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College staff dissatisfaction rife as lecturers set to strike

21 April 2008

An independent report out today on college staff satisfaction reveals a dedicated workforce deeply dissatisfied with their treatment and under lots of pressure.

'FE colleges, the frontline under pressure?' was produced for UCU by the Learning and Skills Network, a leading independent education organisation. It comes three days before lecturers in some 250 colleges in England strike in support of their pay claim for 6% or £1500 - whichever is greater.

Student satisfaction with college teaching is very high but, according to the report, college staff show high levels of dissatisfaction with their own institution. Teaching staff are the most dissatisfied.

UCU believes low pay, mounting work pressures and deep dissatisfaction pose a recruitment and retention challenge in the sector which is driving the government's vital skills agenda. Large numbers of teaching staff are set to retire soon - and many others want to leave. Lifelong Learning UK has estimated that FE will need 200,000 new teaching recruits by 2014.
Among the key findings:

  • 86% of college teaching staff responding feel they make a valuable contribution to society
  • half do not feel valued by their employers
  • only 22% believe they are rewarded adequately
  • 51% feel they can't achieve a good work-life balance. This compares badly with other workplaces. In the UK as a whole, 66% of employees in all sectors say they can
  • 51% of teaching staff say they're likely to leave FE in the next 5 years
  • less than a third would recommend their college as a good place to work.

There are other concerns too. More than half of teaching staff say their workspace and equipment is inadequate; even higher proportions of the part-time staff report this. And only 31% of teaching staff feel secure - compared to the UK average for all jobs of 57%. There is widespread stress and 47% feel their college tolerates bullying - signs of a sector under severe pressure.

The report follows government praise for the FE sector for hitting skills training targets early and a record number of learners have expressed high degrees of satisfaction with FE teaching.

Despite these achievements, FE lecturers in England earn around 6% less than school teachers doing equivalent work.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'College lecturers are clearly deeply committed and proud to work in FE. But the sector can't survive on their exploitation.

'You really have to ask whether talented young people will want to enter, let alone stay, in a profession where dedication and achievement fail to command respect and adequate reward. If the government is not careful, it will find a yawning staffing gap in its skills strategy.

'Learners are very satisfied with their college lecturers. Lecturers deserve the satisfaction that comes from fair treatment, respect and just rewards.'

Last updated: 4 April 2019