College stipendiary pay: Some suggestions for improvement

College stipendiary lecturers play a vital role in teaching, pastoral care, and admissions; they are equally vital to the research culture of their subject areas. The insecurity and poor pay associated with these roles is often justified by colleges and some senior academics on the basis that they are a way for early career academics to gain experience prior to their first permanent position. This has long been a dubious justification, to say the least, and it rings increasingly hollow in the context of the entrenched precarity faced by academic workers in Oxford and beyond.

Stipendiary lecturers constitute a group of workers on which the University’s day-to-day functioning depends and on whose research expertise it capitalises, but who do not necessarily receive the benefits and entitlements of their permanent colleagues (statutory sick leave, parental leave, protection against unfair dismissal) and who are especially vulnerable to exploitation within Oxford’s decentralised system. In particular, many stipendiary lecturers experience a significant disconnect between their notional hours of employment and the actual hours of work their role demands. 

This blog post highlights a particular issue regarding pay that many stipendiary lectures might not be aware of or might not feel able to raise with their line manager. If you think you are affected by this issue, then 1. speak to your colleagues in your college and in your subject area/faculty, 2. contact us on oxfordanticas@gmail.com. Oxford colleges do not recognise trade unions. While this means UCU cannot collectively bargain with colleges, we can and frequently do offer guidance and support to members who are employed on college-only contracts. If you are a college-only employee and would like to join UCU, then visit https://www.ucu.org.uk/join, or get in touch with the Oxford UCU branch.

Stint reform and stipendiary pay

The pay scale for stipendiary lecturers is set by the Conference of Colleges. This body comprises two representatives of each college and acts as a forum for discussion amongst the Oxford colleges and as a channel between the colleges and the central University. The Conference of College’s ‘Register of Approved Payments’ are available to download from the OxCORT homepage (http://www.oxcort.ox.ac.uk/). The recommended scale for 2020-1 is below:

Beneath the pay scale is an additional paragraph:

The division of the scale into 12 hours reflects the original 12-hour stint of a CUF [College and University Fellowship] Lecturer (before the advent of stint reform); thus the ‘6-hour’ line (the line for a ‘50%’ Stipendiary Lecturer) applies to the full 6-hour stint of a ULTF. The standard full-time CUF Lecturer stint is now 8 contact hours. It may therefore be more helpful to use the percentage of a full-time stint required of a Stipendiary Lecturer to determine which line of this scale to employ (e.g. the 6-hour line would represent 50% of a full-time stint for a CUF Lecturer), though this is a matter for individual college discretion.

This is not an easy paragraph to follow, even for those acquainted with Oxford’s employment practices and acronyms, but it highlights a significant point of concern: stipendiary pay is still based on a 12-hour scale, even though the University’s stint reform means that a full-time tutorial fellow role is now constituted by 8 hours of contact time per week.

According to this scale, a stipendiary lecturer working on a six-hour contract is still classed as doing 50% of a standard permanent post, rather than 75%. This means, for example, that a stipendiary lecturer working on an 8-hour contract on stage 1 earns £18,341 when they should be earning £27,711 for 12 weighted hours (as equivalent to 8 contact hours). In effect, they are only being paid for two-thirds of the work they undertake. There are some stipendiary lectureship advertisements which specify weighted hours, but many do not and the consequences for pay of this reform are not made clear to all stipendiary lecturers. After all, colleges are only advised to observe payment in weighted hours. Many stipendiary lectureships—already an insecure and exploitative form of work—are significantly underpaid even on their own terms. ‘It may therefore be more helpful [for stipendiary lecturers]’ for colleges to observe weighted hours, the final sentence of the above paragraph begins. Very ‘helpful’ indeed!

Two suggestions for improvement:

1.         Require colleges to observe weighted hours in the appointment of stipendiary lecturers. A document explaining how weighted hours are calculated should be circulated among all incoming stipendiary lecturers in order to ensure that they are fully apprised of the conditions of their employment.

Or, even better: 

2.         Require colleges to replace CUFs on temporary leave with a full-time employee (or the appropriate percentage thereof, in the case of CUFs on part-time contracts). Exemptions may be issued in specific circumstances, but a persuasive rationale must be offered as to why an exception should be made, given that stipendiary lecturers are expected to play an active part in college life (including the provision of pastoral care), to take the initiative in access and outreach work, and to continue with their research (on which their teaching expertise in part depends, but for which they are not remunerated).            

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s