University of Essex improves conditions for postgraduates who teach

Graduate teachers will be placed on the university’s pay scale and receive the same employment benefits as other staff

September 15, 2016
Goslings under wing
Source: Alamy

A UK university is giving its postgraduates who teach the same employment rights as its academics and staff in a move that will lead to improvements in pay and conditions, training and mentoring.

In what is believed to be a sector first for the UK, from next month the University of Essex will treat postgraduates who teach as “trainee academics”, meaning that they will be placed on the university’s pay scale, be paid for taking part in mandatory training, receive the same benefits as other employees, including holiday and sick pay, and have their contract duration linked to their period of PhD study.

Departments will also be expected to make sure postgraduates take part in professional development activities and there will be improvements to the induction process and networking opportunities, the university said.

Additionally, from 2017-18 scholarship and stipend offers for postgraduates will not include a requirement to teach.

A National Union of Students survey in 2013 of UK postgraduates who teach found that almost one in three earned below the minimum wage in real terms and did not receive a contract, while one in five received no training or induction before starting their role.

Anthony Forster, Essex’s vice-chancellor, said postgraduates who teach “need to be properly rewarded for sharing their expertise and inspiring our students”.

“They are working at the cutting edge of their fields and are inspirational in the way they share their excitement about their subject with students,” he said.

“At the heart of what we are doing is making sure postgraduate students who teach at Essex are highly valued, appropriately supported and fairly paid.”

The changes were proposed by a working group of current graduate teaching assistants and graduate laboratory assistants, human resources employees, the University and College Union and the university’s dean of postgraduate research and education.

The NUS praised Essex’s move.

“As Essex has found, when institutions actually talk to their teaching assistants and hear about the struggles they face, there is a realisation that failure to support postgraduate staff benefits no one,” said Sorana Vieru, vice-president (higher education) at the NUS.

“We hope that their sector-leading practice is taken up by other institutions.”

Earlier this year, the University of Essex became the first UK university to give its female professors a one-off salary hike to eliminate the gender pay gap.

ellie.bothwell@tesglobal.com

Read University of Essex vice-chancellor Anthony Forster's blog on the institution's plans for postgraduates who take on teaching responsibilities

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham