Disillusioned Discordian

The ugly face of the knowledge economy.
December 10, 2007, 12:38 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

A Pension schemes, Sick Pay and National Insurance contributions may all be things that the average worker takes for granted. Unfortunately this isn’t the case for many of the most qualified people in the country. Many post-doctoral PhDs are now finding themselves struggling to get a foothold within academia. You might think that after sacrificing pension contributions whilst studying, getting into a vast amount of student debt might lend some rewards. Instead you could find yourself rendered over-qualified for most jobs, and working from temporary contract to temporary contract.

Of course there will always be those from the privileged elite of Universities, for whom the mere name of their previous institution allows entrance into the club. For the rest Part-time hourly paid lecturing awaits youThis is an arrangement whereby you get paid per hour of lecturing (often with little provision for preparatory time spent writing the lectures, or marking the coursework). Going from course to course these iterant academics have to work harder then their colleagues with permanent contracts. This is because they often have a higher teaching load (permanent staff are paid for time to do their research as well) and are also teaching on different courses. This means more work because if you are lecturing on the same course from year to year your can reuse existing lectures. Pay claims are made retrospectively, often resulting in the poor academic going for months without pay only then to be charged full whack for tax when they get a lump sum. Individuals in this situation don’t often get provided with office space meaning they have to carry costs such as printing/providing their own computer equipment. Many University pay roll departments don’t allow people to self-assess so claming back tax allowances for working costs simply doesn’t happen.  Working odd months here and there they don’t make the full national insurance contributions. Furthermore they will often have huge travel costs going between different Universities. Working in these contracts of course there is no right to go to a tribunal for unfair dismissal etc. Basically you’d have more rights fruit picking for a gang master.  

Neo-labour brought in tuition fees on the promise that more money would go towards academic, who on the whole suffer from poor pay when compared to other sometimes less qualified professionals. Instead they have been burdened with increased teaching loads, increased pressure through expectations to put publications into the research assessment exercise and insultingly low pay increases.  New academics coming through the system are getting screwed, and it makes me thankful that I work in HE administration where the collective power of a Union can offer some protection. Of course those PTHPL (part-time hourly paid lectures) will never be properly represented by Unions whose branch structures are not flexible to accommodate these gypsy academics.


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