Universities accused of ’importing Sports Direct model’ for lecturers’ pay

The Guardian | 16 November 2016 | by Aditya Chakrabortty and Sally Weal
Monday 16 January 2017
by  antonin
1 vote

In the latest in a series on the UK’s increasingly precarious world of work, we reveal how many institutions are charging higher student fees while more than half of lecturers are on non-permanent or hourly-paid contracts

One of the most highly skilled and prestigious professions in Britain, university teaching, is now dominated by zero-hours contracts, temp agencies and other forms of precarious work, the Guardian can reveal.

New analysis reveals that it is the richest Russell Group institutions that rely most heavily on insecure academic workers. The Guardian investigation has led trade unionists to accuse vice-chancellors of “importing the Sports Direct model” into British universities. It has also prompted the National Union of Students to warn that low-paid and overstressed tutors may not be providing quality education to undergraduates paying tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year.

Academics teaching or doing research in British universities will typically have spent years earning doctorates or other qualifications, yet more than half of them – 53% – manage on some form of insecure, non-permanent contract. They range from short-term contracts that typically elapse within nine months, to those paid by the hour to give classes or mark essays and exams.

 Elite Russell Group universities employ more staff on insecure contracts than other institutions

PNG - 13.2 kb

Among junior academics – those most likely to be doing frontline teaching – three-quarters are on these kinds of precarious contracts. It is highly likely that the majority of undergraduates are paying many thousands of pounds to be taught by casual workers.

The investigation is part of a series of articles published in the Guardian this week about the growing numbers of people in Britain who find themselves in precarious work. The figures come from the Higher Education Statistics Agency and have been analysed by the University and College Union (UCU). They show that within the Russell Group, the Universities of Birmingham and Warwick have the largest proportion of frontline teaching staff on short-term or zero-hours and other flexible contracts. At Birmingham, 70% of teaching staff are on insecure contracts, while at Warwick it is 68%. Yet Birmingham has begun a vast £500m building project, including a new sports centre costing £55m and student housing.

 Precarious employment at Russell Group universities

Percentage of teaching and teaching-and-research staff on temporary or ’atypical’ contracts

PNG - 18.4 kb

The analysis suggests that as the university sector charges higher student fees and faces further competition, many institutions are getting into speculative building and expansion of their business models, even while many of their frontline teaching staff are struggling to get by. It also raises the prospect of a two-tier academic workforce, with those at the bottom living hand to mouth and unable to pursue research, while those at the top are very well paid. The vice-chancellor of the University of Birmingham, Sir David Eastwood, last year received a pay and performance package of £416,000 – nearly three times the prime minister’s salary.

One-year and two-year contracts are an inevitable part of grant-funded research. But these figures show temporary and zero-hours contracts are now widespread among those teaching undergraduates. University managers typically argue that such flexible contracts allow young academics to gain valuable experience. But in interviews with the Guardian, academics have disputed that argument from their own experience, including:

  • A 44-year-old politics lecturer working at three different institutions at once but still earning only just over £6,000 a year, relying on benefits to top up his poverty pay.
  • A 32-year-old linguistics lecturer who has experienced “serious mental health issues” and says “unstable work without a network of colleagues and without any security is proving really difficult”.
  • A 49-year-old English lecturer who says: “I earn such a pathetic amount. I feel quite humiliated.”

Academics rarely speak out publicly against their precarious working arrangements for fear of being punished by losing hours. Some have spoken to the Guardian using a pseudonym while others have said they have “nothing left to lose”.

Academics on insecure contracts form “a reserve army of precarious and exploited labour”, claimed Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU. “Many universities are hacking up teaching jobs into ever smaller bits and shoving people on to the worst contract they can get away with. This is the Sports Direct model imported into our universities.”

The Guardian has seen sections of a private survey of academics on casual contracts at the University of Nottingham, one of the largest and most renowned institutions in the country. The comments include:

  • “The lack of value that I feel towards me is passed on in my feelings towards the students’ education.”
  • “I have heard people complaining about the fact that they are paid 10 minutes to correct one exam, therefore they will use only 10 minutes to read them.”
  • “I am definitely much less inclined to go the extra mile in terms of preparing for a class.”

The NUS warned of the impact this could have on student learning. “When academic staff are demoralised and forced to cope with low pay and insecurity, the knock-on effect on students is significant,“ said Sorana Vieru, a vice-president at the union. “Many students are now taking on unprecedented levels of debt to go to university. They deserve good quality teaching and anything that damages that is deeply unjust.”

Universities are independent charities, but the Department for Business has told the Guardian that conditions for academics will form part of the independent review of workers’ rights to be conducted for the government by Tony Blair’s former head of policy, Matthew Taylor.

At a few universities such as Edinburgh, the use of zero-hours contracts has caused huge controversy and even led to managers pledging to scrap them. Yet the figures show that Edinburgh has shifted many of its teaching staff on to other kinds of insecure contract.

But the lobby group for academic employers, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, argued: “It is essential that universities retain the ability to operate with part of their workforce in a flexible mode to enable them to respond to changes in demand. The variability in student enrolments on programmes, and features of academic life such as sabbaticals and research leave for permanent staff, mean that fixed-term opportunities to teach, generally for a year or a semester, are made available.”

The University of Birmingham said the figures, from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, were “extremely misleading”. It added in a statement: “While the university recognises that a significant number of individuals engaged in teaching are not on standard contracts, they provide only a small fraction of teaching (about 7%), because most of them are engaged for a small fraction of a full-time equivalent post.

“Many of the people in this category are expert visiting lecturers, from commerce, industry and the professions, who provide practical support and insight to our students based on their own experience; and others are our own research students, who communicate their enthusiasm for scientific endeavour to undergraduate students through their work as laboratory demonstrators or tutorial assistants, under the supervision of academic staff. We believe these individuals enhance the learning experiences of our students.”

by Aditya Chakrabortty and Sally Weal

Read on The Guardian

Photo credit: The University of Birmingham has among the Russell Group’s largest proportions of teaching staff on insecure contracts – 70%. Photograph: Alamy

commentaires article









Aucun évènement à venir les 2 prochains mois

News items

Salaire des vacataires de l’Université Paul Sabatier : ça s’arrange

samedi 25 mars

La situation semble s’arranger pour près de 600 vacataires du département des Langues vivantes et gestion (rattaché à la faculté des sciences et de l’ingénierie) de l’université Toulouse 3 Paul Sabatier, qui attendent d’être rémunérés pour le premier semestre. « Le paiement pour les 600 vacataires doit être effectif fin mars, nous a-t-on assurés à la vice-présidence de l’université, a expliqué Julie, vacataire et porte-parole. Ça doit nous être confirmé par communiqué et on espère aussi que ce sera moins compliqué pour payer le deuxième semestre. » [...] La porte-parole de ce mouvement de contestation, qui se félicite des avancées sur ce dossier par l’université Paul Sabatier, veut porter la discussion plus loin. « On demande en effet, explique Julie, des efforts sur le système de paie, peut-être faut-il aussi revoir la fréquence de paiement des vacataires, parce qu’être payé tous les six mois, c’est difficile pour beaucoup. Il est aussi peut-être temps de requalifier le métier de vacataire. J’ai bon espoir de voir les lignes bouger ». par Gérald Camier, La Dépêche, 23/03/2017

600 enseignants-vacataires de l’université Paul Sabatier attendent d’être payés

lundi 20 mars

Environ 600 vacataires de l’Université Toulouse III Paul Sabatier, soit des enseignants non titulaires, attendent toujours le versement de leur salaire pour le premier semestre qui devait intervenir en janvier dernier. La plupart des vacataires sont de nationalité anglaise, espagnole, allemande et doivent obligatoirement avoir un autre emploi à côté de l’université pour compléter leurs revenus.

L’université, dont le service des ressources humaines invoque un bug informatique sur le nouveau logiciel de paie, indique que le retard serait « de deux à trois mois » selon les cas, « voire six mois », selon une vacataire. Pour Jean-Pierre Vinel, le président de l’université, « il n’a jamais été question de ne pas payer les vacataires, c’est juste une question de retard de paiement ».

[La Dépêche, par Gérald Camier, 17/03/2017]

Sur le Web : Lire sur ladepeche.fr

C. Villani : "on arrive à se sentir étouffé"

dimanche 5 février

[Interview de C. Villani, The Conversation, 30/01/2017]
Revenons en France avec une question beaucoup plus terre à terre : un jeune docteur en mathématique qui vient d’enchaîner un ou deux postdoc à l’étranger décroche un poste de chargé de recherche ou de maître de conférence. Il débute alors sa carrière avec un salaire de 1 800 euros net par mois. Comment qualifier cette situation et comment l’améliorer pour créer des vocations ?

C.V. : Malgré ce salaire peu reluisant, le statut du CNRS reste attractif pour sa grande liberté. Si l’on veut garder son attrait à la profession, il est important de travailler sur le reste : en premier lieu, limiter les règles, les contraintes, les rapports. Je donnerai un exemple parmi quantité : le CNRS vient de décider qu’il refuse tout remboursement des missions effectuées dans un contexte d’économie partagée : pas de remboursement de logement Airbnb, ni de trajet BlaBlaCar… De petites contraintes en petites contraintes, on arrive à se sentir étouffé. Le simple sentiment d’être respecté et de ne pas avoir à lutter pour son budget, par ailleurs, pourra jouer beaucoup. Par ailleurs, il est certain qu’une revalorisation salariale ou d’autres avantages pour les débuts de carrière seront bienvenus.

Les universités vont continuer à geler des postes en 2017

lundi 28 novembre 2016

La crise budgétaire des universités françaises continue depuis leur passage à l’ "autonomie" avec comme conséquence directe l’utilisation de la masse comme variable d’ajustement. Comment diminuer la masse salarial ? Embaucher des contractuels au lieu de titulaires, demander et ne pas payer des heures supplémentaires aux enseignants-chercheurs titulaires, supprimer des postes d’ATER et des contrats doctoraux ou encore geler des postes. Mais que signifie "geler des postes" ? Il s’agit de ne pas ouvrir à candidature des postes de titulaires ouverts par le ministères. Depuis 2009, 11.000 postes ont été gelés dans les universités dont 1200 les cinq dernières années. En 2017, ce processus continuera dans de nombreuses universités : Paris 1, Toulouse Paul Sabatier, Reims, Paris-Est Créteil, Dijon, Orléans, Brest, Paris 8, Bordeaux 3, Artois, Bretagne-Sud, Lyon 3, Limoges, Pau, Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée.

New Analysis of Employment Outcomes for Ph.D.s in Canada

Thursday 5 February 2015

An analysis of where Canada’s Ph.D.-holders are employed finds that just 18.6 percent are employed as full-time university professors. The analysis from the Conference Board of Canada finds that nearly 40 percent of Ph.D.s are employed in higher education in some capacity, but many are in temporary or transitional positions. The other three-fifths are employed in diverse careers in industry, government and non-governmental organizations: “Indeed, employment in diverse, non-academic careers is the norm, not the exception, for Ph.D.s in Canada.” - Inside Higher Edu, January 8, 2015

Soutenir par un don