In a letter to staff, vice-chancellor Koen Lamberts says York will reconsider the sanctions it was due to impose on University and College Union members who participate in an assessment boycott, which will start on 6 November.
The university was last week believed to be the first of the 69 universities affected by the boycott to say it would deduct 100 per cent of pay. Several other universities have indicated this week that they will also deduct full pay, according to UCU local branches. Other institutions have warned employees that they reserve the right to take this action.
Staff at pre-92 universities are holding the boycott – which was backed by 87 per cent of voters in a recent UCU national ballot – because they are unhappy about proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme, which faces a deficit of at least £8 billion.
About 1.2 million students will be hit by the boycott, which may mean they are unable to sit exams or receive feedback or marks from essays, the UCU says.
In the letter to staff, Professor Lamberts says the university had initially announced the sanction because it wanted to send a “clear message to staff that assessment and feedback are an essential part of our students’ learning, and that it is not acceptable for staff to refuse to undertake them”.
The boycott would have a “serious impact on students”, including more than 130 PhD candidates due to take their vivas over the next two months and those taking exams in January.
However, it had been asked by the UCU to reconsider its decision to withhold 100 per cent of pay from those taking part in industrial action, the letter says.
“We are willing to ask the Senior Management Group to give this matter further consideration and will revert to local UCU reps on this point as soon as possible,” it adds.
The next meeting of this group is on 19 November, but it is believed that this may be brought forward to avoid an escalation of industrial action.
Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said she was pleased that York was reviewing its “punitive approach to staff fighting for their pensions”.
“The proposals from Universities UK would leave many of them thousands of pounds worse off in retirement,” said Ms Hunt.
“The quick work from members at York who organised a petition and wrote to senior management was crucial in getting the university to review the decision.”