More staff on permanent contracts, Hefce stats show

Union hails trend, but also warns of persistent 'casualisation culture'. Melanie Newman reports

July 31, 2008

Increasing numbers of staff at English universities are being given permanent contracts, according to the latest official figures.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England's report on staff in higher education shows that the proportion of academic staff on permanent contracts rose from 63 to 70 per cent in the three years from 2003-04 and 2006-07, while professional and support staff with permanent contracts increased from 84 to 87 per cent.

The proportion is likely to increase further in 2007-08. Earlier this year Andrew Ball, a University of Aberdeen researcher who was employed for nine years on a series of temporary contracts, won the right to be made permanent in a landmark case. The tribunal said the short-term nature of the funding for his post was not a sufficient justification for keeping him on temporary contracts.

The University and College Union said the increase in permanently employed staff was encouraging. "However, we are under no illusion as to the extent of the problem with the continuing casualisation culture at some institutions," said Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary. "Casualisation in our universities remains the unacceptable underbelly of higher education and it is a pity that so much of the Hefce report focuses only on permanent staff."

The Hefce report also showed that the total number of staff in English higher education institutions rose 9 per cent between 2003-04 and 2006-07, from 5,000 to 300,000.

Ms Hunt welcomed the increase in staff numbers, but said: "Going on a headcount basis, it must be noted that students in higher education in England increased by 10.3 per cent during the same period."

l? The University and College Union has asked members to step up a campaign against contracts with unfavourable variable hours.

In a circular to members, the UCU says it is union policy that "variable-hours contracts should only be used to improve the position of our members, in other words, limited to those who would otherwise be employed on part-time, hourly, fixed-term contracts".

It is also policy that such contracts should specify a guaranteed minimum number of hours of work per year.

"No agreement on variable hours should allow for the employer to reduce ... working hours to less than the guaranteed minimum hours. Any attempt to do so should be regarded as the negotiation of a new contract and may constitute a redundancy," says the circular.



Between 2003-04 and 2006-07:

- The total number of staff rose 9 per cent from 5,000 to 300,000

- The proportion of academic staff with permanent contracts increased from 63 to 70 per cent

- The proportion of female permanent academic staff rose from 35 to 38 per cent

- The proportion of female professional and support staff remained constant at 62 per cent.


In 2006-07:

- The median salary of permanent academic staff was £41,000, a rise of 13 per cent from 2003-04

- The median salary for professors was £62,000, £46,000 for senior lecturers and £37,000 for lecturers

- The median salary for professional and support staff was £21,000, a rise of 16 per cent from 2003-04.

Source: Higher Education Funding Council for England.

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