17 November 2016

Lecturers admit poor work contracts are dangerously affecting their teaching

A new report reveals some of the UK’s richest universities are exploiting teaching staff, with as much as 70% on unstable, short-term work contracts.
lecturers underpaid
You’d be forgiven for thinking that after spending so many years in academia, working your butt off to become a uni lecturer, that you’d be setting yourself up for a stable career and a decent salary packet.

But unfortunately a new report by the Guardian suggests you’d be mistaken, as they’ve revealed some of the UK’s most highly-skilled workers are overworked, underpaid and unable to get permanent contracts, despite landing jobs at the country’s most prestigious universities.

The analysis reveals that some of the richest Russell Group universities, such as the University of Birmingham, Warwick, Oxford and Edinburgh, are relying more heavily on zero-hour contracts and temporary teaching staff than any other unis in the UK – and when most students are forking out £9,000 a year in tuition fees!

guardian reportCredit: The Guardian

Tuition fees are set to rise again in England from next year onwards. Find out why they’re going up, and what you can do to stop it.

How this affects teaching

russel group uni temp contracts
Credit: The Guardian
The report found that more than half of uni staff directly involved in teaching at Russel Group universities were on precarious contracts such as short-term, flexible or zero-hour contracts (see the full list here).

As a result of these shady contracts, staff anonymously admitted in a survey  that feeling overworked and undervalued was making them care less about offering students good value for their £9,000 yearly tuition fees.

One member of staff claimed “the lack of value that I feel towards me is passed on in my feelings towards the students’ education,” whilst another admitted they’re “definitely much less inclined to go the extra mile in terms of preparing for a class.”

Paying staff by the hour seems particularly damaging, as another commenter claimed they’d heard of staff saying that since they were only being paid 10 minutes per paper for marking exams “therefore they will use only 10 minutes to read them.”

Are students not getting the education they’re paying (through the nose) for because unis aren’t properly investing in their teaching staff?

This is particularly concerning following the announcement that unis in England could begin raising fees even higher next year if the infamous Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) is passed through parliament – more info here.

Where’s my £9,000 going?

not cool broThe jury’s out on that one! It’s shocking to hear that so many of the wealthiest universities are cutting corners by underpaying staff.

The University of Birmingham – who employ the highest figure of 70.3% of their frontline teaching staff on insecure contracts – has just started making way with a massive new £500 million development project, which includes a super gym and brand new student accommodation on campus. Are universities seriously prioritising building development over quality teaching?

It was also revealed that whilst more than half of university teaching staff are struggling to get by, a very small percentage of senior lecturing staff are taking home a ridiculous amount of cash. For example, Sir David Eastwood, who’s the vice-chancellor of the University of Birmingham, was paid £416,000 last year alone, which is almost three times the Prime Minister’s salary!

Unhappy about the proposed tuition fee hike and keen to do your bit to stop it? Here’s what you can do.

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