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Employment Half of teaching staff at universities are on insecure contracts

UNIVERSITIES are using staff on insecure, hourly contracts for up to half of their teaching, lecturers’ union UCU warned today.

The workers are often denied access to full university facilities or course design and not paid for lesson preparation, while facing all the problems associated with long-term job insecurity.

UCU estimates that on average universities use hourly staff for 27 per cent of their teaching, though the true quantity is impossible to quantify because 96 universities refused to come clean about how much they use.

Of the 38 that did reply to the UCU’s freedom of information request, hourly paid teachers were responsible for between 15 and 40 per cent of lessons. 

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said the new Office for Students should compel universities to collect and release data on the proportion of their teaching carried out by people on insecure contracts.

“Any limitations of the data are down to the failure of universities, yet still they continue to protest that everything’s fine and there’s nothing to see,” she said.

The swindle was exposed as university staff walked out again today in their third wave of strikes to defend their pensions.

At the University of East Anglia, prize-winning author Jon McGregor has cancelled his appearance at a literary festival tomorrow because he refuses to cross a picket line.

Instead, he will headline an evening of readings at the university’s students’ union organised by the strikers.

“I fully support the UCU action, and — in common with a number of university vice-chancellors, government ministers, and the opinion pages of the Financial Times — call on [bosses’ organisation] Universities UK to return to meaningful negotiations immediately to avoid any further disruption not just to students but to the role universities have to play in the wider cultural life,” Mr McGregor said.

UCU estimates that the changes to pensions could cost workers £10,000 a year.

Staff are on strike for four days this week, from today to Thursday, and are due out next Monday to Friday if no agreement is reached.

  • Exeter University students occupied a room where a meeting of vice-chancellors was due to take place, in solidarity with striking lecturers today.  



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