Lecturers this week accused universities of breaking national agreements on the employment of contract staff.
The Association of University Teachers' attack is based on a survey of contract researchers. It says that although the 18,000 researchers -- a third of all academic staff -- attract valuable funding, institutions exploit and abuse them, treating them as the Cinderellas of the system. Most have very high qualifications, 75 per cent had a higher degree and 58 per cent a PhD, yet their average pay was only Pounds 17,000.
The union says that the problem is partly the fault of research funding bodies for accepting submissions which have very low staff costs and underestimate the time and skills required. It says this militates against proposals which produce the best research.
The other culprit is the employers. It says half of all universities are breaking national agreements by employing research staff on the lowest training grade for over six years.
More than half of those on the grade, more than one fifth of the group, had not received any form of training, and nearly half of those held a postgraduate qualification and a few had a PhD.
The survey also shows that most research staff were frequently involved in teaching students but fewer than l0 per cent received any pay and although many were employed part-time, they worked longer than a full-time week, around 45 hours.
The AUT says that research contracts should be at least three to five years. Only 8 per cent of staff now have three-year contracts with 50 per cent on up to two years. Reform would help job and financial security.
* The union is to ask university employers for a 5 per cent pay increase across the board on all salary points for 1995/96, exactly half of what it claimed last year.
The claim covering academic and related staff is to be sent to the Universities and Colleges Employers Association. It is subject to the approval of the AUT council meeting in Glasgow next month.
Last year the AUT was awarded 2.9 per cent.