The marking and assessment boycott which resulted in thousands of university students across the UK graduating without their degree results has now been called off. 

The University and College Union (UCU) announced last night that the boycott would end after 60% of its members voted in favour of beginning to mark unassessed work.

Although the marking boycott has been brought to an end, the union has also announced a further five days of strike action at universities for the beginning of the new term, with staff to walk out from Monday 25 to Friday 29 September. 

A new ballot has been announced to decide whether the union will accept the latest pay offer. 

The union will also continue to carry out other actions short of a strike, which includes not covering for absent colleagues, not sharing material related to classes cancelled due to strikes, and not rescheduling lectures cancelled due to strikes.

The UCU has been locked in a dispute with the university staff employment body, the Universities and Colleges Employment Association (UCEA), over pay. Staff are also striking over workload, inequalities in the sector, and the casualisation of contracts. 

The marking boycott began on 20 April and resulted in many students leaving university without having dissertations and final assessments marked and some without knowing whether they had actually graduated at all. This was the case at the University of Edinburgh where some students were handed certificates of completion at graduation ceremonies rather than degree certificates. 

Read more: Inside the chaos of blank degrees, marking boycotts and strike action

Mary Senior, Scotland official UCU, said: “Following consultation with members, UCU has now withdrawn the marking and assessment boycott.  University bosses made clear that they were prepared to sit back and see students suffer the unprecedented disruption the boycott brought rather than negotiate a fair offer on pay and working conditions.

"Their refusal to resolve the dispute means that the action continues with universities across Scotland and the UK holding five days of strike action before the end of September.  We are also seeking a renewed mandate for strike action meaning that, in the absence of satisfactory offers, strikes will continue into 2024.”

The University of Strathclyde’s branch of the UCU said: “Members remain angry at the failure of UK universities to consider reasonable demands by those who keep universities afloat, and at the punitive deductions that have seen members of UCU losing half of their salary over the summer.”

It says it is working with Strathclyde University’s management to seek an end to punitive deductions for those staff who have participated in action, adding: “If senior management wish to avoid further industrial action they should act now.”

The University of Strathclyde has been contacted for comment. 

Co-presidents of the UCU Edinburgh, Cat Wayland and Sophia Woodland, described the "incredible impact" the boycott had at the University of Edinburgh and the "unprecedented support" they recieved from students. 

They say the branch is now focused on supporting members to ensure that "supporting our members to ensure that completing outstanding marking does not result in excessive and unsustainable workloads."

"The dispute is not yet over. We have five days of strike action in September, and there is still time for the University of Edinburgh to take a stand and encourage UCEA to improve the terms of their offer," said Wayland and Woodland.

Lily Darvey finished her degree in Japanese from the University of Edinburgh this year. She said of the boycott ending: "I am a little confused about the outcome. As far as I'm aware, not many of the UCU's demands have been met and therefore the entire marking boycott and the effort that the supporting students and staff put in feels a little redundant.

"Unless there will be more announcements in coming weeks, I am unsure as to whether any of the conditions that the UCU were fighting for, including better pay, better contracts, better retirement benefits, have changed at all. If that is the case, I am a little disappointed as I have gone without my degree for months, still don't have it, and have supported my teachers and the staff throughout this protest. I want them to have the conditions they deserve."

Read more: Fears raised over quality checks amid university marking boycott

Emily Bell was a final year English Literature student at the University of Glasgow, and is staying on at the institution to begin a postgraduate course in Media, Communication and International Journalism. "The marking boycott having ended is a small relief, but I don't feel all the way settled yet," she says.

"The boycott meant I graduated without important pieces of work returned to me, so I'm glad that I'll get full closure on everything, albeit very delayed. The announcement of further strikes outside of the marking boycott, however, does not give me a lot of hope for my masters that I'm about to start," Bell added. 

Following the union’s announcement on the boycott, Raj Jethwa, UCEA Chief Executive said: “UCEA welcomes the vote by UCU members to end the marking and assessment boycott. The result, with 60% voting to stop the boycott, suggests that UCU members no longer wish to support the HEC’s tactic of inflicting harm on students. 

“There is now an urgency for UCU members who had participated in the boycott to prioritise marking for those remaining students who have still not received the necessary results to graduate in 2023-24. 

“It is, therefore, disappointing that, at the same time as ending the boycott, UCU is attempting to inflict maximum damage before its mandate expires, by calling strike action for late September.

Jethwa added: “Nevertheless, UCEA welcomes UCU’s acceptance of our proposals for independently-facilitated talks on a review of sector finances and further talks on the important pay-related matters raised by the UCU and the other unions.”

A University of Edinburgh spokesperson said: “We welcome the end of the marking and assessment boycott, recognising the stress that this has placed on our students and staff. We acknowledge, however, that this dispute is not resolved and further national strike action has been called for the week commencing 25 September.

"We stand by the commitments made in our joint statement with UCU Edinburgh of 4 August 2023 and our focus remains on working with colleagues towards the completion of any outstanding marking at the earliest opportunity so that our students can move on with their lives.”

A spokesperson from the University of Strathclyde said: “We welcome the vote by UCU members to end the marking and assessment boycott.

“While the boycott affected only a small proportion of our students we do understand the frustration and anxiety that this action has caused and we remain committed to ensuring that all of our students receive their finalised marks and awards as a priority.”