University of Liverpool staff to lose pay if online students drop out

Academic claims that pay would be deducted even if students quit Liverpool-Laureate course because of bereavement

July 17, 2014

Staff teaching University of Liverpool degrees delivered online by private firm Laureate are to have their pay docked if students drop out.

New deals for tutors, being introduced by Laureate this month, were described as “easyJet contracts” by one member of staff, who claimed that pay would be docked even if students pulled out because of family bereavement – a claim denied by Liverpool and Laureate.

Laureate International Universities, whose honorary chancellor is former US president Bill Clinton, has had a partnership with Liverpool for more than a decade. As part of this, the firm’s subsidiary Laureate Online Education BV, based in the Netherlands, delivers 100 per cent online master’s and doctoral degrees from Liverpool in areas such as medicine, law and computer science.

The courses now have about 10,000 students in more than 160 countries, according to Liverpool and Laureate.

One member of staff on the Liverpool-Laureate courses said that the new contracts deduct pay for tutors “if students drop out at the start of a module” – the period when students qualify for a refund.

“Under the new contracts, instructors will have their pay docked if a student pulls out, whatever the reason – including bereavement,” said the member of staff. The source also claimed that class sizes “are now in excess of 20” and raised doubts over whether Liverpool had made any money since the online programme was launched.

A joint Liverpool-Laureate statement said: “During an early period in the teaching schedule, the amount that staff are paid per module may be affected by both decreases and increases in the number of students in a class, but all reasonable circumstances for student dropouts, such as family bereavement, are taken into account and do not impact staff pay.”

Asked what pay rates were in place, a spokesman said: “We cannot discuss the salaries of individual members of staff.”

Asked how much income Liverpool derives from the partnership, the spokesman said: “We cannot discuss this, as it is commercially sensitive information.”

The spokesman said that the staff-to-student ratio “in our online classrooms does not exceed 1:20. Our current average class size per programme is 15. This provides our students with a collaborative and engaging classroom environment.”

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