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Photo: Flickr/University of Kent

Photo: Flickr/University of Kent

Following the UCU strike against pension cuts, precarious staff at the University of Kent release a statement demanding no pay cuts for strike action for already poorly paid staff

We care about our students. Who cares about us?

This is a public statement from Hourly Paid Lecturers, Graduate Teaching Assistants, and other Precarious Staff at the The University of Kent. We want to draw the public's attention to (1) unfair pay deductions for those who strike and (2) the exploitation which Seminar Leaders, Part-Time Instructors, and other Precarious Staff have endured for far too long.

The first and most important thing about a University is the teaching and learning. The UK government currently measures the standards of teaching and learning of Higher Education via the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). As of 2017, the University of Kent is a Gold award-winning institution.[1] So, who does that teaching?

Hourly Paid Lecturers, Graduate Teaching Assistants, and Partially Employed Lecturers are the face of the University. We have the most face-to-face contact with students in the form of leading seminars, delivering lectures, demonstrating in the laboratory, and giving constructive feedback on graded assignments. We also do the lion’s share of the marking of essays and exams. Yet most of us earn less than the cost of a single year’s tuition.

Many of these teachers are also students themselves. Graduate Teaching Assistants and Hourly Paid Lecturers who are fee-paying PhD students are expected to fulfil their teaching and marking duties virtually every term of their studies while contributing to new knowledge about the world in the form of a PhD dissertation. These people currently live below the poverty level.

As student fees have risen, the demand for face-time with teachers and constructive criticism of marks has increased, yet financial compensation for this work has decreased. Class sizes have gotten bigger, but remuneration for the worker who is actually doing the teaching and marking has been reduced.

For every hour of class time delivered, a typical Hourly Paid Lecturer is paid for merely one hour and a half to do all the preparation, marking, email, and other administrative work connected to teaching necessary for that week. This doesn’t remotely reflect the actual amount of time a teacher spends preparing and marking.

Most Schools at the University do not allow their workers to claim for weekly office hours in order to meet with students, handle student concerns via email, or offer the additional pastoral care that students so often need. Instead, this extra work goes ignored, unappreciated, and unpaid.

Calculated at a flat-rate, the total income divided by the amount of hours worked, a typical wage-earnings for a typical Hourly Paid Lecturer is at or just below the minimum wage.

The current salary of a Graduate Teaching Assistant who is paid to teach while completing a dissertation within three years is approximately £14,777 a year[2]. That means that a Graduate Teaching Assistant currently makes less in her entire three-year contract (teaching and writing an 80,000+ word dissertation) than former VC Dame Julia Goodfellow was given as a parting gift (£45,000) upon her retirement from the University in 2017 for “recognition of her sustained high performance.”[3]

The University of Kent’s Mission Statement[4] includes five main points:

1Provide higher education of excellent quality

2Enlarge knowledge by research

3Be an intellectual and cultural focus for Canterbury and Kent

4Support national and regional economic success

5Build vigorously on its close ties within Europe and continue to develop wider international relationships.

How can the University of Kent can “provide higher education of excellent quality” without Graduate Teaching Assistants, Hourly Paid Lecturers, and Partially Employed Lecturers since we do most of the teaching, marking, and face-to-face contact with students?

How can the University “enlarge knowledge by research” without its Graduate Teaching Assistants and Hourly Paid Lecturers who are also PhD students and scholars who already hold a PhD because we are many of the researchers at the very forefront of cutting edge research? Hourly Paid Lecturers are compensated only for the hours we teach and are thus expected to donate our time to the organisation of research events, the editing of scholarly journals, and other unpaid academic pursuits that enhance the research profile of the University of Kent.

How can the University continue to “be an intellectual and cultural focus” for Canterbury and Medway without Graduate Teaching Assistants and Hourly Paid Lecturers who, entirely without compensation, organise public lectures, research events, and cultural engagement workshops every term?

How can the University “support national and regional economic success” when most of its workers make so little, they are forced to take a second job or apply for social welfare, governmental benefits, and city council tax relief just to make ends meet?

How can the University “build vigorously on its close ties with Europe and continue to develop wider international relationships” when its employees, many of whom are European or International citizens, are discouraged from remaining at a UK institution because the compensation and standard of employment is drastically lower than in several other comparable countries?[5]

We love being educators, researchers, and support staff at one of the Highest Ranked universities in the country. But we also want the University and the Public to understand that we have been taken advantage of and we are not going to take it anymore.

We demand no pay deductions for taking part in the strike because this will lower what is already a shamefully paltry income.

We are the face of the University and we demand that the University open negotiations to discuss fair pay for its Hourly Paid Lecturers and Staff, Graduate Teaching Assistants, and other Precarious Lecturers and Staff.

 

[1] The UK government currently measures the standards of teaching and learning of Higher Education via the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). As of 2017, The University of Kent is a Gold award-winning institution according to this framework. “Gold award for Kent in Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF),” University of Kent, 5 September 2017

[4] “Mission statement,” University of Kent, 24 March 2011

[5] “Times Higher Education pay survey 2016,” Times Higher Education, 19 May 2016

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