their result on the Assessment Feedback site once they log in.

Can I enrol on my next year?

Students with marks delayed by the Boycott should already have been progressed and be able to enrol now.  If you are unable to do this it may be because you have some outstanding work to submit and pass that was not affected by the boycott, but if you are unsure please contact your programme admin team.

Where is my end of year results letter?

Once we get your result we need to run an exam board to formalise your end of year result, this will take us a few weeks so you will not get a formal results letter straight away.

I have my result and I have failed a unit, what do I do?

UAL has decided not to ask students with failure to retrieve this by the start of the next academic year if your result was delayed by the Marking and Assessment Boycott.  You will have been progressed and be able to enrol now for the start of your studies in a few weeks time.  The September exam board will confirm what this means for each student but the following applies:

  • Where students have a small amount of failure, 40 credits or less,  the exam board will condone your failure; this means you will not have to resubmit any work.
  • Where students have larger amount of failure, over 40 credits, you will need to retrieve a portion of this this by resubmission, the exam board will set a date for this, probably during the Autumn Term.
  • Where students have a substantial amount of failure, more than 60 credits, the exam board will consider if it is possible for the student to recover that failure and it may require the student to return to the start of the year just undertaken to repeat those units they failed with full attendance.
  • Where students fail units that have not been affected by the MAB; normal course regulations apply.

What is UAL’s position on the dispute?

We are committed to ensuring a work environment where all staff feel valued and are treated fairly and with respect.

In June 2022, UAL committed to working with UCU representatives on a range of local issues and together we are making progress. Our commitment to tackling issues raised in this dispute means we have been, and continue to be, open to maintaining dialogue with UCU and encourage all in this national dispute to work constructively to minimise disruption to our students.


The national annual pay award for higher education employees in the UK is negotiated by trade unions and the Universities and Colleges Employers Association.

At UAL, we target higher pay increases for staff at the lower end of the pay scales. While the average national pay award was 3%, our staff will receive the following increases due to our pay structure and cost-of-living payment in November:

  • 2.10% of all staff will receive an increase of more than 9%
  • 46.94% of all staff will receive an increase of more than 7%
  • 66.68% of all staff will receive an increase of more than 5%
  • The lowest-paid staff at UAL will receive an increase of near 13%

Additionally, in May 2022, we made a £500 one-off payment to the majority of staff and in November provided an additional £800 cost of living payment to staff earning less than £50,270 and contract staff, pro-rated for part-time staff including Hourly Paid Lecturers working more than 90 hours.

We have also made progress in addressing pay gaps at UAL. The gender pay gap has been reduced from 8.3% in 2020 to 0.01% (mean average). This will be further addressed through the introduction of a sector-leading equal parental leave policy. All salaried employees and hourly-paid lecturers at UAL are now entitled to 26 weeks of full maternity or paternity pay, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or how people become parents.

However, we recognize that the ethnicity pay gap remains an issue at UAL, and we are actively working to address this through our anti-racism action plan and in consultation with trade union representatives.

Pay 2023/24

Pay is determined nationally through negotiations between UCEA and unions. While we have actively participated in these discussions, our ability to influence outcomes is limited by the sector's financial constraints. However, we have committed to implementing next year's pay deal and have accelerated some payments to be made before the end of March. This early payment will be either 2% or £1,000, whichever is higher, and will be part of a larger 8% increase for those on the lowest pay and a 5% increase for those at the top of the pay scales.

Workload and casualisation

UAL is committed to providing secure employment and addressing concerns around precarious contracts - we do not use zero-hour contracts.

We have begun reviewing our Associate Lecturer contracting framework and working closely with UCU to ensure the proper implementation of the Security of Employment Agreement 2016.

Our recently-launched Student Experience Framework recognises student and staff experience is connected. One of its 3 core themes, Academic Capacity and Time, provides a framework for effectively reviewing workload in collaboration with management and UCU.

To improve the student experience and reduce administrative burdens on academic teams, we have launched the Course Support Service and recruited 50 staff to support program teams. Additionally, our academic resource and governance project aims to ensure that course teams are supported by a robust and scalable staffing model.

We are also funding the conversion of 70 Hourly Paid Lecturers to full-time positions to promote resilience and enhance course culture. In 2019, we increased academic staffing by 55 academics through the Academic Development Fund, and the Academic Futures program led to 49 new academic appointments in 2020. We continue to regularly review and assess academic staffing needs.

We have launched a major project to review all elements of employment of Hourly Paid Lecturers.