While lecturers consider a new pay offer and ponder whether to go ahead with their threatened marking boycott, we ask: where do students stand?
For months university staff have been in a battle with their institutions over pay – a battle that has seen them take to the streets in protest and go on strike.
Last week a proposed marking boycott, supported by the University and College Union (UCU), was postponed until May, after employers made a new pay offer to university staff. But if it goes ahead it could have a significant impact on students. Exam and graduation dates could be affected, and students could face waits for the return of coursework and other assessment feedback.
Lecturers are calling the boycott a "last resort" in a push for fair pay at UK universities – at a time when the salaries of many vice-chancellors has risen, in some cases to £400,000. Students have been showing their support to lecturers online, using the hashtag "I back the boycott".
But many students are worried about how a marking boycott would affect them. Here two students share their differing views on the boycotts. But where do you stand? Take part in our poll to give your view, and share your thoughts in the comments section below.
'Students shouldn't suffer,' says Lauren Razavi
Only one group will lose out in this marking boycott, and that's students.
In the dispute so far, many tutors have still run classes off campus, taking into account the effect union action has on the education of those they teach. But the consequences of this marking boycott are much further reaching.
If students don't receive feedback on their work in time for their next assignment, they won't be able to progress. For some, this could be the difference between continuing with their degree and dropping out of university. If graduation slips are issued late – or not issued at all this year – final-year students will lose out on precious job opportunities.
It's not our fault that staff aren't being offered the pay that they want, and we shouldn't be the ones suffering over political disputes. The issue has little to do with us, yet we're the ones who'll have to shoulder the consequences. To go ahead with this boycott goes against the very ethos of teaching.
I'm not arguing that staff shouldn't demand fair pay, but such drastic action that will have such an impact on students' lives is not the best way to achieve it. Ultimately, we're the ones that will lose out whatever is decided.
'Students should back the marking boycott,' says Sophie Mew
For five years, lecturers have seen their pay fall in real terms by 14%, with the average vice-chancellor's salary now at around £250,000. At the same time, highly skilled lecturers often struggle to make ends meet.
A marking boycott is the only leverage staff have left, as previous strikes have made little difference. Professor James Annett, the president of the University and College Union (UCU) at the University of Bristol, says: "No-one wants to take this action, but we have been left with no choice."
Students should be angry about the marking boycott, but they should be angry at university management. Some universities have threatened to withdraw 100% of pay from staff that strike, even if they complete other duties. This is unfair to lecturers.
Tom King, a second year student at Soas, University of London, says: "By supporting the marking boycott, students can help staff win fair pay that will benefit our education system in the long term."
If this culture continues – of low pay, zero-hour contracts and long hours – students will lose out on the world-class education we've been promised. Students and staff make a university, and it's right we stand up for what we were all promised.