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I have a question for you

25 February 2016

Dear colleague,

A question for you. Is the proliferation of casual contracts in higher education 'a small problem'?

I ask because that is what the employers' body UCEA are reported to have told the government in their response to the HE Green Paper.

UCEA and others also say that forcing universities to publish what proportion of their teaching staff have secure jobs would have a negative impact on quality since it would place universities who use visiting lecturers with outside experience at a disadvantage.

I believe this is a wilful misrepresentation of the truth. By UCU's count there are more than 100,000 university teachers in the UK who do not have a secure contract.

In many institutions, this hidden, insecure army is what delivers the bulk of undergraduate teaching. The vast majority are not visiting lecturers 'popping in' to share their experiences and they deserve the employer's gratitude rather than to be swept under the carpet or belittled as a minor or small problem.

This week by contrast UCU has again met government to press the union's case that the working conditions of staff are intimately related to the learning conditions of our students: and to argue that great teachers and their students are being let down by an employment model which institutionalises job insecurity.

While your employers and their representatives seem to see this as a minor issue, UCU disagrees. We have made the tackling of casualisation a central part of our pay claim this year because we believe that everybody deserves job security and because we believe that our students will benefit from that too.

If you missed it you can read more on what I have said about quality and casualisation here.

You can also read more about what UCEA and others have said about the issue in their Green Paper responses here.

Thank you for supporting UCU. Help us grow by forwarding this message to non-members and asking them if they think casualisation is 'a small problem'.

Sally Hunt
UCU general secretary

Last updated: 29 February 2016