Warwick Uni to outsource hourly paid academics to subsidiary

Teach Higher is a company which will effectively outsource hourly paid academic staff, whereby they will no longer be employed directly by the university but by a separate employer: ‘Teach Higher’. Teach Higher has been set up by Warwick University-owned ‘Warwick Employment Group’, and is about to be piloted at Warwick University. But it is a national company, which intends to be rolled out across UK universities.

(In this sense it is very similar to Uni Temps, which mainly employed, catering, cleaning and security staff at universities. We don’t know why Warwick decided to set up a separate company for outsourced academic staff, except that they possibly felt the need for ‘re-branding’ because it slightly more difficult to impose hyper-casualised positions on a previously more prestigious type of work such as academia.)

Teach Higher is about to be piloted with six Departments at Warwick; Sociology, Philosophy, Politics and International Studies, Mathematics, Chemistry and Modern Foreign Languages. This academic year hourly paid academics will be recruited via Teach Higher only in order to carry out exam invigilation. They plan to pilot it with all other academic work (e.g. teaching) from October 2015 onwards.

Teach Higher represents a significant threat not only to working conditions of casualised academic staff, but also to the possibilities for organisation and resistance. The outsourcing of hourly paid academic staff will very clearly institutionalise what is already beginning to look like a two tier system within academia – separating out low paid casualised staff (who increasingly do the bulk of departmental teaching) from permanent staff.

Because staff employed by Teach Higher will no longer be employed directly by the University, this means they will lose union recognition, will not be covered by national pay bargaining etc., and, crucially, will not be able to participate in national industrial action voted for by UCU in Higher Education. For a couple of years now, casualised academic staff in Higher Education have been beginning to organise at a grassroots level – no longer willing to put up with working excessively long hours for what works out at less than the minimum wage, when universities increasingly rely on us to provide the majority of their teaching. In February 2015 a national FACE conference (Fighting Against Casualisation in Education), attended by over 150 people, brought together casualised academics from across the UK to share their experiences of organising against this kind of exploitation and to make plans to work together in the future. Perhaps Teach Higher should be seen as management’s response to such exciting new developments, an ideal way to divide and rule Higher Education employees and rollback what meagre trade union rights we have at present.

Teach Higher claims that it wants to make the employment of casualised academic staff more ‘standardised and efficient’. We say that the best way to achieve this is to end casualised contracts and give fractional and fixed-term staff the same rights as permanent staff.

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50 thoughts on “Warwick Uni to outsource hourly paid academics to subsidiary”

  1. It won’t help their Student:Staff ratio as it’s calculated in media league tables; the staff wouldn’t be included in th calculation. On the other side though, it would mean there appear to be fewer ‘teaching only’ staff, making the University look more research intensive (which some league tables like to try and include). On balance though, i think it would harm their position in league tables. They must think they have a good enough reason to make it worth taking the hit.

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    1. Only permenant staff are included in the staff student ratio figures. Zero hour and casual staff, such as post-docs teaching while looking for a full position, are not counted.

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  2. It was funny in a dark way to contrast Warwick’s page of Values and Goals with this initiative, which is so obviously intended to cheapen and make even more fragile the part-time teaching that universities increasingly exploit. How hypocritical to say you value the undergraduate experience of students and employment opportunities for graduates while taking steps to diminish and cheapen both! Here’s a link to their Strategy page.

    http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/about/strategy

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  3. I teach across FE and HE – this practice has been rife in FE for some time. The use of a subsidiary company inside the institution enables the employer to exploit a loophole in the 2010 agency workers regulations. Which means that thy avoid having to provide the same pay and conditions as permanent staff. The company is called ‘Teach FE’ which is administrated by protocol national.

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  4. The only thing they have that you and the students need is accreditation. It is quite possible for a group of people with PhDs to obtain accreditation. There is no need to negotiate anything further with them, their intentions are clear. Start your own universities, students can pay less while you can earn more.

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  5. Nifty, Shifty Thriftey strikes once again! I say: BOYCOTT THRIFT. Do not cite him, do not allow him into your universities.

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  6. This is disturbing to me, but maybe not for the same reasons. First of all, I think schools have already institutionalized a 2-class system that exploits casualized labor quite effectively; this move by Warwick just lays it bare in a cynical manner.

    I wonder if moving to outsourced company might lead to more scrutiny over pay, benefits, and working conditions. Unions are one way, putting ppl into company is another. I wouldn’t do it, but wondering. At the least, it removes some of the excuses that schools use to justify or hide their use of casualization.

    All in all, the outsourcing is the symptom of the problem, not the problem itself IMO.

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  7. Its time to simply think about getting a trade and going to a trade school. University educated people will soon be like working for Kelly Girl or Fast Food restaurants.

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  8. Leicester did this already two years ago to life-long teachers and the art centre at least used a selfemployed to run normsl programme. Warwick is late in this! Why bother studying when you will be zero-houred afterwards – students paying high fees may think.

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  9. There are 241 Uni Temps staff at Warwick on below living wage (FOI 2015). The university claim that all their staff receive the living wage. This is because they don’t count Uni Temps. Sounds familiar?

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  10. Flexibility is the name of the game. It will make rationalisation ever more efficient when needed. Corporate UK rules ok.

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  11. After years of fighting, the OU has moved, kicking and screaming, to regularising associate lecturer pay and benefits. My USS pension is the only incentive for me to stay.

    If the OU were to do the same as Warwick, they wouldn’t see me for dust.

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  12. Reblogged this on TASA Sociology of Education and commented:
    I can’t believe this might be the future we are working towards. I worked for a ‘temp agency’ so many years back, I have absolutely no desire, after so many years of hard work and experience, to go back there, because universities are too scared to commit to our futures.

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  13. I wonder whether such a university should not lose its status as a charity. It’s a business as everyone else is a business, so they should be treated as such.

    As despicable and as deeply disturbing as this behaviour is, I don’t think “academics” should expect to be treated any better or differently as everyone else. Education is a commodity, it’s sold in small parcels to be put on CVs. We produce education, and are commoditized as well, so there we go.

    I hope everyone knows where *not to put their vote* in the next election…

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  14. Urge Warwick to sign the Bologna Magna Charta Universitatum. Urge all universities likewise. Don’t apply for jobs at non signatories. Discourage students from applying to study at non signatories. Persuade the AUT to participate.

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  15. Many lecturers are contractors already. I don’t think it necessarily reduces teaching quality. However, a mass move to make employees into contractors may do so, not least because it further distances teaching from research thus making the trickle-down harder to achieve — something which is implicit in the way that REF is used to assess universities.

    By the way, I don’t see how this is a party political issue. The university has decided. It’s not being forced on it by anyone. University funding is higher than it’s ever been because of those £9k/year student fees, so it’s more likely to be as a result of someone in a senior position gaining some benefit in their reward package.

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