Published: 00:01, 12 November 2014
Students at the University of Kent say their futures are being put at risk by lecturers refusing to mark important coursework in a dispute over pensions.
Staff angry over the loss of money and benefits because of a deficit in funds have taken the drastic step as part of the latest stage of nationwide industrial action by the UCU union.
But it has left students fearing for their degrees and concerned for their future prospects.
Among them is final year drama student Natalie Archibald, 22, who said: “I had two assessments on Thursday and found out 30 minutes before the second one that the boycott was happening. I was told that I could still do the assessment, but that it would not be marked.
“I had spent weeks preparing only to find out on the day. Lots of people I study with are affected. We were furious.
“We are months away from graduating and people are trying to plan their futures. Our futures could be being put on the line if we don’t get our work marked in time.”
In an email sent to students in Natalie’s department, lecturer Helen Brooks wrote: “I want to assure you that no member of staff wants to take this action. We really care about all our students and their success in their degrees.
“However, we are incredibly angry about these changes being pushed through and the terrible impact they’ll have on our future pensions when we’re retired.”
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt told members the new changes proposed to cover the deficit were “full of holes” and the information to back it up was “misleading”.
But Miss Archibald says students should not be used as “pawns in their game”.
She said: “I spoke to my tutor, who explained the pensions issue. I have sympathy, but I don’t think we should be used in part of this game.
“It’s a disgusting way to go about it. We are being held with guns to our head and being used as pawns in their game.”
The university’s academic registrar Jon Pink confirmed in an email that members of the union will continue their action indefinitely until a settlement is reached.
He added that the university regretted the decision taken by UCU, but they are investigating how the impact can be mitigated.
The student union is now debating whether to support the lecturers in a referendum. They have held a meeting to draft a referendum question, which students can vote on from Wednesday, November 19, to Wednesday, November 26.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.
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