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Professor Ian Jamieson
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning and Teaching)

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Internal News - 23 May 2006

Update for students on AUT action

A message from the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning and Teaching), Professor Ian Jamieson:

Yesterday our summer examinations started and so this is a timely moment to update you on the dispute and the University’s actions.

I am sorry to report there does not seem to be any significant movement in the dispute between the Association of University Teachers (AUT) and the University Employers’ Association (UCEA), though some further talks are scheduled for today. The University is not in a position to negotiate a local settlement, since the AUT has made it clear that it will only negotiate at the national level. This is a legitimate industrial dispute and there is little that the University can do to prevent staff taking action. However, we can and are taking steps to mitigate the effects of that action on our students.

We have reached the point where all but a few examinations have been set and I am confident that all students will have an examination when they turn up to the examination hall. In a handful of cases these examinations have been set by academic staff other than those who taught the course, but they will always have been set by people competent to set the papers. This can happen in the normal course of events anyway if, for example, a member of staff falls ill. In addition to internal examiners, external examiners are part of every examination board that makes decisions about finalists. It is part of their job to scrutinise the papers and the marks to make sure that standards are being upheld, that students and their work are treated equitably, and that all mitigating circumstances are properly taken into account.

The first of our examination boards will take place next week. We have all the marks in for last year and for the first semester of this year. It is likely that marks for some units will be missing in this last semester in a small number of departments. Examination boards are being given advice on how to handle these circumstances. I need to emphasize that the advice is based around three important principles: first, that students are not to be disadvantaged by the current action; secondly, that all students who have suffered from the action are to be treated equitably; and finally, that the University’s academic standards and the reputation of its awards must not be compromised.

This last principle is very important. It means that students this year will be dealt with under exactly the same set of examination regulations and practices as every other year. Examination boards are always faced with some missing marks for a wide range of reasons that are not the fault of the student. They are occasionally faced with an array of marks for a unit which are completely out of line with the set of marks achieved in that unit in previous years. Examination Boards will be asked to give particular scrutiny to unit marks which they believe, on the basis of evidence supplied either by the department or by students, might have been influenced by the action. There are clear existing protocols for dealing with such circumstances.

It is our belief that the majority of students will graduate in the normal way through the proper use of the procedures I have described above. If there are students who are not able to graduate in the normal way they will be offered an interim transcript with a covering letter explaining the current situation. Students will also be able to obtain letters of recommendation from the University about their progress and achievements which can be used with prospective employers and other universities. In this regard students from the University of Bath are in the same, regrettable position as a result of the AUT action as students from nearly every other UK university.

I hope that students will find this communication helpful. The majority of academic staff and administrators who are not taking action have worked very hard to get us to this current position. The Students’ Union has also worked hard on behalf of its students to ameliorate the situation. Everybody is hoping for a rapid settlement.

If you have further concerns you should contact your Head of Department or me (i.m.jamieson@bath.ac.uk). I will endeavour to keep you all up to date on the action and the University’s responses.

Professor Ian Jamieson Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning and Teaching)