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.

2 thoughts on “Open letter on precarious and short-term contracts

  1. I was explaining recently to someone about how many people with PhDs working in a university have in fact miserable pay. I was struck by how it sounds if one presents the “adjunct system” as something someone dreamed up at some point. “There are lots and lots of unemployed PhDs. Let’s turn over half the teaching to then and pay them 33% of a regular salary,” It would really sound like an evil idea.

    The list of signatories is very impressively long. Do you know how many signed it?

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