The Working Conditions of Tutors are the Learning Conditions for Students
Undergraduate students at the University of Edinburgh may be unaware that a significant percentage of their tutors are employed on Guaranteed Hours contracts (GH contracts).
There are many issues with the approach adopted by many prestigious universities to the employment of post-graduate and other tutors on GH contracts.
The working conditions of staff are the learning conditions for students and we think that it is unacceptable for universities who market themselves to students on their reputation for high quality provision to employ large numbers of their staff on contracts that prevent them doing their jobs as effectively as possible.
The trade union representing academic and related staff, the University and College Union (UCU), are taking these issues up with the University of Edinburgh management.
However, we ask undergraduate students to be aware that we believe the current arrangements mean that there are too many insecure contracts which disrupt educational relationships, stifle the development of teaching staff and often put them under unbearable pressure to cut corners by employing them on poor hourly rates that fail to cover the work they really do.
If your tutor says that she or he has insufficient time to meet your needs, there is a good reason for it. We are clear that current arrangements mean that tutors are not always paid fully for:
- All hours spent preparing for teaching (reading assigned texts, setting questions, identifying secondary readings, marking handouts, presentations, etc.)
- All hours spent marking essays
- Evaluating participation in tutorials
- Professional development
Your tutors do their best to read your work thoroughly, provide you with detailed feedback and offer assistance outside of tutorials but please be aware that the current GH contract arrangements mean that this is not always possible.
We ask you to understand why your tutor may not be able to meet your wishes.
In 2018, the UCU will be reviewing the situation regarding GH contracts. We want a situation where tutors are paid properly for what they do and are treated fairly. Updates on developments will be posted but in the meantime, we hope for your support.
University and College Union
The University of Edinburgh is currently reviewing its Code of Practice for Tutors and Demonstrators, for which UCU has been represented on
the university task group (for info see: http://www.ed.ac.uk/academic-services/projects/reviewing-the-code-of-practice-for-tutoring-and-de).
After several meetings there is now a draft policy out for consultation: http://www.ed.ac.uk/academic-services/projects/reviewing-the-code-of-practice-for-tutoring-and-de
UCU postgraduate and postdoctoral reps and contacts have already been contacted to send in their views on the code, but other members (especially those in tutoring and demonstrating roles) are also invited to comment on the draft policy.
The university have highlighted specific areas that they would like feedback on:
- whether the document includes all necessary information and guidance;
- whether any key information or guidance is missing from the document;
- if relevant, how this document will relate to any School, subject-level or course-level documents that you provide your Tutors and Demonstrators.
The university is especially interested to hear your views on these issues:
- whether the University should limit the number of hours all full-time postgraduate tutors and demonstrators should work, and if so, what
the limit should be (see Section 2.8)
- whether Schools should provide all tutors/demonstrators with access to a mentor (see Section 6.2);3. whether the University should specify the knowledge/skills/training/support required for postgraduate students who are acting as tutors and
demonstrators at certain levels (e.g. PGT level (See section 5)).
Please send any comments you may have to email@example.com before 10th March.
Brief guidance on Working to Contract issues. This is taken from item 24 on the FAQ page: https://www.ucu.org.uk/heactionfaqs
What should I tell my employer if they ask if I am participating in action relating to working to contract and to the maximum 37-hour week?
You should wait until you are asked by your manager or a person in authority whether you are participating in ‘action short of a strike’ and then answer as follows:
As you will be aware, following a recent ballot, UCU is calling on its members to take continuous action short of strike from 27 May 2016. This is to take the form of working to contract. I am writing to inform you that I shall be working the hours stipulated in my contract and no more. Where my contract is silent on the hours I am expected to work, I will work no more than a total of 35 hours per week, or my pro rata equivalent to take account of my personal circumstances and the length of the normal working week in question. In addition, I will perform no additional voluntary duties, such as out of hours cover, or covering for colleagues, unless this is a contractual requirement, nor will I set and mark work beyond that which I am contractually obliged to set and/or mark, nor will I attend meetings where attendance is voluntary. I will not undertake duties that breach the University’s health and safety and I will work strictly in accordance with the university’s policies or procedures having contractual force.
As I will therefore complete my contractual duties on a weekly basis and in any one week I will not expect the University to make any deductions from my salary save in respect of any strike action which I might take. I will raise a formal grievance if I am deducted pay whilst I am working in accordance with my contract.
UCU Edinburgh are organising an ‘anti-casualisation lunch’ on Monday 16th May, 1-2pm in the UCU offices (12 Buccleuch street), to bring staff together to discuss the use of hourly-paid, fixed-term, and other casualised forms of contract at the university. In addition to a sandwich lunch, with tea and coffee, we will have John Slaven from STUC (Scottish Trades Union Congress) visiting to talk about their anti-casualisation campaign Better than zero (http://www.betterthanzero.org), and tutors from Humanities and Social Science will be there to update members on their campaigning for better conditions (see their petition here: http://blake2.ppls.ed.ac.uk/~s1264545/petition_tutors). Everyone is welcome, casualised or not. Non-members are also welcome, so please invite colleagues who are not (yet?) members. If possible we would appreciate if you could RSVP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, so we have an idea of how many sandwiches to order.