Question on this site will be updated as needed… if you have questions not covered here, please email us on 

Do also look at the UCU FAQs page, which is more general and quite comprehensive, here: 

I’m a UCU member and Exams Officer/Programme Director – should I contact our External Examiner?

UCU nationally does have some guidance on what External Examiners should do in this dispute:

There is an independent resignation campaign organised by Meredith Warren from Sheffield University. However, others feel examiners who support the UCU campaign are better left in place, but encouraged to push back on any mitigations made by the university which would diminish the quality and integrity of students’ degree outcomes.

If you think you have an External Examiner who you know/think might be a UCU member or sympathetic to this action, we would recommend contacting them in a personal capacity as a fellow member – e.g. via your personal email if you have one – and inviting them to discuss with you how they can support us. The MAB committee are happy to advise further on this if needed.

I have had a formal contact/email from a line manager, asking me to confirm my progress on marking on x module, and they have stated that if they do not receive a reply, they will assume I am taking part in the MAB – can you advise me what I should do?

You can reply saying you have not decided yet whether or not you are taking part in the MAB, or to declare it, up until the marking return deadline. 

However, we appreciate not everyone will feel in a position to reply in this way. So a back-up position may be to say you are currently taking part, and will declare the detailed timescale of your involvement/marking time calculation when required to, and that you assume the HoS will be complying with the guidance on the HR website.

I am getting ‘informal’/’impromptu’ contact from a line manager and I suspect or know they will ask me about the MAB. What should I do?

We think these are intimidation tactics, designed to put you off from taking action. 

Do not accept an invitation for an informal or impromptu call/chat from e.g. a line manager, Director of Education etc. without being clear what the meeting is about (ask for an email confirmation in writing). If they won’t say, or say ‘just an informal chat’, explicitly ask if this relates to the current industrial action. You can ask to be accompanied to such a meeting by a union rep and can ask to stop such a discussion if it is underway, until you have consulted your union.

How will HR decide whether, when, or for how long to apply salary deductions for taking part in the MAB?

It is up to you to determine the date on which you deem your boycott has begun. You should base this on the day when you would have started marking and assessment work that you actively decided not to do. The HR policy reflects this advice:

“UCU members should complete the self-declaration and state the date on which they have *actively* [their emphasis] begun to refuse to undertake marking and assessment work. This declaration is the basis for determining the start date for pay deductions”. 

However, members are under no obligation to formally declare their participation in the MAB (or any other industrial action) to the university in advance or during the action, only at the end of the action as stated in UCU Marking and assessment boycott FAQs. 

If you do not declare during the action, the HR policy states that the university ‘reserves the right to make decisions based on reasonable assumptions’. 

This means that, if there are reasonable grounds to assume you have been taking part in the action, pay will be withheld. 

But they will also need to notify you in writing of the grounds on which they’re assuming you are taking part in the MAB. HR go on to say ‘grounds include, but are not limited to, …marking to expected deadlines’. We therefore take the position that until those deadlines have passed, HR have no grounds other than hearsay and rumour, if you do not declare.
There may come a point after deadlines for marking have passed (and therefore there are clear grounds for HR to assume you are taking part), that you decide to declare using the HR form so that deductions will accurately reflect the date that you deem your boycott to have begun. The MAB committee will be happy to advise if you are unsure.

My students have started contacting me, asking where their marks/feedback are – what should I do?  What do I say to students if they ask if I am taking part?

There is guidance on this, and student-facing materials, via the national UCU FAQ:

You are not obliged to formally let students know that you are taking part in the MAB, but you may wish to advise them of this in general terms (see suggested email below) and that you will continue to advise/support them on their studies, provide references, etc. 

It may help if you explain why the dispute is taking place – we’ve shared some of the social media links in the letter below – and advise them how they can contact the University’s senior management to raise their concerns, by emailing the VC directly, or – particularly if they are concerned about the impact of deductions on marking actually being done eventually, using the UCU’s ‘Email your VC’ tool: 

 It is important that we maintain relationships with students as much as possible, and that they understand the context of what is going on. We’d suggest a reply as follows, giving an indication of what is happening, but without an explicit statement of whether you are MABbing right now:


My union, UCU, is currently taking part in a Marking and Assessment Boycott. 

There is more information on what this means here, including an explainer video:

and our FAQ:

We genuinely do not want to hurt students in this dispute but after University leaders have continually failed to address a 25% decline in real terms pay, have messed up our pensions, have failed to address inequalities, and haven’t tackled student learning conditions so that staff are unable to give you the time and care you deserve, we felt we had no choice but to say enough is enough.

You may wish to contact the Keele SU, to urge them to put pressure on the University leadership, and maybe to join other student campaigns to #SettleTheDispute

Please email the Vice-Chancellor to urge him to settle the dispute quickly, Professor Trevor McMillan:

We will continue to give guidance, write references and provide other support.


Should I go to any exam board(s) that I am due to attend?

Whether or not you are boycotting marking throughout the assessment period, we encourage all members to boycott marking and assessment duties on the day of exam boards by not attending. The aim of this action is to delay university assessment processes and timelines, so boycotting exam boards is a very effective way to do this that requires little financial sacrifice from members. We suggest that you do not give advance notice that you plan not to attend. 

If you are not otherwise boycotting marking and assessment duties, you may wish to declare your action on the relevant date(s) to HR after the fact in order that deductions are made only for those day(s).

Do I need to wait for UCU MAB committee to ‘approve’ me taking part in the boycott?

No, it is your decision whether to take part in the boycott or not. However, we can help you decide whether to take part or not, if you are unsure. You can also help us by providing information through the MAB mapping form or contact us directly on, which will allow us to better organise the action and the wage sharing process.

I might be the only person in my subject taking part: What will happen?

It is ultimately your decision whether to take part in the marking and assessment boycott. However, if you feel isolated in your subject and/or are not sure of the impact you can have, please contact the MAB committee on We can help you decide how you can best support your branch during this period of industrial action and advise what support can be in place for you. There may be a subject/School group organising the MAB in your area that you can join, or you could set one up; and we are planning twice-weekly support sessions online and in person. Remember that the Union is about community and solidarity, there’s no need to feel alone in this.

What do you mean by ‘pledge’ salary?

The Keele UCU branch voted overwhelmingly to support a motion calling on all members to ‘wage share’ in the face of the threat of punitive deductions. We hope and expect NO deductions will take place in reality (in 8 out of 10 cases in other boycotts this has been the outcome), and we continue to explore avenues for this, but we cannot guarantee it. While a limited number of members can/will take part in the marking and assessment boycott, we need to share the risk evenly. This means we need each and every member to be ready to donate around 10% of their salary for the period during which deductions may take place. We are not asking you to donate yet, but to pledge that you will do it if and when needed.

Please pledge now using this form: Wage Share Pledge Form

Should I pledge if I am also planning to (or may consider) actively boycott marking and assessment, or refuse to carry out assessment administration?

Yes! The MAB committee are mapping who is pledging what and committing to MAB, so we understand people may worry about being counted twice. Don’t worry – we will NOT expect people to actively donate if they’re facing salary deductions! But at this point we need pledges. We have a substantial number, which shows incredible solidarity, but we need more.

Should I mark work that has already come in/is about to come in imminently?

You should determine when your marking and assessment boycott starts based on the deadline for marks is – work backwards from that moment to establish when would be the latest possible time you could start marking that assessment and have it ready for the deadline. As soon as you start taking MAB action, then you should stop all your marking and summative assessment related activities.

If I have an online test that automatically marks itself, what should I do?

Based on central UCU advice that work that is not set should not be and work submitted should not be marked, then if this has not already been set/uploaded/shared then it should not be and work to be marked should not be. In effect, the moment an auto-marked test is set, it is effectively approving the marking to go ahead, so the principle we are working with is that is should not be set as that would be equivalent to marking it, where work is auto-marked. If the work/test is to be marked by a person, then it should be set, but submissions should not be marked whilst the MAB is in place.

Can I/should I boycott ALL of my marking, or only some modules/elements, if I’m actively boycotting?

If you’re likely to face a 50% salary deduction, with no restoration likely later (we do not yet know the University’s position on this), then we would encourage you to consider that all marking should be included in the boycott. Many of us will take this position. However, this is an individual decision, and should be discussed at section level. If you would like more personal advise or support, do contact us on

What do I say if a PS colleague asks if I am taking part or where marks are/when they will be returned etc?

You are under no obligation to report that you are taking part to anyone other than your line manager. However, if colleagues need to know what is happening with specific marks/modules for their own work, as above, you can reply truthfully that you are taking part on that day, and then refer them to your line manager should they have more questions.

I’m a UCU member and I’ve been asked to cover someone else’s marking, what should I do?

Don’t do it! ASOS is still in action, so no cover should be provided under that guidance. NOT covering someone else’s work does not count as taking part in the marking and assessment boycott and should not result in any deductions.

I’m a casual staff member/postgraduate student and I’ve been asked to cover someone’s marking, what should I do?

If you’re a member of the UCU, then the showing solidarity actions above apply to you too.  If you’re not a member of UCU, please join ASAP.

Will the local UCU Hardship fund cover all my lost wages if 50% deductions take place?

No. The UCU Hardship fund will cover some, but not all, of the deductions. The agreed wage sharing approach means that colleagues not taking action will pledge to donate part of their salaries to share as equally as possible the impact of the deductions, but full coverage is not expected (i.e. we will all lose a small part). How much can be covered will depend on how many colleagues pledge to donate part of their salaries, so please pledge and encourage others to do so! Additionally, UCU have centrally agreed for money to be ring-fenced to support colleagues who suffer from deductions during the marking and assessment boycott… you would be expected to make full use of this so not all comes from the local fund. Once further information on the mechanism for this is available, we will share it.

How will I be able to claim if deductions are made?

Please see details on how to claim from the Keele Local Hardship fund here: You can start the claim before deductions are actually made, so the calculation of net pay can be made and the claim can be pre-approved. If you do this, then the process will be faster once you have a payslip with deductions made.

I’m a Head of School (or Director of Education/Programme Director or in another role overseeing work allocations) and I’ve been asked to put together a list of boycotters/modules affected – what should I do?

If you’re a union member, we would recommend that you follow the UCU guidance highlighted below. Please also make sure you pledge!

If you are a UCU member and are head of department or manager at an institution where UCU has an industrial action mandate and is participating in the marking and assessment boycott, then:

  • do not reallocate marking and assessment-related activities boycotted by UCU members to other staff
  • do not take on any marking and assessment-related activities yourself which are being boycotted by UCU members
  • do not identify individuals who are participating in the marking and assessment boycott, or make any evaluation as to the amount of time that they would normally spend on marking and assessment-related activities
  • if asked by senior management to provide information on the impact of the marking and assessment boycott, reply only in general terms and avoid identifying individuals

If you’re not already a member, you should join.

I am a member of the PS staff and a UCU member – what is my role in the MAB?

Please support those colleagues who will be actively boycotting by pledging financial support if you can – but we recommend this should only be done by colleagues at G7 or above. As active support for the MAB, you can choose to refuse to input/process marks or be involved in any assessment related administration, such as supporting examination boards, preparing or uploading assessment paperwork, etc. As ASOS is in place, you can also reasonably refuse to cover for other staff engaging in this work. Please see the UCU guidance on this: