The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

University of Manchester not ruling out exam disruption

The official strike timetable for the new wave of industrial action is set to be announced on the week commencing Monday the 19th of March

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The University of Manchester has not ruled out disruption to summer exams after University and College Union (UCU) and Universities UK (UUK) failed to come to an agreement in the ongoing pensions dispute.

“Detailed preparations” are being made for 14 days of strikes to be held during the exam period of May and June, according to union leaders.

On Thursday the 15th of March, University College and Union called for members who currently hold external examiner positions at the 65 institutions involved in strike action to resign and not accept any new posts until the dispute is resolved.

A University spokesperson said: “We expect all eligible students to be able to graduate or progress to the next year of study as planned. We will continue to review the situation as it develops.”

UCU said external examiners resigning would cause universities a number of specific problems around the setting and marking of exams.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “We are calling on external examiners to resign their positions at those universities in dispute over plans to slash staff pensions. External examiners ensure the rigorous quality standards in our universities, which must be upheld.

“No student or university will want the quality of their degree called into question, so we advise universities’ representatives to get back round the table with us as soon as possible to get this dispute resolved.”

External examiners agree the setting of questions, moderate exam results and ensure that institutions’ assessment procedures are rigorous.

The union has issued guidance and a template resignation letter for members and said they must provide the relevant institution with due notice of termination, as specified under the terms of their contract.

The dispute centres on UUK’s proposals to slash the benefits of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension scheme, which UCU claim leave a typical lecturer almost £10,000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set-up.

Thousands of students across the country have signed petitions demanding compensation for the loss of teaching.

Many have also begun to e-mail University management teams to express concerns about the impact the disruption will have on their grades and have made inquiries about mitigating circumstances requests.

In a response given to various students through e-mail, Michael Greenhalgh, Director of Communications and Marketing at the University of Manchester, said: “I appreciate and understand your concern about the potential impact of industrial action on your studies.

“As you are aware UCU and UUK are now meeting with ACAS.  UUK has offered to meet at any time and it was agreed at the meeting on the 6th March that USS would need to cost the latest UCU proposals.

“As a University we would be prepared to consider an increase to the already very significant employers’ contribution as part of an agreed solution, although we realise that this could be difficult for some other universities.

“I can assure you that we want to see a resolution to this difficult situation and as was stated publicly on Friday 2 March, the President will do everything she can to protect the interests of all current and future generations of staff and students.”