UCL UCU - Academic Board meeting tomorrow to discuss the Boycott, plus regular Solidari-Tea meetings

9 May 2023

“As a student, I support the boycott completely. Our professors are what makes university great, and it’s a disgrace that UCL management are maintaining such exploitative working conditions.” - 3rd Year Sociology Student

UCL threatens outrageous 10% salary deductions for participating in the MAB

Please see below for a note about tomorrow’s vitally important Academic Board meeting, plus notice of this week’s schedule of Solidari-Tea meetings.

1. Academic Board meeting to discuss MAB action

Tomorrow, the Academic Board (the university’s highest body for academic governance) will discuss and vote on a motion challenging UCL’s punitive plan for 36.5 days’ pay deductions for participating in the MAB. The text of the motion is copied below. We strongly encourage all members of AB to attend the meeting and support the motion.

We have already challenged UCL’s plan in writing and are in on-going negotiations with UCL management, but we need to keep up the pressure. UCL’s current proposals make it an extreme outlier in our sector, and the Provost has implied that the deductions are, rather than being proportionate to actual work lost to UCL by the boycott, a response to the impact on students, which he has described as ‘extreme’. 

However, no staff member’s marking is liable to be overdue by 10.4 weeks, and UCL is currently threatening staff with the same deduction irrespective of the amount of work boycotted and irrespective of when the work is due.

We believe UCL is threatening the biggest deduction from salary of any university employer:

  • UCL: 50% over 10.4 weeks
  • SOAS: 100% over 5 weeks
  • Greenwich: 100% over 3 weeks
  • Kingston: 50% over up to 6 weeks

Leaving aside questions of the lawfulness of UCL’s approach, it is clear that Senior Management are trying to intimidate staff from taking lawful industrial action.

By contrast, other universities are proposing a deduction period based on a typical marking and processing turnaround:

  • LSE: 50% from 16 June until exam boards
  • De Montfort Leicester: 50% from due date until exam boards
  • Newcastle: 50% each day from staff declaration until exam boards
  • Queens University Belfast: 50% each day from staff declaration until exam boards
  • Royal Holloway: 50% over the specific marking period
  • King’s College London: 50% over an expected 2 week turnaround

We cannot let UCL Senior Management get away with intimidating staff. This has implications that go far beyond the current dispute.

The scale of the threatened deductions mean that we have made a decision to focus on Solidarity Pledges (see below) where we share the financial cost of the boycott. If staff put aside 5.2 days’ pay between now and June, we can support a targeted MAB at a ratio of 7:1. In the meantime our advice is not to declare whether you are participating.

2. Solidari-Teas

Join regular online Solidari-Teas to chat about the MAB, ask any questions you might have, and show our support for one another.

This week, Solidari-Teas will be on:

  • Wednesday 10/05 at 11am
  • Thursday 11/05 at 1pm
  • Friday 12/05 at 4pm

Check your inboxes for the zoom link for all Solidari-Teas.

3. Sign up to our Solidarity Pledge scheme

We need to ensure that we can protect members who take part in the boycott even if UCL goes ahead with their planned 36.5 days’ pay deductions.

Sign up here: https://forms.gle/Qmv7aNhPhZAFAx4y9

It is vitally important that members who can take part in the MAB do so, and that others pledge to support them. If UCL changes its plan for deductions, then we will change the support package in response. And we won’t ask for any actual donations until that has been finalised. Sign up here.

4. Other actions and FAQs

  1. Don’t report your participation in the boycott! UCL has agreed to a 2 week delay in their deadline for reporting your participation in the MAB (until May 12). UCL UCU’s position is that you don’t need to report participation until the work is actually due.

  2. Remember that refusing to take on marking from boycotting colleagues does not count as joining the boycott. UCL have now confirmed that no one will suffer pay deductions for refusing to take on the work of colleagues who have joined the boycott. This would constitute additional voluntary duties and there is no obligation to accept it. Remember we are all overworked, and workload is part of the dispute!

  3. Organise an Open Letter to your Head of Department in support of the boycott and ask them to publicly oppose the deductions scheme. Templates available here.

  4. Sign the open letter to the Provost.

  5. Ask your students to write to the Provost themselves. (For ideas of what to say here’s the letter we wrote to the Provost last week.)

For any questions please see:

UCL UCU Executive Committee



Academic Board Motion:

The approach chosen by the University Management Committee (UMC), to deduct 50% of pay for participating in the UCU Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB) for the entire ‘central assessment period’ of 24th April to 6th July, is punitive and disproportionate. This deduction comprises 36.5 days of pay at a rate of 1/365, equivalent to 10% or 0.1FTE of a full-time annual salary. This approach will be taken regardless of the actual quantity of work boycotted.

We believe that this blanket approach is not only morally questionable but would likely fail any legal test of proportionality. It also disregards and undermines the goodwill of staff, on which UCL runs. The path chosen by the UMC is among the most extreme in the sector and is causing reputational damage to UCL in the national and international academic community, risking our ability to attract the best staff and students.

Academic Board agrees that the allotted time for grading and assessment activities for most academic staff does not amount to 50% of their time in any one period, and certainly not the period 24 April to 6 July. Some members of staff have a very small marking load in that period, others do not mark at all until the end of that period. Most have an allocation of hours which is considerably less than the 36.5 whole days (160 hours) for which UCL is deducting pay across the board. It is therefore wrongful, because disproportionate, and in breach of the terms and contracts of most academic staff to impose a deduction of 50% of salary for boycotting marking and assessment whilst expecting staff to carry on in all their other work activities as normal.

Therefore, AB advises Council to direct the UMC:

  • to withdraw the threat of 50% deduction for any participation in the UCU MAB,
  • to adopt a nuanced and proportionate approach to deductions, whereby staff are deducted no more than the time allocated in each individual's workload model for marking and assessment activities, and
  • to guarantee that, if and when the MAB is called off, and where marking and assessment is subsequently carried out, no deductions will be made.