‘Our uni, our fight, we all must unite!’ were the calls outside Queen’s University Belfast’s Lanyon Building on Thursday evening. The second protest in as many weeks saw a turnout of students who were unhappy with the conditions and treatment of staff and students by their university. The students at the protest made it clear they support their striking lecturers after seeing how both themselves and students are treated.
Earlier this month, it was announced that around 40 students would not be able to graduate at all, whilst around 750 will not get their final degree results. This has now been reduced to less than 10 students not graduating, all who study architecture. UCU members have taken part in a marking boycott, alongside strike action against higher education institutions due to the pay and work conditions staff and students are working under.
As part of their disdain for how their university have handled the impact of the boycott, alongside a number of other criticisms of the university itself, several students have organised protests this month to help support striking staff, as well as show their criticism of the university.
Caolán McNally, a third year Politics, Philosophy and economics student, found out he will not be graduating with a full classification, like around 760 other students. Caolán said that the protest was organised in response to ‘the response Queen’s have had to the strikes, as well as the fact that there has been a need for strikes in the first place’. ‘Why we’re here as students is that we have been left out of the conversation and we are now in receipt of the bad end of the deal, where almost a quarter of graduating students aren’t going to be graduating with their classifications they have worked so hard for’.
‘No resolution is unacceptable’ Caolán added. ‘The next step of the protest is to keep applying that pressure. The cogs are slowly starting to turn. The next step of the process is to involve students in the discussions between the lecturers strike, the UCU and Queen’s senior management. We have been left out of those discussions and I think that is the next step’.
David Williamson, another organiser added ‘The talk of a marking and assessment boycott has been rumbling around campus since, at the very earliest, March. It’s now June, it’s now happened and one fifth of all students in our year group aren’t going to graduate properly’. ‘This is meant to be a time where you sit back and relax a little bit. We shouldn’t be here today. We shouldn’t be here protesting to try to get the degrees we’ve worked for’. ‘It felt like the final slap in the face, honestly’.
David added ‘After being the year group that went through lockdown, online learning, blended learning, we now ended with this, where everything’s still stuck up in the air’. ‘We just want certainty’.
A spokesperson for the university said “Our students are at the core of our efforts to resolve the situation. We are working very hard to reduce the impact on those who are affected by this boycott. We have provided information and support from their schools, set up a dedicated helpline and offer extensive wellbeing support for those who need it.
“We are limited in what we can do given that this is a UK-wide strike, but are doing everything we can to resolve the situation. We have reached out to unions and made offers to reach a local agreement in relation to the marking issue but these were not accepted. We will continue to engage in the hope that we can find resolutions.”
A third protest is being organised for Wednesday 28th June at 5pm outside Queen’s University Belfast’s Lanyon Building.