Fixed contracts: a female preserve

April 3, 1998

WOMEN academics are more likely to be employed on fixed-term contracts than their male colleagues at every level, according to a report by lecturers' union Natfhe.

Analysis of statistics produced by the Higher Education Statistical Agency shows women are almost twice as likely as men to be employed on fixed-term contracts.

O female academics, only 16 per cent of full-time and 5 per cent of part-time fractional, that is those on contracts giving them many of the rights of full-time employees, are employed as principal lecturers, compared with overall figures of 22 and 8 per cent.

But the analysis shows major variation between institutions. T Teesside, Thames Valley and Middlesex universities are praised because they employ less than 5 per cent of full-time lecturers on fixed-term contracts and do not show significant gender variations.

But 11 institutions use fixed-term contracts for more than 15 per cent of full-time lecturers - a disproportionate number being women. Five employ more than half of their lecturers on these type of contracts.

Natfhe is unwilling to name names of the worst offenders because it says the statistics, which leave out part-time hourly paid staff, do not give the whole picture. These staff are not monitored by HESA, although the union estimates about 19,000 of them work in the new university sector.

According to the analysis, 9 per cent of full-time lecturers in the new university sector are employed on fixed-term contracts. These types of contracts cover only 3 per cent of principal lecturers but 19 per cent of "professorial" level staff.

Natfhe says that professorships in new universities are often used as honorary titles, but may reflect a trend of appointing senior staff on short-term contracts linked to performance. In old universities, 19 per cent of full-time lecturers are on fixed-term contracts, rising to 29 per cent at the equivalent of the new university lecturer grade.

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