By Luke Payne
An investigation by Palatinate has uncovered the extent of department historical pay disparities for teaching activities. The average pay for demonstrating, tutorials, marking and lecturing varied by up to £44/hour between departments before an agreement to standardise payments was implemented in October.
Until this academic year, significant proportions of undergraduate teaching activities, including demonstrating, tutorials, lecturing and marking, were covered by hourly wage workers on insecure ‘casual’ contracts, mostly performed by postgraduate students.
Following a campaign by The University and College Union (UCU), and complaints raised by students to Vice-Chancellor Stuart Corbridge, Durham University and UCU came to an agreement last year to limit the use of casual contracts and standardise pay for similar work.
Prior to this agreement, University departments paid significantly different wages for teaching assignments according to data Palatinate has received from a Freedom of Information request.
The pay band for lecturing within The Department of Archeology was between £31.25 and £53.00 per hour whereas Anthropology only paid between £9.28 and £16.03 per hour. For marking, the Department of Economics and Finance paid between £20.00 and £53.34 per hour whereas the Physics, Psychology and Sport Departments paid under £11.40.
Analysis of the pay data using the pay band midpoints and weighting by the number of assignments, revealed several key findings about average payments for each type of work and highlighted the inequality between departments.
The analysis showed that departments within the Faculty of Business on average paid twice as much (£25.78/hour) for marking work than departments within other faculties.
The average pay for lectures conducted by casual workers was highest in the English, Earth Sciences, Engineering, Music and Archaeology departments (£42.13/hour) and lowest in Modern Languages and Cultures (£20.51/hour), Computer Science (£19.68/hour), Law (17.92/hour) and Anthropology (£12.66/hour).
A former Computer Science demonstrator complained that they felt compelled to choose between “teaching at a substandard level because I wasn’t familiar with the material, or work for free” due to a reduction in paid preparation time. Adding that they were “far from alone in this” and “the department lost a lot of experienced demonstrators.”
In their response to Palatinate’s findings, the University emphasised the amount of engagement their Casual Working Group had with the DSU, UCU, College and other representatives. They further added:
“We cannot comment on the subjective thoughts of colleagues but we had the support of UCU and DSU. The changes which were implemented ensured that the default for staff is a fixed-term employment contract and the number of casual staff in the University decreased. All casual staff and employees now have their pay aligned to the University pay scales and benefit from any cost of living increases that are implemented. This also allows for consistent pay for roles across the University.
“Casual staff across the University perform distinct and valuable roles in supporting the University deliver its strategy.
“This includes students who Durham’s inter-departmental pay gap for teaching engage in teaching/related roles which provide valuable development opportunities. Following the Casual Working Groups, colleagues are engaged on consistent role descriptors and are paid in accordance with the relevant pay scales.
“The University considers that everyone engaged must be fairly paid for all work that they are required to undertake. The new arrangements allow for consistency by way of role descriptors and pay aligned to the pay scales.”
Image: Amana Moore