Page updated 2 October 2023
Industrial action - information for students
Industrial action is currently taking place at universities around the country including Oxford.
While recognising our colleagues’ right to take industrial action, we regret the impact the UCU’s action is having on some students. We are working to minimise disruption, and in particular we are taking all reasonable steps to ensure no student is disadvantaged by delays in marking of examinations and assessments.
This page provides information about the industrial action, and what it means for Oxford students.
Why is industrial action taking place?
The University and College Union (UCU) has voted in favour of industrial action over the national pay settlement and USS pensions. However, UCU action over pensions is currently paused and the current focus is on the pay and conditions dispute. You can read more on the University’s web page, the UCU website and the Universities & Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) site.
What is the University's position on the industrial action?
Please find the University's position on the HR support pages. Guidance on mitigations in light of the marking and assessment boycott is available on SharePoint.
What industrial action took place in September?
The UCU has been taking action short of a strike since Thursday, 20 April. The mandate for action expired on 30 September.
On Wednesday 6 September, the UCU suspended its Marking and Assessment Boycott that had been in place since 20 April.
Strike action was notified for 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29 September.
What does action short of a strike consist of?
As notified by the UCU, action short of a strike consists of “working to contract; not undertaking any voluntary activities; not covering for absent colleagues; removing uploaded materials related to, and/or not sharing materials related to, lectures or classes that will be or have been cancelled as a result of strike action; and not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action.”
Teaching and Learning
Were teaching and other services affected by the September strikes?
The planned strikes were outside the main University term terms, and as such, the majority of students were not affected.
Marking and assessment boycott
How many students have been impacted by the marking and assessment boycott?
In most cases, the mitigating actions departments have taken mean that the vast majority of students have been able to graduate. The number of students impacted is changing over time. However, as of 22 August, 33 students (5 undergraduates and 28 taught postgraduates) were unable to graduate because of MAB-related incomplete results. A full record of the numbers of students affected by the marking boycott will not be available until November 2023, once all exam results have been processed and the exam boards have met.
Will all exams and submissions be marked now that the Marking and Assessment Boycott has come to an end?
The vast majority of students have already received their results and are graduating as planned.
Departments and faculties are now working to finalise outstanding marks as soon as possible. If you are still waiting for marks or a degree classification, your department will contact you with further information when it becomes available.
What happens if there has been a delay to my assessments being marked?
We expect that most students will get their results on the timetable already communicated.
Regrettably, in some cases, marking has been delayed, and this will impact students on taught degrees in different ways. For students at the end of their courses:
- Where small numbers of marks are missing, it has been necessary to award provisional classifications until all assessments have been marked.*
- Where a more substantial number of marks are missing, exam boards have awarded provisional degrees called ‘Declared to Deserve Honours’ (DDH; for undergraduates) or ‘Declared to Deserve Masters’ (DDM; for postgraduates).**
- For a very small number of students, there may not have been sufficient marks to confirm your degree award on the usual timetable.
*Where provisional classifications are given, your classification may be raised when late marks become available. Classifications will not be lowered; the only exception to this would be if an investigation showed that academic misconduct, such as plagiarism, had occurred.
**DDH/DDM awards recognise that a student has passed the course without specifying the classification. The degree will be updated to a classified degree when all marks become available.
If you were waiting for results of progression assessments (for example, Prelims, or the first year of a two-year MPhil programme), you may have some marks missing for assessments you have taken this year. The missing marks will not have obstructed your progression to the next stage of your degree.
Will I be able to graduate as planned?
Most students have been able to graduate on existing timelines.
In all cases of provisional or declared awards, you should have been able to book to attend a degree ceremony and receive your degree as planned.
Unfortunately, if there were not sufficient marks to confirm your degree award, you will not have been able to graduate on the usual timetable and you will be invited to re-book your graduation ceremony once your degree is confirmed.
I am applying for jobs/further study. What happens if my results have been delayed?
If your results have been delayed, Departments and Faculties will be able to provide you with a document outlining the situation and summarising confirmed marks and pending assessments. This can be shared with potential employers, or other higher education institutions in the case of students moving on to further study.
I want to apply for the Graduate route visa, but I am worried because my results might be late because of the boycott.
Firstly, check your student/Tier 4 visa permission expiry date, either on your BRP or on your online Home Office account. If your course was between 9 and 12 months your visa expiry date should be 2 months after your course end date as given on the CAS you used for your student/tier4 visa application. If your course was longer than 12 months, your visa expiry date should be 4 months after the course end date. Your results may still be available before your visa expires even if they are delayed. If your visa end date does not include the correct period of extra time you can contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org as we may be able to get this corrected for you.
Your deadline for submitting your Graduate route visa application is the expiry date of your student visa. It is considered as an in-time application as long as it is submitted by the expiry date, even if you don’t receive the decision until sometime after the expiry date. Applying in time means that your student visa permission is automatically extended and you can remain in the UK whilst awaiting the outcome.
The Home Office have told us about arrangements they have put in place for students whose results are delayed by the boycott. Any application must be submitted before your existing visa expiry date, and you must remain in the UK until you receive the decision otherwise your application will be automatically withdrawn.
If you are likely to get results within 8 weeks, the Home Office will hold your application until they are notified of your results provided this is within 8 weeks of the date of your Graduate route application. Oxford's Student Immigration Team will report your results to the Home Office when they are published and will tell you when they do this. Please keep in contact with email@example.com if it appears your results will not be available within 8 weeks of your visa application date.
If you don’t know when you are going to get your results, or they are going to be more than 8 weeks later than your visa application, you will need to make a student visa extension application which exceptionally the Home Office will allow you to make in the UK, normally it is not possible to make a student visa application on the basis of waiting for results. You will need a CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies) to apply, and your CAS must include a note saying that the extension is due to the marking boycott. You need to submit this visa application before your student visa has expired, as long as you do so, the application is ‘in-time’ even if you don’t get a decision until after the visa expiry date. If you are needing to make an application under these special arrangements, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
These special arrangements only apply when results are delayed due to the marking boycott. For other problems with applying, you can contact email@example.com.
You can only apply for the Graduate route from within the UK, even if your results are delayed due to the boycott. If you want to travel before your results, you will need to return to the UK before the expiry date of your existing student visa to be able to apply for the graduate route.
Travelling out of the Common Travel Area (the UK, Ireland and islands) while any visa application is pending automatically withdraws the visa application, so you need to stay in the UK/Common Travel Area until you receive a decision.
I'm a DPhil student - will this affect me?
Some academic staff may have refused to conduct doctoral vivas or the assessments associated with transfer or confirmation of status. In these instances, every effort will be made to enable you to complete the assessment in a timely way, without compromising academic standards.
Your Department should be in contact with you if there is expected to be an impact on you and outline next steps.
Will industrial action be considered when it comes to assessments and examinations?
All assessments are set and marked taking into account disruptions due to industrial action. You will be notified of changes to your assessments by your department or faculty. We expect the number of such instances to be small.
If you believe you have been negatively impacted by any changes to planned teaching, and that the alternatives provided have not been sufficient, you may wish to ask for additional adjustments such as an extension request, or submit a ‘Mitigating circumstance notice to examiners’ (MCE). These will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
If you wish to submit a Mitigating circumstances notice to examiners (an MCE), you should do so as soon as possible after you have sat the affected papers or submitted the work. Supporting evidence and an explanation as to how your performance in your assessment or exam was affected will also need to be provided. Departments and faculties are keeping track of the impact of the strikes, as well as rescheduled teaching and alternative provision, so they will be able to provide you with written confirmation of the circumstances to include in your application. Further information is included in the University Student Handbook, and the Oxford Students website.
If you would like to discuss this further, you should speak to your College Office in the first instance.
Fees and funding
How will monies withheld from those taking part in industrial action be used?
Any money the University has collected during the industrial action will be used for student support.
Will I be able to claim for a refund on my course fees?
We are taking steps to minimise disruption throughout the industrial action. There will be continued learning opportunities, facilities and support during this period, and throughout students’ time at Oxford. This means the University will not be issuing refunds.
If you believe that any alternative arrangements put into place during the period of disruption were inadequate, you may wish to make a complaint to the relevant department or faculty. Evidence will need to be provided as to why this was inadequate and the impact this has had on your studies. These will be considered on a case by case basis.
Who do I contact if I have further questions or concerns?
If you have questions about teaching or supervision in your faculty or department, you should speak to your Academic Administrator or your Supervisor or Course Tutor in the first instance, or to your Head of Department/Chair of Faculty Board.
If you have a question that they cannot answer, or is not covered by the information on this page, please use the 'Was this page useful?' feedback option on the Oxford Students website homepage and submit your comments. This will be passed on to the appropriate person and we may update this page as a result of your query. However, if you would like a direct response, you should speak to your Department.