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Number of external examiners resigning reaches 100

Examinations and examination results in the summer term could be affected as 100 external examiners across the country resign from their positions.

The University College Union (UCU) has created an online spreadsheet allowing external examiners to add their names to the list of those withdrawing from exam boards as part of the ongoing industrial action.

As of today, Sunday March 18, the list consists of 100 members of staff from the 65 universities taking part in industrial action. It has been increasing daily since its release.

The list includes 3 members of staff from Warwick who had volunteered to officiate exams elsewhere, and 3 members of the UCU from other universities who had been assigned Warwick examinations.

Details of the expected course of action if exams are disrupted by industrial action at Warwick are set out in the university’s regulations, specifically Reg. 41 “Relating to the Absence of Examination Marks as a Consequence of Significant Disruption”.

The regulation can be invoked “in circumstances in which the University’s academic business has been significantly disrupted by force majeure”. Force majeure can be defined in law as: “unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract”.

The current industrial action represents such a force majeure event. If enacted, all the university’s exam boards will be empowered to follow a procedure that enables them to classify student’s degrees when not all marks are available.

The regulations clarify “examination” to include “any test or coursework contributing to degree credit”.

As of today, Sunday March 18, the list consists of 100 members of staff from the 65 universities taking part in industrial action. It has been increasing daily since its release

If up to 30% of an individual candidate’s mark is affected, the university will proceed with usual procedure under the Regulation for First Degrees.

However, if over 30% of any examination or summative coursework marks contributing to degree credit is unavailable due to industrial action the university will proceed as follows:

  • First years will be unaffected if their first year does not count towards their degree. However, if over 30% of marks that contribute towards the candidate’s final degree are unaccounted for, this may require candidates to take further tests.
  • For Second and Third years who are not finalists, the same procedure applies, and so candidates may also be required to take further tests.
  • For Final year students, should over 30% of the marks be missing, the candidate will be eligible for consideration for the award of an “unclassified Honours or a Pass Degree”. In addition, the board will be able to consider classifying the candidate’s degree based on the marks that are available. The exam board reserves the right to ”determine whether the candidate should be awarded a higher class”. The regulations state: “Reconsideration of a final year candidate’s marks for classification purposes will not disadvantage the candidate”.

To see further information concerning quorum guidelines and development upon the above information, click here.

If over 30% of marks that contribute towards a candidate’s final degree are unaccounted for, this may require candidates to take further tests

While these guidelines detail that students may be affected post-examination as a result of the absence of external examiners, it is also possible that academic staff will not be able to publish exam papers as they need permission from external examiners to do so.

“As strike action continues one of the main points of contention is the existence of a pensions deficit which UUK point to as one justification for the current reforms. Warwick UCU’s official stance is that no pension deficit exists.”

This morning, Chief Executive of Universities UK (UUK) also published the following statement in response to the UCU’s claim that there is not a deficit in the sector:

“Employers recognise that questions have been raised over the 2017 valuation methodology. That’s why Universities UK is to establish a panel of independent experts to review the processes behind the valuation that put the fund’s deficit at £6.1bn. The idea for such a panel of independent experts was agreed with UCU at the ACAS talks, and it is being brought forward to address concerns over the valuation.”

General Secretary of the UCU, Sally Hunt, responded to this valuation review with the comment: “’UCU will of course look at any proposals UUK makes but our members have made it quite clear that what is needed is a much improved offer. Any review would need to enjoy the confidence of the sector or be doomed.

‘UUK really need to work much harder to win the trust of university staff. We remain available for talks, but what is really needed is a much improved offer which retains a decent, guaranteed pension income in retirement, and addresses our concerns about the valuation of the fund.”

The University has been contacted for comment and the article will be updated with the response.

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