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University Lecturers: I don't make enough for rent

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The Guardian: Part-time lecturers on precarious work: 'I don't make enough for rent'

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Steve Hanson, 44, part-time lecturer in political sociology

I have a doctorate from a great university; I’ve worked on government research projects, and have more published work than many tenured staff. I have been hourly-paid for about five years now, but HR departments have been alert enough to knock me out of the system before I could rack up four years and become semi-permanent.

In the latest in a series on the UK’s increasingly precarious world of work, we reveal how many institutions are charging higher student fees while more than half of lecturers are on non-permanent or hourly-paid contracts
 
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I’ve been working for three places at once for most of those years. You have three HR systems and three intranets and three security systems, each with their glitches and perversities.

The negotiation of all that stuff – just getting paid is far from automatic – stacks up to something like a management role. But of course this is without the security or the reward or pay being put in automatically. It’s often like trying to play Tetris very fast, and then you look at what you’re doing all this for and it’s three hours one week, seven another, none the next week.

I earn just over £6,000 a year. My pay always just reduces my benefits, which is now universal credit. It’s hard to get by. Then friends and sometimes even students say things like: “Ah, it’s all right for you being a university lecturer …”

We are seasonal labourers, like fruit pickers. You have to email every September, cap in hand, saying: ‘Is there any work for me this year?’ Universities are giving their hourly-paid people less hours, therefore paying them less.

I do struggle to get by. I live in a housing co-op. On a day-to-day basis it means getting big bags of pulses and rice from Asian supermarkets, as cheaply as possible, making a whole batch of something and living off it. I cycle everywhere. It’s absolutely no frills. I’ve got a partner. We would like a family, but it would be extremely difficult. And the idea of getting a mortgage is a non-starter.

The reason I am willing to be named here is because there is little left at stake, not much left to lose; the idea that if I be nice and polite about the situation and don’t say anything I might progress is clearly not true.

More than half of academics in the UK are on some kind of insecure contract. Here, two lecturers speak of their struggle to make ends meet
 
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Sam, 32, part-time lecturer in applied linguistics and communications

I obtained my PhD in 2013 from a Russell Group university. Since then I have worked in three different universities, have taught on seven different modules, and have been module leader for five of these modules.

I love working in [higher education] but, having had a succession of casualised contracts as an hourly-paid lecturer, am finding it increasingly unsustainable for both financial and personal reasons.

I am not making enough money to make rent, particularly in the summer, and have to freelance as an editor and proofreader, which eats into time I really should be using to develop my own research and publications. I am unable to make long-term plans because I don’t know where – or if – I’ll have work next year.

 

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One of my lot in a shared gaff is some sort of lecturer, ironically tried to give me a lecture when I banged the rents up on him last year, soon piped down when I threatened to find a new tennant. I got my degree at the university of life pal, how do you like them apples!

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Try further education for an even poorer contractural experience. According to research done by the lecturers' union, ucu, FE as an occupation, had the second highest proportion of casual staff, only beaten by catering.  I worked in FE as an hourly paid lecturer in the mid eighties.  I was paid £15 per hour. 30 years on, the going rate is only about £22 per hour.  This is for each teaching hour.  On top of this is the prep and marking, which is unpaid. I worked out a few years ago that for an intensive, academic course, this would take the hourly rate under the minimum wage 

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But isn't the New World Order all about zero hours, low wages, no permanent contracts etc. Vote for change. And it isn't going to come from the Red or the Blue teams.

Would Jeremy Corbin really smash this? Or a Blairite replacement? I don't think so.

How can we make Britain "Great" Again?

Edited by 200p

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1 minute ago, Funn3r said:

I do think "Corbin" would put an end to it yes, which is why such a storm of media campaign against him. 

I don't think he would. He might wish to and might make the right noises, but he is still wedded to the ideology of mass and unfettered immigration which only serves to impoverish the working classes 

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What they fail to realise is that they add very little value as anything they are likely to explain to students is not original, and could be sourced by anybody who is willing to pick up a textbook.

If they were actually worth what they believe somebody would pay them it.

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Most people who work in academia are pursuing work that they genuinely enjoy and feel is meaningful and rewarding, so they are constantly fair game for the latest neoliberal target-driven managerialist cost cutting initiative.

If you are highly skilled and want to earn a decent salary, the chances are you'll need to do something you truly hate and has no social value.

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I was looking for a rental outside of London and one thing that struck me was the amount of teachers that are flat sharing. I dont know why, but it really hit home that things are pretty fecked up. Teaching is a respectable job that requires a degree and authority figure that young kids look up to. To comprehend that they go home to argue about the washing up and emptying the bins in a houseshare is insane. Completely FUBAR.

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1 minute ago, 999house said:

I was looking for a rental outside of London and one thing that struck me was the amount of teachers that are flat sharing. I dont know why, but it really hit home that things are pretty fecked up. Teaching is a respectable job that requires a degree and authority figure that young kids look up to. To comprehend that they go home to argue about the washing up and emptying the bins in a houseshare is insane. Completely FUBAR.

The teaching profession did it to itself during the halcyon years of Gordon Brown's public sector boom. Sadly.

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1 minute ago, 999house said:

I was looking for a rental outside of London and one thing that struck me was the amount of teachers that are flat sharing. I dont know why, but it really hit home that things are pretty fecked up. Teaching is a respectable job that requires a degree and authority figure that young kids look up to. To comprehend that they go home to argue about the washing up and emptying the bins in a houseshare is insane. Completely FUBAR.

Those cumbuckets and their children are much more deserving of decent shelter than somebody actually contributing to society. Are you stuck in the past?

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1 minute ago, Bear Goggles said:

Most people who work in academia are pursuing work that they genuinely enjoy and feel is meaningful and rewarding, so they are constantly fair game for the latest neoliberal target-driven managerialist cost cutting initiative.

If you are highly skilled and want to earn a decent salary, the chances are you'll need to do something you truly hate and has no social value.

It's more that on emarking on that doctorate, you have no idea how bad the working conditions are in HE.  You work hard, play the game, and then at the end of that particularly gruelling and impoverished journey, you become aware of the poor contractural arrangements. By then it is way too late. Who outside of academia would want a PhD graduate?  You would be seen as a threat or of no practical use in the real world, or both.

the number of people who say to me, I would love to work in HE.  I look at them and think, you don't, your really don't 

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3 minutes ago, Si1 said:

The teaching profession did it to itself during the halcyon years of Gordon Brown's public sector boom. Sadly.

Disagree. Successive governments from both sides are to blame education has been used as a political football and as a place for blame for all the ills of society 

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9 minutes ago, One-percent said:

Disagree. Successive governments from both sides are to blame education has been used as a political football and as a place for blame for all the ills of society 

And hide massive youth unemployment as now they pay for the privilege.

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9 minutes ago, One-percent said:

It's more that on emarking on that doctorate, you have no idea how bad the working conditions are in HE.  You work hard, play the game, and then at the end of that particularly gruelling and impoverished journey, you become aware of the poor contractural arrangements. By then it is way too late. Who outside of academia would want a PhD graduate?  You would be seen as a threat or of no practical use in the real world, or both.

the number of people who say to me, I would love to work in HE.  I look at them and think, you don't, your really don't 

I guess it depends. Doing original research is quite different from lecturing undergrads, and crossing over to industry is a lot easier for a chemist than it is for an anthropologist. 

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2 minutes ago, interestrateripoff said:

And hide massive youth unemployment as now they pay for the privilege.

Yep. And the elephant in the room on this is not HE but FE. See the Wolf review of vocational education for a damning report of the quality of vocational education. Close factories and heavy industry, bring in migrant workers to take up the low level jobs and what to do with those young people who cannot or do not want to engage with a university education. Oh, I know, let's keep em busy at the local tech

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6 minutes ago, Bear Goggles said:

I guess it depends. Doing original research is quite different from lecturing undergrads, and crossing over to industry is a lot easier for a chemist than it is for an anthropologist. 

Agree, it depends on the focus. But I would challenge the notion that much of it is really groundbreakingly original. Those great strides have in the main long gone. 

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28 minutes ago, Bear Goggles said:

Most people who work in academia are pursuing work that they genuinely enjoy and feel is meaningful and rewarding, so they are constantly fair game for the latest neoliberal target-driven managerialist cost cutting initiative.

If you are highly skilled and want to earn a decent salary, the chances are you'll need to do something you truly hate and has no social value.

Were you in the room when I chose accountancy?

Edited by Exiled Canadian

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37 minutes ago, 999house said:

I was looking for a rental outside of London and one thing that struck me was the amount of teachers that are flat sharing. I dont know why, but it really hit home that things are pretty fecked up. Teaching is a respectable job that requires a degree and authority figure that young kids look up to. To comprehend that they go home to argue about the washing up and emptying the bins in a houseshare is insane. Completely FUBAR.

Just a few years ago (2007-2014) the BBC comedy sitcom Outnumbered featured a school teacher (played by Hugh Dennis) who was raising three children in a very spacious and pleasant Edwardian family house in West London.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outnumbered

"The programme has received critical acclaim for its semi-improvisational scripting and realistic portrayal of children and family life."  :lol::lol::lol:

Edited by The Spaniard
typo

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1 hour ago, One-percent said:

Agree, it depends on the focus. But I would challenge the notion that much of it is really groundbreakingly original. Those great strides have in the main long gone. 

The publish or perish temporary contract culture also promotes large volumes of incremental research and effectively rules out funding for paradigm shifting research, it could be argued that this is in order to protect the existing hierarchy. 

 

For example Peter Higgs and James Watson have been pretty clear that they could not have been funded to do what they did in the current academic environment. 

Edited by Si1

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Thanks to poverty I never went to university and felt a bit aggrieved about that because I saw how easy it was for my only slightly richer peers. I told myself that if I ever had children they would not miss out like I did. Fast forward to when I did have children in the early nineties, the internet was just starting to show its potential, and I remember thinking when my son was about five, you know what fifteen years from now there will be no university anyway. If you had direct access to the total sum of human knowledge and communication, from anywhere, then what would be the point of a university campus? 

As it turns out I was wrong and my now 23-year-old son is in his final year. I do think I was just a bit early though and universities are doomed. No wonder the people who work there can't demand a big salary.

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2 hours ago, Bear Goggles said:

I guess it depends. Doing original research is quite different from lecturing undergrads, and crossing over to industry is a lot easier for a chemist than it is for an anthropologist. 

Indeed, I noticed neither were working in STEM subjects. It's as if these subjects have very little practical value outside academia.

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