By Naomi Clarke
Staff in the Modern Languages department have expressed their anger over how their pay is capped by the University.
Grade 6 Staff in the Modern Language and Cultures department (MLAC) and The Centre for Foreign Language Study (CFLS) have their pay capped at £32,236, which is £7,170 below a secondary school classroom teacher’s upper wage in England.
Top Grade 6 University staff thus earn the equivalent to a mid-level experienced classroom teacher.
MLAC and CFLS Grade 6 academics are called ‘Assistant Teaching Fellows’. They told Palatinate that despite the job title, they had never ‘assisted’ during their time in Durham. Their job involves coordinating credit-bearing modules, developing the curriculum and setting examinations.
These staff are all mostly full-time and permanent. Grade 6 is used elsewhere within Durham University to classify laboratory technicians and assistants.
We are “disappointed with Durham University as they claim they want to be top, but they are not doing what they preach.”
CFLS teacher told Palatinate
A CFLS teacher explained to Palatinate that when they arrived five years ago, the distinction between a Grade 6 and 7 in job description was clearer. It distinguished a Grade 6 would deliver lessons and feedback and Grade 7 would set examination and develop material.
This distinction has become blurred as the requirements for Grade 6 have now come to encompass these extra roles without a revaluation of the role or pay scale in a “take it or leave it approach”.
Durham University champions a ‘philosophy to encourage language learning as widely as possible’ and pride their ‘world-class teaching’, but the staff have stated the University is failing to acknowledge this increase in responsibility.
The CFLS teacher told Palatinate they were “disappointed with Durham University as they claim they want to be top, but they are not doing what they preach.”
The CFLS teacher regarded how in their previous position at a comprehensive school they received a significantly greater salary but moved to Durham University for academic progression, which had initially not appeared as an issue when they transferred.
These Grade 6 staff are highly qualified, most having a Bachelor degree, Masters and a certified teaching qualification. Many also have awards and are contributing extra to their department through PhD research and personal scholarship.
Alongside the pay cap, Grade 6 staff are not included in the Academic Progression Scheme: a programme aimed to help academic staff to progress in their careers if they should so wish.
Inclusion in the Academic Progression scheme would be “a good first step”
According to those who spoke to Palatinate, this exclusion has instilled “demotivation to go the extra length to engage in scholarship.”
“We are here for the students,” a CFLS teacher told Palatinate, “we work for them, through them, giving feedback and updating the curriculum every year or two to keep it relevant and interesting” but within the department the “ambience is different, people don’t have hope” since this plan was implemented two years ago.
They reiterated how they just wished to “be paid at their value”.
Ideally, they would like their status of Grade 6 to be reconsidered but stated inclusion in the Academic Progression scheme would be “a good first step”.
The group of staff have now sent a letter on behalf of all Assistant Teaching Fellows to UCU to further elevate the gravity of this issue within the department.
Antony Long, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost, said: “We evaluate all professional services staff roles, between grades 1 and 9, using a role evaluation tool used across the higher education sector.
“This tool sets the top rate of pay for a grade six role at £32,236. Outstanding members of staff can be awarded extra ‘contribution points’, potentially increasing their salary to £35,210.”
Long added: “We can also award one-off bonus payments to teams or individuals who make an excellent contribution to their department’s work” and that “grade six staff can also apply for grade seven roles, as and when these become available.”
“Many colleagues on grade 6 are fulfilling responsibilities that would come within the remit of grade 7”
Durham Casuals is a group of anonymous academics who campaign against unfair working conditions in the University.
They said: “Many colleagues on grade 6 are already fulfilling responsibilities that would normally come within the remit of grade 7 anyway.
“MLAC students will appreciate the quality of language teaching they receive from affected staff, and we urge them to write to the Vice Chancellor to show their support for their lecturers.”
Photograph: Maddie Flisher