Diverse and fair

March 24, 2016

Birkbeck, University of London, is enormously proud of its efforts to offer harmonised pay and conditions for full- and part-time members of staff. Unfortunately, your story “Universities ‘most reliant’ on teaching-only staff named” (15 March) reported a misleading comparison of Higher Education Statistics Agency data made by the pressure group Fighting Against Casualisation in Education (Face).

Our model of face-to-face evening teaching is unique within the UK, and combines high quality with widening access. This model means that our staff profile differs from that of most other universities. Alongside our academic staff (83 per cent of whom were returned in the 2014 research excellence framework), we employ many part-time teaching staff, many of whom are highly educated practitioners, professionals and portfolio workers.

We offer harmonised pay and conditions for full- and part-time members of staff, including access to a pension scheme, paid family leave and maternity leave, entitlement to career breaks, paid holiday and sick pay, as well as ensuring that teaching and scholarship staff have dedicated representation, for example on our academic board.

It is clear that the table that your story drew on does not measure casualisation. Quite the opposite: harmonised contracts such as Birkbeck’s are particularly visible in Hesa data as they are returned as “typical”. The flawed methodology underlying the table means that the conclusions being presented are the exact opposite of the actual situation.

Face excluded some institutions from its table on the grounds that they had a distinctive teaching model, and Times Higher Education has followed its criteria. We remain puzzled as to what definition of “distinctive teaching model” applied to the Open University and a range of other institutions but not to Birkbeck. It may not make for good headlines, but the Hesa data ultimately show that specialist institutions with distinctive teaching models tend to have different sized and shaped workforces – an interesting but not unsurprising conclusion.

The pressures of accelerating policy change and “one size fits all” prescriptions constantly threaten to homogenise the sector. We should all be celebrating and defending diversity – all the more so when, as in this case, difference is demonstrably linked to excellence.

Matthew Innes
Birkbeck, University of London

Send to

Letters should be sent to: THE.Letters@tesglobal.com
Letters for publication in Times Higher Education should arrive by 9am Monday.
View terms and conditions.

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Reader/Professor of Race and Education LEEDS BECKETT UNIVERSITY
Professor of Teacher Education LEEDS BECKETT UNIVERSITY

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest