UCL-UCU: MAB Update - Urgent Reminder & Update from Thursday’s General Meeting

28 April 2023

An urgent reminder about a change to UCL’s MAB reporting date, report from Thursday’s Emergency General Meeting and information on the upcoming "Solidari-teas"

“Full solidarity with all staff taking further action in your fights for just pay, conditions, workloads and pensions. As students we feel it acutely too, that the higher education sector needs an overhaul. But we know that this cannot be achieved without the demands of UCU being met.”
Third year Physics student

In this message we urgently remind members about a change to UCL’s MAB reporting date, we report on Thursday’s Emergency General Meeting (including decisions on strike action as an escalation), give you details of the regular "Solidari-teas" where you can come and chat or simply ask questions, and set out what actions you can join to support the MAB, which is proving very effective.

  1. Urgent reminder: UCL has agreed to postpone their deadline for staff to report participation in the Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB) for two weeks, until Friday 12 May. So please don’t report while negotiations are ongoing!

This message was reported to staff but it was buried in yesterday's UCL Staff News and many colleagues may have missed it.

When should you report? 

At the risk of stating the obvious, an obligation to tell managers about a personal decision to participate in the MAB does not occur in advance. Nor is it a disciplinary offence to change your mind! 

At the present time, UCU's advice is not to submit data to the online reporting portal, not least because we are disputing the uses to which any such collected data can be put. Instead, colleagues should report truthfully to line managers and Heads of Department when asked.

Could UCU members please forward this message to colleagues? 

2. Update from Thursday’s General Meeting

Some 200 UCL UCU members attended the meeting yesterday to discuss the MAB. 

Report from Wednesday’s Joint Consultation and Negotiating Committee meeting between the recognized campus unions (UCU, UNISON and UNITE) and UCL’s senior management:

  • UCL agreed to defer the demand for staff to report participation in the MAB by 2 weeks while negotiations continue. Our position is that staff should not use the UCL form and do not have to report participation in the boycott until they have actually materially boycotted (i.e. a deadline has passed).

  • UCL accepted the principle that staff will not be paid less than the London Living Wage (£11.95 per hour) so deductions for PGTAs etc. will be less than 50%.

These are small but positive results, and negotiations will continue. However, UCL is still threatening all staff with a disproportionate pay cut of 70+ days at half pay.

The meeting then decided to:

  • Raise these issues within UCL institutional bodies such as Academic Board and Council.

  • Hold more informal meetings to discuss the progress of the MAB. These ‘Solidari-teas’ will be a space to ask questions, vent and chat about how the MAB is going. 

  • Motion 1 on the option to strike during undergraduate Exam Boards (June 15-23) was passed following a brief debate. This means that we will ask UCU centrally to coordinate a notice of strike action against UCL, unless they reconsider their punitive flat rate pay deduction.

A number of colleagues stepped forward to help coordinate these efforts - more info to follow!

The meeting spent some time discussing questions and answers on the MAB, and it was agreed that the branch needed to develop more specific FAQs and hold more informal meetings to continue this conversation. If colleagues have specific questions they need answering they can email ucu@ucl.ac.uk and we will endeavour to respond.

Members heard that UCL is considering graduating students on the basis of partial  assessments. If this does happen it will be very damaging to UCL’s reputation. In 2021 Liverpool University had to recall student marks after they were issued in error, and in 2022 Queen Mary University of London suffered huge public embarrassment after allowing marking to be passed to an ‘agency’ which gave one- or two-word ‘feedback’ (e.g. Good, Very Good, Well Done, etc).

Motion 2 on strengthening the MAB was deferred to another meeting for reasons of time.

3. Solidari-teas!

Please join our regular informal Zoom meetings to ask questions, vent, and chat about how the MAB is going. 

  • Tuesday 02/05 at 11am

  • Friday 05/05 at 4pm

  • On Zoom: check your email or contact ucu@ucl.ac.uk for the link

We will be organising more informal meetings over the coming weeks so please look out for future emails.

4. Actions you can take now

  • Do not fill out the main UCL form. UCL have now granted a two-week pause on filling out the form while we continue to negotiate over their response - it is your pressure that’s got them here so please keep it up! Do not underestimate our own power and how much the university depends on our cooperation.

  • Sign up for our Solidarity Pledge scheme: https://forms.gle/2Pzkwz3NEkoKitNu5

  • Sign the open letter to the Provost if you haven't already done so (apologies for the broken link in earlier emails!)

  • Speak to your local UCU rep and organise a departmental meeting to discuss MAB workings and suggestions for strategy.

  • Organise a meeting with students to discuss the boycott. We want to end this boycott by winning the dispute – for our sake but also for theirs.

More info:

  • UCU’s MAB FAQs 

  • Please get in touch with us by replying to this email if you have any other questions.

UCL UCU Executive Committee




Appendix - Motions for discussion at Branch Meeting 27 April 2023

Motion 1: Strike action

UCL UCU Notes:

  1. The decision by UCL management to impose a flat rate deduction amounting to half pay for 70 or more days (i.e. at least 10% of annual salary) on every member of staff participating in the Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB) - with the threat of higher deductions if the dispute continues into July.

  2. That this flat rate applies regardless of whether a colleague was due to mark 1 essay in June or 200 essays in April. The same rate applies for one-off assessments such as PhD vivas.

  3. That marking and assessment do not make up 50% of the work of colleagues’ workload who are engaged in marking and assessment during this period.

  4. That by contrast most universities have said they will make deductions based on due dates of submission of marks.

  5. The UCL undergraduate exam board period is 15-23 June.

UCL UCU believes:

  1. UCL’s decision on deductions is deliberately punitive, disproportionate, and designed to maximise the pressure on colleagues to not take part in industrial action (the MAB).

  2. That members' rights to take part in ASOS, now and in the future, are under threat.

  3. This threat must be confronted first and foremost with an escalated industrial response, because legal challenges can take years.

  4. Our core focus must be to win the dispute and protect our members.

  5. An escalation of this kind by an employer must be met with an effective industrial escalation on our part.

UCL UCU resolves:

  1. To plan strike action that targets the undergraduate Exam Board period (15-23 June 2023).

  2. To call on HE officers to trigger the formal employer-notification process outlined in our motion to Special HE Sector Conference, HE5. This notifies the employer for strike action over a long period but then allows the branch to stand down action according to how the employer responds.

  3. To monitor UCL’s response and adjust strike action dates, if necessary, to be effective.

  4. To call on all exam board chairs, deputy chairs, and participants to not reschedule exam boards.

  5. To also consider other dates of strike action depending on the employer's response.

  6. That our strike action threat will only be withdrawn if UCL withdraws its threat of punitive deductions.


Motion 2 - Organising to defend the right to participate in the MAB

UCL UCU notes:

  1. The extraordinarily disproportionate threat of deductions announced by UCL last week, amounting to half pay for every day of the boycott.

  2. That UCL's central strike recording database was negotiated with UCU for strike action deductions on the basis that deductions were lawful, and that this data would be used only for processing deductions and not shared with others.

  3. UCL's stated intention to share this data with Heads of Department, i.e. to use it for attempting to engage in working around the MAB and taking marking work off participants. This is a form of strike-breaking.

  4. That there is a serious risk that a list of staff participating in industrial action, whether held at departmental or central level, becomes an unlawful Blacklist.

  5. That these actions of UCL are a threat to every single member of staff at UCL, and will act as a precedent for future disputes. 

UCL UCU resolves:

  1. To call on members not to submit data to UCL HR's central strike recording database.

  2. To remind members that there is no obligation on them to report any intention to participate in the MAB to anyone, including their Head of Department, before the work is due.

  3. To call on Heads of Department and departmental managers to not harass staff about their participation.

  4. To call on Heads of Department and departmental managers to decline to participate in strike-breaking.

  5. To ask every member who is unable to participate in the Boycott to set aside a donation of half a day's pay for every week of the MAB, and to sign up for the branch Solidarity Pledge scheme.

  6. To call branch online informal MAB organising and solidarity meetings at least twice a week during the boycott.