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English Faculty announces category system amidst marking boycott

The Faculty of English has announced different ‘categories’ for students who are affected by the ongoing UCU marking boycott. While most students are expected to be able to graduate this summer, those that won’t will face more uncertainty regarding their degree outcomes.

The English Faculty announced to students over email that each candidate will be placed into one of four categories based on how affected their exam markings will be.

Category 1, where all assessments will be fully marked, will allow degrees to be awarded as normal. Category 2, where one mark for a single paper is missing, will also allow degrees to be awarded. In the latter case, a second round of classification will take this second mark into account. Importantly, this could improve a candidate’s degree classification which would then be awarded, but will not be lowered in the opposite case, except in cases of academic misconduct.

The Faculty expects all “single honours students, and all but a very few joint schools students, to fall into categories 1 and 2”, meaning that most students will be able to graduate this summer.

Category 3, where too many marks are missing for a degree to be classified but where there is sufficient evidence for a candidate being able to pass, will qualify for a ‘Declared to Deserve Honours (DDH)’ award. This indicates the candidate has passed the course, without a specified classification, which will be updated as marks are counted. Again, students in this category will be able to graduate this summer.

Category 4, by contrast, will not be provided with a preliminary classification due to not having enough marks/evidence to be awarded an honours. In such a case, students will not be able to graduate in the summer, and will only receive a degree award once all their marks have been obtained. However, matriculated students will be able to re-book their graduation ceremony at a later date.

English Language and Literature and Classics and English students will be informed which of categories 2-4 they fall into by 30 June, with documents outlining the situation and outlining confirmed marks and pending assessments. These can be “shared with potential employers, or other higher education institutions”. However, given the nature of the boycotts, and its possible extension by UCU, specific dates are not available at present.

Those in category 1 will not receive any more correspondence until results are made available.

History and English, and English and Modern Languages students will be contacted by their respective departments confirming their categories.

While the provisions have been made to have transparency regarding the current boycotts and marking provisions, some students fear that this uncertainty may upset their post-degree plans, especially in situations where certain classifications are needed, such as for other higher education courses. One English finalist told Cherwell: “It’s frustrating to be put through this. You go through 3 years of grueling and difficult education and you don’t get to enjoy the fruits of your labour at the end, there’s a lack of closure.

“Now, both my further education [A-Levels] and my higher education [degree] have been upturned by a messy education system. There are deeper lessons to be learnt not just regarding fair employment, but the very nature of exams and how we are assessed as individuals.”

Another added that “while the vast majority of the students support the strike action as these are professors and staff that we hold dear, conflicts of interest start to bubble up. It seems students, and young people generally, get caught in a crossfire for a dispute they have no voice nor part in.”

The University and College Union (UCU) has been boycotting many parts of University life from lectures, classes, and examinations since the beginning of this academic year. Such boycotts have led to disruption to students, especially Finalists taking their examinations, with oral exams being cancelled in April as a result.

This strike action follows disputes between the union and the Universities Employers Association over pay and pensions. Despite some breakthroughs in talks, the ongoing marking boycott is planned to last until 30 September 2023, with the possibility of another ballot to extend this further.

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