SOAS’ Student Union has called for students to refuse to hand in coursework that is due before and on 23rd March.
The SU have concerns over the effect on students of the four weeks of strike action, organised by University and College Union (UCU). The strikes were over proposed changes to pension schemes, which would leave academic staff up to £10,000 per year worse off on retirement.
The university has already suspended penalties for late submission for all assignments between 22nd February and 23rd March, in an attempt to mitigate the effect of missed office hours and disruption to library access.
The SU argue that this extension provides “no support to students” due to the small window it allows to complete several assignments following the end of the strikes on 16th March.
The boycott also stems from SOAS’ refusal to address demands made by students for the university to refund tuition fees for disruption caused by the UCU strikes.
The demands of the proposed boycott are for SOAS university to refund students for missed class, commit to defending academic staff pensions and to back the demand for a “fully-funded free at the point of access Higher Education sector”.
Addressing the argument that demanding refunds is being complicit in the marketisation of education, the SU asserted that “demanding refunds is part and parcel of cancelling student debt and instituting a system of free education”.
SOAS SU are currently encouraging students to sign a pledge committing to boycott the 23rd March deadline. In the pledge it explains that it is “not guaranteed” that students will not be penalised if they miss the deadline but that it is “very likely that you will not be penalised if all your fellow students join in the action.”
The SU are in negotiations with university management over extending the suspension of penalties for late submission beyond 23rd March. They have also promised to provide updates on any official suspensions of penalties that are negotiated with the university.
Further disruption to studies is on the horizon with UCU urging the external examiners used by universities to resign their positions.
Sally Hunt, the leader of UCU, said: “We are calling on external examiners to resign their positions at those universities in dispute over plans to slash staff pensions. External examiners ensure the rigorous quality standards in our universities, which must be upheld.
“No student or university will want the quality of their degree called into question, so we advise universities’ representatives to get back round the table with us as soon as possible to get this dispute resolved.”