Fears are growing that universities may lay off academics on casual
contracts rather than give them the permanent jobs to which they are
entitled under European regulations.
have until 2006 to comply with the regulations, which should improve
job security for tens of thousands of academics on fixed-term contracts,
including disproportionately more women and people from ethnic minorities.
Times Higher has uncovered evidence that at least one leading
university has already laid off casual lecturing staff, using PhD
students to fill their teaching duties, rather than give them permanent
contracts (see case study below). Fears are growing that others
emerged as the Association of University Teachers launched its campaign
this week to alert universities to the regulations and their responsibilities
in ending the use of fixed-term contracts in academe.
the AUT's policy officer, said: "Universities are not doing enough
to prepare for this legislation, and there is certainly a fear among
casual workers that they will be made permanently redundant rather
said that any university making staff redundant in this way was
in breach of the regulations, which have a "no detriment" clause.
employees regulations came into force in 2002. They state that after
four years on two or more contracts, a fixed-term contract will
automatically become permanent - unless the fixed-term element can
be "objectively justified".
The AUT campaign,
known as Security Alert II, has been launched halfway through the
period of notice that universities have to implement the regulations,
which expires in July 2006.
In all, 48 per
cent of female academics and 38 per cent of male academics are on
fixed-term contracts, according to the AUT. Nine out of ten researchers
in UK universities are employed on short-term contracts and, two
years after the introduction of the regulations, 93 per cent of
university researchers are still employed on contracts of three
years or less.
AUT general secretary, said: "The continuing use of fixed-term contracts
is a hidden scandal in higher education.
"It is about
time universities woke up to their responsibilities. The Government
changed the law to stop this abuse two years ago, and the universities
themselves signed an agreement to reduce the use of fixed-term contracts.
"And yet, two
years on, very few universities have reduced their use of fixed-term
The union and
the Universities and Colleges Employers Association have drawn up
guidance on the management of these contracts and how to reduce
them. It says: "The aim must be to achieve a proper balance between
flexible working and organisational efficiency, on the one hand,
and security of employment and fair treatment of employees, on the
It also warns
against unlawful discrimination. "Statistical evidence suggests
that a greater proportion of women and ethnic minorities are employed
on fixed-term and casual contracts," it says. "It is important that
institutions bear this in mind."
assistant director of Ucea, warned against scaremongering about
job losses. "While some .academics may lose their jobs as universities
switch to more permanent contracts, this will be no different from
the current situation in which employees lose their jobs as a result
of the culture of casualisation."
GETTING IT WRONG
Joanna and Mary
were visiting tutors teaching up to eight hours a week in a humanities
department at a prestigious London university.
They claim the
university made them redundant as a result of the European fixed-term
regulations. They have hammered out an agreement and prefer to remain
In spring, their
department finalised a restructuring document. All but one of the
long-term visiting tutors who had made significant contributions
to the university were dismissed. Their teaching duties are being
shifted on to PhD students.
regulations are designed to ensure that by 2006 anyone who has been
on a fixed-term contract for more than four years without good cause
be made permanent," Joanna said. "The tragedy is that rather than
take us on permanently, the university is getting rid of us."
Their AUT representative
said: "The university was quite clear it was doing this to comply
with the fixed-term regulations and these two women suffered detrimentally
as a result of this change."
Joanna and Mary
were initially offered very small amounts of redundancy pay. The
university has subsequently increased this sixfold and the two have
agreed not to go to a tribunal.
But they are
bitter as the department relied on casual staff to allow the full-timers
to concentrate on their research.
got a five in the last research assessment exercise because the
casual staff freed up the full-time staff," said Joanna. "We underpinned
that success and our reward is to be sacked."