Contract lecturer campaign hots up

November 20, 1998

Lecturers are to step up their campaign against casualisation in universities after new figures revealed that more than two out of five academics are on fixed-term contracts.

The Association of University Teachers has written to all its branches asking them to present a united front against casualisation. The initiative follows the publication of figures by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, which show that 41.1 per cent of all academic staff in the United Kingdom were on fixed-term contracts in 1996-97. This is up from 40.4 per cent the year before and 38.5 per cent in 1994-95.

Nearly all research-only staff (94.2 per cent) were on casual fixed-term contracts in 1996-97, up from 92.7 in 1994-95. Almost a quarter of teaching-only staff (24.7 per cent) were on fixed-term contracts and just 17.8 per cent of teaching and research staff were on similar contracts. Over 92 per cent of those aged 21 to 25 years were on such contracts compared with 13.1 per cent of 51 to 55-year-olds.

The AUT said that such contracts are more expensive for universities in the longer term and that staff pay a high price in terms of a loss of financial security.

So far the AUT has persuaded four universities to limit or consider limiting the use of fixed-term contracts. A spokeswoman said: "We have to negotiate one-by-one because of autonomy".

Tony Bruce, policy director for the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, said: "Managements take the view that they need this additional flexibility, particularly in a period when there are fluctuations in demand."

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