Fair Pay for College Teaching

The Oxford UCU Anti-Casualisation Network is today launching a petition calling for improved pay and conditions for hourly-paid and stipendiary College teaching staff.

The petition is addressed to the current chair and co-chair of Conference of Colleges (the Oxford Colleges’ “forum”) and the 39 college senior tutors. It outlines three demands:

  1. A pay rise
  2. Clear contracts and transparent recruitment processes
  3. Paid training for all postgraduates who teach

The basic rate of pay for a 1-1 tutorial increased by 41p between 2020-21 and 2021-22, from £27.65 to £28.06. The payment for a 2-1 tutorial increased from £34.56 to £35.08. These rates include payment for preparation, marking, and administration. With these duties factored in, the rate of hourly pay for tutors often falls well below the Oxford Living Wage of £10.31. We should be clear about what this means: Oxford’s “world leading” teaching provision is based on systematic wage theft by institutions with a combined wealth of nearly £6bn

Stipendiary lecturers play a vital role in teaching, pastoral care, and admissions; they are equally vital to the research culture of their subject areas. But insecurity, exploitative nine-month contracts, and poor pay are all too familiar in these roles. Conference of Colleges’ Register of Approved Payments states that stipendiary lecturers are paid on a salary scale “based on Grade 5 of the University’s salary scale structure.” Academic roles in the central University start at grade 6 and departmental lecturers are usually employed at grades 7 and 8. It’s clear that both hourly-paid tutors and stipendiary lecturers are long overdue a pay rise.

In December 2021, the Oxford UCU Anti-Casualisation Network and Oxford Brookes UCU collected testimonies from casualised and precarious staff across both universities. The testimonies from PGRs and College teaching staff show how detrimental these roles are to career progression and mental and physical health, and how they entrench inequalities:  

I am a recent PhD graduate with five different casual teaching contracts. Casualised contracts mean that I have had to move back in with my parents aged 30 because I cannot afford rent and have no means of securing a housing contract since my contracts are so short-term and much of my work is just word-of-mouth [and] hourly paid. Although I make less than £15,000 a year, I have 12-20 contact hours per week in term time, have spent ~30 hours on admissions (which is listed as a necessary and therefore unpaid duty in my 2-hour a week stipendiary contract) alongside a (casualised!) 7 hour a week admin contract, so I am frequently exhausted and suffering from both mental burnout and (clinical) physical fatigue. I suffer from muscle weakness, insomnia, palpitations and migraines from the stress.

I moved from a faculty post into a college, and then back into a faculty. Meanwhile I taught for another faculty, for a decade. I wasn’t issued a contract for the sessional classes. When I fell pregnant, mid-job move, the sessional classes would have shown continuity of employment by the university. But because they never issued me with a contract, they didn’t, and my maternity pay was withheld. The federalised structure [of Oxford University] meant my career didn’t count.

One myth is that [casualised teaching contracts] are for bright PhD students getting their foot on the career ladder… . In reality there are many colleagues on these contracts who have been doing their jobs for years – and are relied on to take the work as they will do a good job without needing any support. The framing of these jobs as career development opportunities for which young researchers ought to be grateful therefore ignores the contributions of experienced lecturers and their need for secure and dignified contracts…

I am a…PhD student…and I am paid to teach undergraduates by my college…via a “development scholarship”, which means that I am legally not employed by the college…. I do not have basic workers’ rights such as paid holiday or holiday pay, sick pay, ability to have a workplace pension… I also have no protection if the college decides to stop my “scholarship” for any reason…

The petition also draws inspiration from the Cambridge UCU’s #Justice4CollegeSupervisors campaign, which has recently received coverage in the national press. As at Cambridge, our campaign highlights the lack of union representation for workers in the collegiate university. While the central University recognises trades unions, Oxford’s constituent colleges do not. Earlier this year, Oxford UCU narrowly missed the threshold to take part in the latest rounds of USS and Four Fights industrial action. College-only staff—some of our most precarious and exploited members—weren’t eligible to take part in the ballot and would not have been able to participate in industrial action had we reached the threshold.

The petition is here. A solidarity position for students, staff, and alumni is here.

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