Permanent problem 2

December 23, 2005

The research at Leeds University that suggests that higher education needs to model itself on industry by using more fixed-term contracts is based on a flawed understanding of temporary employment in the UK labour markets. A simple analysis of Labour Force Survey statistics shows that public sector workers are almost twice as likely to be employed on fixed-term contracts as private sector workers - if this is what the Leeds researchers mean by working in industry.

More important, the higher education sector has the second highest number of casualised workers - beaten only by the hotel and catering industry. It would be interesting to know if the professors who advocated the increased use of fixed-term contracts in higher education, or contended that such contract arrangements were not damaging to the wellbeing of academics, are themselves on fixed-term contracts? I suspect not.

Hazel Conley
University of the West of England

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