UCU has been approached by a number of member colleagues expressing concerns about the introduction of on-line or e-marking in their School or department. Our current understanding is that this is being done by the University on a trial basis, but early indications from some of the staff involved suggest that it is imposing an increased burden upon them. Further, there is clear evidence that members have not been made aware of the drivers for this change, and this is leading to some degree of frustration.
Your Local Association is particularly concerned that the introduction of this form of marking has not been discussed in advance with UCU, when clearly their members are directly and materially affected, and have communicated that to management on your behalf in a joint union-management meeting in November and again, in writing in early January. No response has so far been forthcoming (at the time of posting).
We would expect that the following issues have been addressed prior to running any pilot, and have asked management for clarification of these points:
- What is the aim of the pilot?
- Has a baseline been established against which to measure outcomes?
- What are the indicators of success?
- Will there be an opportunity for feedback from participants?
- Who will collate outcomes and make the ultimate judgement?
Let us be clear: we are not against the use of this technology. However, the union does have a problem when the management demonstrates little regard for staff by imposing a method without justification and where the health and safety of members of staff has not been considered. Appropriate consultation with unions and affected staff would have benefited the process by teasing out key obstacles as identified by those who are actually involved in marking, and would allow the development of a practical framework that those involved would be more comfortable with and which would deliver more reliably the outcomes that the University is presumably seeking.
Electronic Marking is a Health and Safety Issue
The implementation of a process (even a pilot) without conducting risk assessments might be considered, at best, foolhardy. This omission puts the University in breach of not just its own policies, but Health and Safety legislation at a fundamental level. We have pointed out to management their responsibilities in this area and are waiting for a response. If you have concerns, please contact the Local Association (see below).
In similar vein we assume that the University would wish to follow its own procedures and conduct a suitable and sufficient equality impact assessment, since there are likely to be equality impacts on staff and possibly students in following this new practice.
How can you help?
The LA is keen to hear your stories about using e-marking. How have you found it? What are the issues that concern you? How was it introduced e.g. did you know that you are involved in a pilot? Do you feel under pressure to adopt e-marking?
Please contact the Local Association by emailing our one of our Health and Safety Reps. firstname.lastname@example.org who will collate all feedback and respond to specific concerns. Be assured that all comments will be treated in the strictest confidence.