Update on marking turnarounds and the ‘15 day deadline’

As we approach the Christmas break we want to give an update for all staff affected by heavy marking and assessment loads and the ‘15 day’ marking turnaround. We know that assessment workloads across the campus can and do cause serious health and mental health issues, with large numbers of staff taking sick leave every year for this reason.

BUCU have been very clear with the University that marking deadlines should be reasonable and should not involve forcing staff to work consistently in excess of the 48 hour working time directive limit without their consent. Marking deadlines, together with under staffing, are a major resource issue and need to be properly managed. The final responsibility for this has to rest with the University and with management not with the staff delivering the feedback.

Unfortunately, despite repeated attempts, the University have so far refused to meet with us to discuss our concerns around the 15 day turnaround, in particular, when and how the ‘exemption’ to this policy should be applied. Kathy Armour wrote to us to confirm that the exemption requests were a ‘curtesy’ only, however, we now know that this is not the case in practice with many requests being refused. Nonetheless, where marking loads are extreme and unmanageable we do encourage you to apply for exemptions or to get your concerns in writing with your line manager so that they are on the record. The new exemption form is available on our website along with the exemptions approval process map. If you need to get in touch with us for further support please contact admin@birminghamucu.org.

This is potentially an extremely serious issue. We note the tragic death of an academic and colleague in Cardiff Business School earlier this year who sadly took their own life after citing extreme marking pressures over the winter period. We call on all staff to look after their mental health this Christmas and want to assure you that we will do everything we can as a union to support you in turning down work that you cannot reasonably manage.

In our joint unions report, we recommended that no staff member should be taking on any combination of assessment marking that comes in in excess of 80,000 words in total, in any given 15 day period. The 15 day deadline as it stands is not a policy that has been properly consulted on or agreed with the trade unions and we are all within our rights to push back on this where it cannot be reasonably managed.

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