Through consultation with the Postgraduate Committee, and January's Graduate Assembly, we were made aware of PhD students' concerns around their employment rights as Associate Tutors at UEA. The concerns they raised matched those of PhD Associate Tutors in the years before them, indicating that not enough progress had been made by the university, and prompting the Student's Union to conduct a full investigation and report. From the anecdotal accounts they gave, there seemed to be a lack of consistency in how Associate Tutors are recruited, trained, paid, and supported across schools and Faculties. The University of East Anglia has a policy on Postgraduate Research Student Employment, so if you are not sure what standard of treatment you should be experiencing as an AT, read the policy here.
Given the harsh reality, that every PhD student wishing to progress into an acaemic career will require teaching experience, associate tutors may be more willing to 'accept' poor working conditions than risk having no work at all.
You can find our full report here.
Sadly the experience reported by UEA's PhD students who teach matches what is happening across the country. The abuse of temporary teaching contracts in HE means staff are working over their hours unpaid, have little job security, and are often without basic employment rights.
I It has never been more important for Associate Tutors to join a union, and now the University and College Union (UCU) has made membership free for PhD students who tteach.
"Locked into exploitative employment with little or no job security, the current model used in FE and HE has high expectations of young staff but gives little back to them. With your help, we want to do something about this. Let's work together and build a trade union culture in low security areas - a culture where the union stands up for staff rights, bargains for better pay and conditions, and helps young staff to get the best out of their careers." - Sally Hunt UCU
Fighting for better employment rights for our Associate Tutors has the potential to improve working conditions for all academics in Higher Education. For full details on what UCU could do for you as an Associate Tutor go here.
UEASU and loads of other Student Union's across the country have joined together to encourage you to join. Sign up today here.