HLS47 - Effect on Semester 2 Marking

As you may be aware, more than 5 months ago the University of Liverpool announced that 47 lecturers in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences face redundancy under a project named Project Shape 2. Staff were selected for redundancy based on a threshold for research grant income, of which they had never been made aware of. These proposals affect lecturers who did their utmost to continue delivering our education during a pandemic and who were the only faces many of us regularly saw during online teaching.
University management have stated that the aim of these redundancies is to create “headroom” to reinvest in research. The University reported an operating surplus of £19.6 million last year.

A survey of more than 850 UoL students earlier this year showed the deep concerns, held by a majority, for the quality of their academic experience if even a reduced number of redundancies were to go ahead. The results of the survey were presented in a letter to the Vice-Chancellor of the university, Professor Dame Janet Beer, on 11.06.2021. This letter and Prof Beer’s response, received 2 weeks later, can be viewed here: https://www.hls47.co.uk/comments-from-our-students/

Members of staff belonging to the UCU voted to take part in industrial action to fight for jobs being lost, and to prevent the detrimental impact of these redundancies on the quality of student teaching. The university management has since gradually withdrawn 26 of the original 47 redundancies. Many members of staff are now taking part in a marking and assessment boycott; a lawful form of industrial action. Industrial action in the form of withdrawal of labour is financially painful, and only used as a last resort. University management has announced that it will withhold 100% of pay from those taking part in the boycott, from 18th June until 5th July, even though marking and assessment accounts for only a fraction of the duties of academic staff. (For comparison, the University of Leicester is deducting only 25-33% of pay for those members of its staff taking part in a similar marking boycott).
Of great concern, those who were taking part in the boycott have now been denied access to their students’ assignments, and it appears that, in some modules, individuals who had no previous involvement in the module are doing the marking. This means that our teachers are now physically unable to mark our assignments, and cannot check if those undertaking the marking are doing it appropriately and fairly.

Importantly, the current problems could have easily been prevented had university management reversed their decision early on, in response to the widespread uproar and outrage at the situation created.

This survey is to gather opinions and thoughts of students in the School of Life Sciences and similarly affected Schools and Departments at the University of Liverpool surrounding the delay in

• the release of semester 2 marks
• progression decisions
• awarding degree classifications

and the consequences for

• the resit timetable
• follow-on opportunities for employment or further study

For further information on these issues, here is a letter compiled by the UCU highlighting the issues students face regarding semester 2 marks: https://docs.google.com/document/d/146jzl6y7I_qYKjwMtxArGPp_7dQfVaMUlEYnK6_afV4/mobilebasic. These concerns are echoed in open letters from several of the University’s external examiners to the University Senate [https://docs.google.com/document/d/1tRg8sjsZmrPM-RXjxI29Wn4lLgCOyy63JPnWOlLJ-8M/edit ] and from 68 professors of the university to the University Council [ https://www.hls47.co.uk/letter-to-council/ ].

Results from this survey will be used within an email to the Vice Chancellor, the Head of the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, and the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education to express and voice student opinions and concerns amid this very stressful period.

Your answers and comments in this survey are completely anonymous. If you would like to view the final survey results and the compiled email to the University’s upper management, and any response received, please leave your email in the relevant box at the end of the survey for me to forward these to you. For more general information and updates visit https://www.hls47.co.uk/ and follow @unilivucu, @liverpoolguild and @studentsolidarityhls47 on Instagram.
Any questions, queries or comments please feel free to email me at r.court@student.liverpool.ac.uk
Optional anonymous details
These details will simply be used to help analyse the results of the survey with respect to the respondent 'demographics'
What is your Subject area, School or Department?
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If you chose 'Other' for above, what is your Faculty?
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If you chose 'Other' for the initial question, what is the name of your School or Department?
What is your current year of study? (i.e., for the academic year that has just ended)
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Of all the results you expected to receive on Results day, July 5th 2021, how many did you actually receive, on the day?
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Of all the results you expected to receive on the delayed Results day (if applicable to you), July 12th 2021, how many did you actually receive, on the day?
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The previous HLS47 student survey and Professor Beer's response
In case you weren’t aware, an initial student survey was circulated within March/April which aimed to gather opinion surrounding the situation our lecturers and Faculty’s are facing. The results can be found within the email sent to upper management, and Prof Beer’s response; please view them here https://www.hls47.co.uk/comments-from-our-students.
Widespread student concern for the quality of future teaching and, indeed, anger at the decisions being formed was made apparent. Within the email, I requested a personal response to students’ concerns.

Within the response from Professor Beer, she wrote
“Although we recognise that any changes to staffing resulting from Project SHAPE will be a concern to students and other members of our University community, we believe the changes will be for the long-term benefit of our students, staff and the wider community. We are committed to minimising any short-term impact on students and will communicate directly with them as soon as possible about any relevant arrangements or continuity plans made to support the successful completion of their studies.”
After reading these email extracts, how reassured and satisfied do you feel with the response received by university management?
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Questions regarding the release of Semester 2/Final marks
Regarding semester 2 results, in a number of modules, second marking/moderation has not been undertaken and some modules have been marked by lecturers who do not teach on them. Also, some dissertations have not been marked by supervisors. In many cases, student work has not been scrutinised by subject specific external examiners (some of which have resigned in protest against these redundancies and/or additionally expressed their concerns here https://twitter.com/martin_oneill/status/1409536698653069314).

This therefore means, in some cases, student work has not been marked by those in the relevant subject area. Further, some students will only receive a mark, without detailed justification and constructive feedback.
How do you feel about the above upon receiving your semester 2 results?
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Mitigation strategy
The university leadership in their email communications have promised a mitigation strategy against negative effects of the marking and assessment boycott on students.
In a University Communications email dated the 24th May and on 15th June, respectively, Prof Gavin Brown wrote
“I would like to reassure you that we will do our utmost to ensure that the impact of this action is kept to a minimum”.
“Firstly, we want to assure you that we are doing everything we can to minimise the impact of the ongoing industrial action on your studies, particularly those of you who are waiting for your 2020/21 results and those of you expecting to graduate this summer.”
How informed do you feel about the details, or any evidence of, a mitigation strategy from University management?
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'Weighted average' marks
In a University Communications email on the 15th June, students were informed that some marks would be a ‘weighted average’ from former results from the year:
“we will...[use] a temporary calculation of your weighted average for the year based on the marks that we have available. For example, if you have marks for 90 out of your possible 120 credits for the year, your average for the purposes of progression or graduation will be based on those 90 credits...”

It is perhaps worth noting that many students improve on their marks in semester two, in comparison to semester 1.
How do you feel about the university on Results Day having failed to provide true, complete marks, with relevant feedback, for all of your semester 2 assessments?
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Please feel free to comment further on this here
Missing marks
The situation within which students have missing module marks, marks of ‘0’ or ‘Fail’, on their results page remains unclear regarding how students can truly progress, when resits will be taking place, and how final year students can meet learning outcomes required for graduation.
If applicable to you, how do you feel about missing marks on your results page?
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Please feel free to further comment on this here
Any last comments regarding the situation, in its entirety, that you would be happy to be quoted/included within the final email to university management?
Option to leave your email address to receive the final results of this survey and any managerial response
So far, your response is utterly anonymous. The option below to leave your email address is solely in order for you to receive the final results of this survey as well as any response received from university management. Your details will not be shared with others.
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