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Fighting Against Casualisation in Education - Noha Abou El Magd

Friday 20-11-2015 - 14:23

This is a guest blog by Noha Abou El Magd, Black Student Committee Postgraduate Rep

In the Higher Education sector, only 51 per cent of the workforce are on permanent contracts for both teaching and research, with 33 per cent operating on various forms of non-permanent contracts.

Casualisation in HE is a growing epidemic which sees full-time work replaced by temporary academic staffing, part-time appointment of lecturers and the increase in emergency and adjunct positions.

The recent attacks on the education sector, including cuts to non-STEM subjects, the marketisation of education as a commodity, reforms to the Teaching Excellence Framework, to name a few, means that casualised academic staff are the most vulnerable.

With an increase in zero-hour contracts, teaching-only or research-only contracts - where the quality of research is attributed to how much funding it can attract - academic merit is taking a back seat to the amount of money that can be made off the backs of exploited academic staff. Staff and students are having to pay the price for these reforms, compromising the quality of education and assessment that students receive and creating a situation of poverty and insecurity for staff. A situation that denies them basic employment rights, forces them into performing tasks outside their contractual obligations, and makes it incredibly hard to speak out against any of these practices in order to progress or indeed remain in their position.

There is much evidence to suggest that historically marginalised people are disproportionately ‘casualised’. Black academic staff, who are grossly under-represented in the HE sector, constituting only 1.54% of the total academic population, have and will suffer the consequences of these fundamental reforms. In addition to institutional racism, implicit bias and mono-culturalism in hiring which reproduces an academy that is ‘normatively, habitually, and intellectually ‘White’’, the lack of security in employment and progression further isolates the experience of Black academics and places them under greater scrutiny to perform and conform to certain requirements.

BME academics as a whole leave their current institutions at a higher rate than their White counterparts, relating to experiences of marginalisation, exclusion, and isolation. Measures such as these only reproduce a vicious cycle of under-representation and marginalisation that begins at postgraduate study and persists throughout a career in academia.

However, grassroots resistance against these measures is growing, with successful campaigns against zero-hour contracts in Edinburgh, the central London cleaners’ struggle, and SOAS Fractionals’ for Fair Play. Fighting Against Casualisation in Education aims to bring together casualised academic workers from around the country to fight for better labour conditions. A network which has emerged from a conference organised in February 2015, FACE is holding its second national conference from 10:30am to 6pm on November 21st at the UCL Cruciform Building. This will bring together activists and organisations involved in the struggle from all over the country and create a space for discussion and organisation to resist and reverse the current trend. You can register your place for the conference here.

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