Fixed-terms deter the best

June 28, 1996

University teaching quality may be suffering because of problems associated with increasing numbers of fixed-term contracts, says the Association of University Teachers.

The union held the inaugural meeting of a sub-committee responsible for members on non-research fixed-term contracts last week. About 10,000 AUT members are thought to be on fixed-term, non-research contracts, about twice as many as five years ago.

Tom Wilson, AUT assistant general secretary, said that universities often failed to attract the best candidates by relying on fixed-term contracts, and that they frequently paid too little attention to the management and supervision of such staff.

Mr Wilson said: "There is a real issue here for teaching quality because the quality of work is often directly related to the amount of management and supervision."

The AUT says that greater supervision is also essential for the career progression of non-research staff who are more likely than their research counterparts to seek a career in universities.

Mr Wilson said that the AUT deplored the increased use of fixed-term contracts for non-research posts even though it understood that institutions had been forced down this road by funding cuts.

He said: "Institutions do not want to commit themselves to full contracts when fixed-term contracts give them more control and ability to absorb shocks in what is a volatile situation."

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