A career in university teaching is now precarious. Many universities, including renowned names such as the University of Manchester, have been saving costs by making academic staff redundant. Recently qualified PhD graduates and postdocs are hired at low pay, at hourly rates, on fixed-term teaching or research contracts, sometimes only a year long, where they may remain for years, moving from institution to institution. Heavy teaching loads often leave no time to carry out research.
Early career researchers on short-term contracts provide a cheap source of labour in universities where the vice-chancellor may be earning a six-figure sum. We believe that the system of short-term contracts is indefensible, and does a disservice to students as well as to academics.
More than half of all academics are now employed on fixed-term contracts, with Russell Group institutions the worst offenders. Figures from HESA show that more women than men are on this type of contract.
We want an end to insecure, badly paid, fixed-term contracts for academic staff. While it is inevitable that some research contracts will be for one or two years only, we believe that the vast majority of academics should be employed as staff on permanent contracts.