Duty to contract lecturers

July 30, 2009

I was moved to read that four London institutions have agreed to pay their cleaners and caterers more than the minimum wage ("Group reminds institutions of duty to help lowest paid", 23 July). I hope they will now do the same for their contract lecturers.

I have worked at two of the four institutions mentioned, where lecturers' hourly rates in my field range from £30 to £37 per hour of teaching, with preparation and marking left unpaid. In an average 20-hour module with 25 students, there is 25 hours of marking. In my experience, one hour of teaching requires at least three hours of preparation, which equals another 60 hours a week, at least.

Then there is the administrative work, such as photocopying handouts, responding to student and staff emails, investigating plagiarism cases, booking rooms, filling in forms and so on, all of which total, say, another 20 hours' work.

For each hour of paid work, our junior colleagues put in at least three hours of preparation, one hour of teaching, one of marking and one of administration. At £30-£37 per hour, on average that works out as below or just above the minimum wage.

Senior colleagues, who are paid proper salaries, repeat the mantra that hourly paid teaching is the way to get an academic job, although they know perfectly well that only a small fraction of junior colleagues are rewarded in this manner.

Juniors who ask to be paid for preparation and marking, or to be employed on a fractional contract rather than being paid by the hour, are immediately replaced by others with less lofty expectations. This is how many departments thrive on the underpaid work of junior colleagues, often their own graduates.

I doubt whether some departments would survive at all without this continuous influx of underpaid workers. So, now that those London institutions have taken a moral stance on the remuneration of contract staff, my hourly paid colleagues and I are looking forward to the princely sum of £7.45 per hour.

Anonymous hourly paid lecturer, London.

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