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The Lakeside View: PGR Blog

martin marko

postgraduate education

Associate Tutors unionise for free!

PhD Associate Tutors’ employment rights are an issue that I feel really strongly about and something that we’re striving to improve with a new national partnership.   

Through consultation with the Postgraduate committee which led to last year’s full investigation, postgraduate(su) has been made aware of inconsistencies across schools and faculties in how AT’s are recruited, trained, paid and supported.  

Given the reality that PhD students wishing to progress into academia will require teaching experience, and the competitive nature of these positions, AT’s may be more willing to accept poor conditions than risk having no work at all. This makes the problem worse, as unfair standards can become the assumed standards and are normalised.  

The findings of our report are unfortunately replicated all over the UK. The abuse of temporary teaching contracts in Higher Education means that staff are working over their hours unpaid, have little job security and often forgo basic employment rights. This is unsustainable, unfair and something I’d like to see change.  

The good news is that we’ve managed to make one way to fight for better employment rights easier. As of the 1st of October this year, joining the Universities and College Union (UCU) is FREE for Postgraduate students who are contracted to teach! 

uea(su) and Student’s Unions from all across the country have joined forces with UCU to make this happen, and I’d like to encourage all AT’s to consider signing up. By fighting for the rights of PhD Associate Tutors, we’re hoping to improve things across the HE sector and make working conditions better for everyone working in academia. 

If you’d like to join UCU or find out more about the campaign, all the information is on our website at If you want to discuss anything about your postgraduate experience, including employment, you can get in touch with me in confidence in person or via email at



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