A colleague sent me a link to the following post at Fighting against Casualisation in Education, a UK site promoting activism among contingent faculty. The actual post appears to be taken largely from the site of the University of Warwick.
I am assuming that most of you, like me, will have little or no familiarity with this university. As the following lead paragraphs from the Wikipedia article indicate, it is clearly not a “fringe” institution; in fact, it appears to be anything but that sort of incubator for dubious ideas:
“The University of Warwick (informally known as Warwick University or Warwick is a public research university in Coventry, England. It was founded in 1965 as part of a government initiative to expand access to higher education. Warwick Business School was established in 1967 and Warwick Medical School was opened in 2000. Warwick merged with Coventry College of Education in 1979 and Horticulture Research International in 2004.
“Warwick is primarily based on a 290 hectare campus on the outskirts of Coventry with a satellite campus in Wellesbourne and a London base at the Shard in central London. It is organised into four faculties—Arts, Medicine, Science and Social Sciences—within which there are 32 departments. Warwick has around 23,400 full-time students and 1,390 academic and research staff and had a total income of £481 million in 2013/14, of which £90 million was from research grants and contracts. Warwick Arts Centre, a multi-venue arts complex in the university’s main campus, is the largest venue of its kind in the UK outside London.
“Warwick consistently ranks in the top ten of all major domestic rankings of British universities and is the only multi-faculty institution aside from Oxford, Cambridge, and Imperial to have never been ranked outside of the top ten. It is ranked by QS as the world’s third best university under 50 years (and first in Europe) and as the world’s 13th best university based on employer reputation. It was ranked 7th in the UK amongst multi-faculty institutions for the quality of its research in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework. Entrance is competitive, with around 8.25 applicants per place for undergraduate study.
“Warwick is a member of AACSB, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, the Association of MBAs, EQUIS, the European University Association, the M5 Group, the Russell Group and Universities UK. It is the only European member of the Center for Urban Science and Progress, a collaboration with New York University. The university has extensive commercial activities, including the University of Warwick Science Park and Warwick Manufacturing Group.”
So what is in the post about Warwick should be especially disturbing:
“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 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.
“What you can do:
–Teach Higher are currently asking for the views of their ‘clients’ – send many emails as you can to TeachHigher@warwick.ac.uk.
–Likewise, make your views heard using their survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SKFJXXM.
–And watch this space for further action!”
What is especially disturbing about this story is that Warwick is a public university creating a private corporation in order to most efficiently exploit its adjunct faculty.
If you somehow still are operating under the delusion that such terrible ideas cannot get any traction here, sorry, but they already have. (See below.) We simply haven’t seen major universities get behind such an initiative. But let’s remember that those universities have been spearheading the development of MOOCs—not for their own students, of course, but for everyone else’s.
In an earlier post, “Doubling Down on the Exploitation of Adjunct Faculty” [https://academeblog.org/2014/07/25/doubling-down-on-the-exploitation-of-adjunct-faculty/], I reported on a corporation called EduStaff that has contracted to hire adjunct faculty at community colleges in Michigan:
“In an article titled “Outsourced in Michigan” written for Inside Higher Ed, Colleen Flaherty chronicles the movement among Michigan’s community colleges to outsource the hiring of adjunct faculty and the management of related “payroll duties” to a corporation called EDUStaff.
“EDUStaff had previously specialized in providing substitute teachers for K-12 systems. So, if you have been dismissing the warnings that what has been occurring at the K-12 level will be increasingly migrating to the postsecondary level, here is some further, very direct evidence on that pattern.”
Now that adjunct faculty are organizing much more aggressively in many parts of the country, expect that some major university to initiate something on the Warwick model. There is obviously still a great deal of money to be made, inside and outside of our institutions, by suppressing instructional costs even further.