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Marking & Assessment Boycott

Published: 21st April, 2023

The elected representatives on UCU’s higher education committee (HEC) voted to begin a marking and assessment boycott (MAB) from Thursday 20 April 2023.

This means that from Thursday 20 April 2023, all UCU members in higher education institutions which are part of the pay and working conditions dispute to cease undertaking all summative marking and associated assessment activities/duties. The boycott also covers assessment-related work such as exam invigilation and the processing of marks. 

Leicester UCU MAB Guidance

MAB Reporting

The University of Leicester Executive Board have confirmed that they will take 50% deductions from all those taking part in the MAB. Our advice is as follows:

  • Do not report in advance. If asked by managers, state that you have not yet made up your mind about partaking in the MAB. A standard answer that you can use if directly asked by managers before you need to report: “I have not yet made a final decision on whether to participate in the marking and assessment boycott. There is no legal obligation for me to report in advance my participation in industrial action. If I participate, I will report my lawful industrial action after I have participated”.
  • Report any action the day AFTER the marking deadline. Advice for migrant members varies, please see the official guidance here.
  • Calculate the time you would have spent on marking, and use that to report the number of days you partook in action.
  • Use our reporting form (click here to report), not the University one.

Discussions about reporting are welcome, and we invite all members to our weekly Tuesday drop-in meetings. If decisions on reporting are decided on and implemented locally in departments, then we advise meeting regularly within your departments to ensure members do not feel isolated throughout this action.

If you are not in a position to participate, please do donate, if you’re able, to the Local Fighting Fund, and encourage those in your departments also.

[Updated 12 May 2023]

Why do we report in this way?

There are a number of advantages with this form of reporting:

  1. Taking part in MAB is a form of participation in a continuous Action Short Of Strike (ASOS). However, every action of participation in MAB should be considered a discrete and independent action, with a clear beginning and end dates. We are encouraging members to report in this way (see reporting form).
  2. With each report, members are also sending a message to the University about how unfair the pay deductions imposed are. This message has been created using the UCU template letter.
  3. With each report, members are also creating a detailed record of their actions should this become relevant for future claims.
  4. By reporting immediately after the deadline, members force the management to keep count of the different actions of each member, and they cannot claim that it is a continuous action.
  5. By reporting immediately after the deadline, members are not compromising the effectiveness of the MAB. Given the recent developments, we expect that managers at the University will have already a plan to cover certain modules.

What should I do if I am asked by my line manager to cover a duty which is part of the marking and assessment boycott?

You should seek the instruction in writing (e.g. email) and then respond as follows:

‘I am unable to attend this meeting / mark these scripts / invigilate this exam because I am taking part in UCU’s lawful industrial action in the form of a marking and assessment boycott. I am continuing to perform all my normal duties other than those affected by the marking and assessment boycott and any other lawful action short of strike / industrial action currently called by my union.’

Useful Resources


MAB Guide

MAB Training

Donate to the Local Fighting Fund

‘Rogue’ Marking Guidance & Reporting Form

Student Resources

Template Email Signature

Feel free to use this template in your email signature to demonstrate support for the dispute:

I support colleagues undertaking the UCU Marking and Assessment boycott. Find out more here. Donate to the Local Fighting Fund here.

Template Email to VC

Mail to:

Subject line: Do your duty: make staff a fair offer, withdraw punitive salary deductions, and stop further disruption

Dear Nishan Canagarajah

University staff are the backbone of our universities and dedicate their working lives to supporting students, ensuring they can get the best out of their time studying. But staff have already endured over a decade of falling wages, with pay falling behind inflation by at least 25% since 2009, while 90,000 staff are employed on temporary or insecure contracts.

I am horrified by news that you are planning to deduct huge sums from staff wages simply for taking lawful industrial action short of a strike, in the form of a marking and assessment boycott. As you know, staff will still be carrying out most of their duties, researching, teaching, lecturing and assisting students as they always have done.

Making such punitive deductions of 50 per cent smacks of vindictive and bullying behaviour. Administering these attacks on staff is also quite clearly a poor use of the university’s time and resources.

There is very little support for these extreme actions, especially during a cost of living crisis.

I am urging you to rethink plans to make 50 per cent wage deductions and instead focus on producing a fair offer that will resolve the pay and working conditions dispute, and allow university staff to get back to doing their jobs and helping students to flourish.

Yours sincerely

Local Reallocation to Mitigate the MAB

As management are refusing to back down from their position, and as they remain focused on graduating students on time, we are aware of members having their marking reassigned, and colleagues being pressured to taking on extra marking. These measures are to undermine the MAB and our collective action. We know from previous experience that marking, in some instances, will be carried out by non-specialists, lessening the quality of the students’ marks. As a result, we have compiled this template you are welcome to tweak and use to send to colleagues encouraging them to respect the MAB:

Since 20 April, UCU members in Leicester, and across the country, have engaged in a marking and assessment boycott (MAB). This is part of the national UCU dispute on pay and conditions. The MAB came about because the national organisation of university managers, UCEA, refused to negotiate over pay—instead imposing a pay deal. This will mean a real-terms pay cut of 15% over two years.

The MAB is part of a battle to defend higher education, to stop the erosion of our pay and conditions, and preserve conditions in which we can deliver superb teaching and research. Moreover, all staff employed in the University of Leicester would benefit were the UCU successful in winning an improved pay offer and making progress on conditions. Pay is negotiated nationally between UCEA and campus unions such as the UCU. 

We therefore urge you not to assist senior management at the University of Leicester who are seeking to undermine our MAB by reallocating marking to staff who are not participating in the action. There are three reasons why we ask you not to take on extra marking: 

  • First, by undermining our action you make it less likely that we will reach a negotiated agreement on pay and conditions with UCEA.
  •  Second, your colleagues are not simply fighting for all staff in higher education, they are also facing punitive pay deductions. At the University of Leicester this means that they face a 50% loss of income from the moment that marking becomes available to the point at which they declare the end of the action. We ask that you do not collude with this punitive measure. 
  • Third, we are aware of managers bypassing usual academic practices and asking people to mark assessments outside their specialist areas. We have serious concerns about the quality of such marking, and this may be referred to bodies such as the Office for Students.

Even if you are not personally participating in the MAB, please respect the action your colleagues are taking to protect the working conditions for all staff, which are also the learning conditions for our students.

If you are receiving pressure from management, or have questions, please contact Leicester UCU: If you are not a member, you are welcome to join UCU and participate in our action at any time. If you are not marking and wish to show your support, we ask you to make a pledge to support our fighting fund.