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September 19th, 2014:

15 day turnaround – your questions answered

Apologies for the lengthy post, but this is important information. A number of members have approached their UCU Reps regarding statements being made by some managers about the 15 day turnaround of marking and feedback ‘policy’.
This is the situation as UCU sees it: anything said to you contrary to this has not been consulted upon or discussed with UCU and does not form part of LJMU’s stated ‘policy’: in any event, in the words of senior management: “There is no formalised 15 day turnaround policy, only a leaflet and agreed practice, as this was something agreed between SMT and LiverpoolSU which never went through committee”. What does exist is a series of guidelines (all the statements below are documented in ‘policy’ statements, guidance notes or the minutes of various meetings) – not ‘Policy’ – which:

  • Does not prescribe how marking should be done (i.e. online or hard copy), that’s up to you.
  • Does not prescribe how feedback should be given to students (there are however some reasonable guidelines in terms of good practice on this available on LJMUWeb).
  • Does not require that feedback be written – “Individualised feedback provided within a taught session or audio feedback is … acceptable”.
  • Does not require that a mark be included in this feedback.
  • Does not make ‘failure’ to meet the 15 day ‘deadline’ a matter for any form of disciplinary action – it is a target, and so long as students receive notice of any change and an explanation for why this is being made, this is ‘acceptable’, this is particularly the case in instances of staff illness during marking periods.
  • What it does do, is say how the 15 day period should be calculated:
  • It starts from the submission date (for electronic submission – so think carefully about submission times you set); there is ambiguity on hardcopy marking, but clearly, you cannot mark hard copy you don’t have, and time (which in practice may be is little as a day) should be added for printing, if submission is not in hard copy. There is no reason under the ‘policy’ as stated that you cannot require students to submit electronically and hard copy, which may speed things up.
  • Once set, the ‘deadline’ is not ‘set in stone’ but can be amended with adequate notification to students and an explanation of the cause of delay – it is our contention that this new ‘deadline’ becomes that to which any reporting of ‘failure’ to reach the 15 day target should relate.
  • The turnaround period should not include time spent on moderation – this is ambiguous, and could mean reporting of totally un-moderated feedback and/or marks (which we would consider very bad practice), therefor this implies that time spent in bench marking at the beginning and moderation at the end of the marking period should not count as part of the ‘15 days’.
  • The period is ‘15 working days’; it does not include therefore:
    • Weekends
    • Days when the institution is closed (i.e. bank holidays, Christmas/Spring break periods)
    • Days when you have annual leave formally booked
    • Days of sickness absence.

UCU has asked for a Common Interest Committee (the institutional vehicle for consultation and negotiation on issues relating to a single union) on this issue, but this has not been forthcoming. We will be pursuing the matter further and will report back in due course.

In the meantime, please report to your Rep, or the branch via me, any instances of statements from managers not in line with the above, in particular any instances of threats direct or veiled, regarding ‘consequences’ of non-compliance with any instructions which are not in line with the above.

In Solidarity,
Jim Hollinshead,
Branch Secretary,
LJMU UCU