The subject of marking boycotts is a difficult one to broach without annoying an already stressed and over-worked majority of students. Those opposed to the current boycott may be asking themselves why their education should be affected when they already pay such high tuition fees. However, these frustrations are precisely the reason why we, as students, should back the boycott.
The reason we pay tuition fees is because the UK government thought they could make a profit out of our education, and that we as a student movement would just silently accept it. The reason we face so much pressure to perform in essays is because we now view our education in relation to how much debt we and our families will probably have incurred for us to be here. The reason we face so much pressure to perform well in exams is so we can get that coveted first class degree from a prestigious university like Edinburgh, yet we will graduate into a job market which is currently saturated. Students have been continually attacked and undermined by the UK government, and the future of your degree and Higher Education more widely now hangs in the balance.
Edinburgh University is known for giving awful feedback. We as a student body continually ask for improvements in the quality of feedback, yet this is unachievable if the staff are not paid appropriately. To put this into context – the majority of staff that mark our essays are on zero hours contracts, have no job security and aren’t paid in relation to the amount of hours of work that is needed for you to get proper feedback. Tutors are expected to mark roughly three essays per hour, including comments, yet are only paid around £13 per hour around £4 per essay. I’ll leave it to you to judge whether your time and effort should be merely worth £4. As you can imagine, many tutors work over time to mark your essays. To put it simply, 20 minutes is not enough to mark and comment on your essays. The boycott isn’t just about staff wanting better pay, it’s also about you and the quality of your degree.
The current marking boycott and the strikes last year are not a coincidence. They are part of a nationwide struggle against the privatisation of Higher Education and the protection of your education. This time it’s our lecturers’ pensions that are in the balance. The pension changes that are being brought in would mean a huge economic loss to many staff post-retirement, something we should all find unacceptable and fight against. Coupled with the 13 per cent pay cut in real terms you can see why staff and unions are up in arms – it’s their future and ours that is on the balance.
We mustn’t view the struggle university staff are now facing as separate from our own struggles as a student body. Edinburgh University is a community. Many of us will seek to continue on in academia, and some of us may even become tutors or lecturers ourselves. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that these changes could directly affect us. We must fight now to uphold the rights of the academic community.