Victory for teachers at UEL

The state has been withdrawing funds from higher education for over three decades. The cuts began in the 1980s with the new era of marketisation.

One of the consequences of this has been a change in the structure of academic employment with increased casualisation of teaching.

Universities have discovered that PhD students are cheap, highly motivated and disposable labour. But they are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

But PhD students at the University of East London (UEL) have fought off attempts to make them teach on low wages or even for free.

This particularly affected international students who receive a bursary to cover only the cost of their fees.

They are tied into a contractual agreement with the university in which they undertake this exploitative labour.

But a joint campaign was launched which won a major victory. Now all schools will be encouraged to employ postgraduate students.

They must contract postgraduates as hourly paid lecturers, paying them for marking and preparation. Schools will also have to advertise such vacancies to their postgraduate students and postgraduates will undergo teacher training. Students on scholarships/studentships who are asked to teach will be paid.

But it’s important that postgraduates who teach do not become complacent. It wasn’t until 2000 that postgraduates employed by British universities became eligible for full membership of the University and College Union (UCU). So the fight for decent pay and working conditions must go on.