Open letter on precarious and short-term contracts

We write as members (existing staff, students, and graduates) of UK humanities departments to object to the proliferation of precarious short-term teaching contracts across UKHE institutions. As the UCU has reported, nearly half of UK universities now use zero-hours contracts to deliver teaching, and more than two-thirds of research staff are on fixed term contracts.

We recognise the need for short-term contracts in limited contexts; we also recognise that such contracts can sometimes provide early career academics with useful experience on the road to more permanent positions; however, this can only be the case if such contracts are not precarious, and if the temporary staff members are treated ethically.

A ‘precarious’ short-term contract may:

– last less than 12 months and/or be less than 1.0 FTE
– require an appointee to undertake a full teaching load with no paid time allocated to research
– require an appointee to take the summer months as ‘unpaid leave’
– require an appointee to prepare for the post in his/her own time prior to appointment
– require an appointee to take up the position on a few days’ notice.

Unethical treatment of appointees while they are in post regularly compounds the disadvantages of these terms.

You can read the full text of the letter here.