To add your name to the open letter, please do so here.
We are casualised academic staff at UAL writing in response to the recent email from the senior management team which addresses the upcoming UCU strikes. As academic staff on temporary, fixed term and hourly paid contracts, we feel compelled to respond to this statement which fails to acknowledge the extent of casualisation at UAL. This runs to the heart of issues at the University which have pushed many of us to take strike action.
UAL and Academic Casualisation
Casualisation refers to an institutional dependency on temporary, fixed-term or hourly paid teaching staff to carry out the majority of front-line teaching. At UAL, this means a reliance on more than 2,500 hourly-paid Associate Lecturers (AL) and Visiting Practitioners (VP). Some of us have been kept on these contracts for years, even decades, with no prospect of promotion, no funding for research, few professional development opportunities and often offered fewer hours each year.
A 2019 UCU survey reveals the harsh reality of life on these contracts. It reported that staff on average at universities do 45% of their work unpaid, that 61% of academic staff on casualised contracts struggled to make ends meet, and that 40% experienced problems paying bills. This takes a toll on our wellbeing: 71% of casualised staff reported that their working conditions had damaged their mental health. Universities can’t claim casual contracts to be a lifestyle choice either: 97% of respondents on a fixed-term contract said that they would rather be on a permanent contract.
UAL’s Response to the UCU Strikes
UAL’s response to the UCU strikes states that the university is committed to addressing the four key issues that have pushed staff at 74 UK universities into strike action, acknowledging that HPLs make an “important contribution” to UAL and claiming that we are “highly valued”.
Unfortunately, we often don’t feel valued by the University. Hourly-paid contracts mean that working hours are frequently offered or arranged with us without much notice. We do not generally know how many hours we will be offered from one year to the next. We are also distanced from our departments, unable to attend training or meetings or participate in the decision-making processes that affect us. Many of us don’t have the same opportunities as our colleagues, and with the introduction of the ‘Academic Career Pathways’, are locked out of career trajectories towards research and job security. The university keeps us as ‘second-class academic citizens’ – the casualised, underpaid and insecure workforce who keep the university going on a day-to-day basis.
Furthermore, despite casualisation being one of the four issues of the UCU Four Fights dispute, the university is making it difficult for many of us to participate in strike action. The decision taken by university management to deduct the maximum possible amount from striking hourly paid lecturers is a harsh measure, considering that we are the most financially precarious of academic staff members. We have also been under pressure to notify the university in advance if participating in the strike – something we are not legally obliged to do. This seems designed to dissuade us from joining our colleagues on strike, as many of us worry about getting our next UAL contract.
Casualisation and the Ethnicity Pay Gap
We are not satisfied with the response given by UAL on the issue of the “ethnicity” pay gap which they admitted “remains an issue.” As was pointed out by the UAL So White campaign, the university has low numbers of black and minority ethnic (BAME) academic staff, particularly in more senior roles (Grade 7 and above). A further recent UCU report demonstrates how casualisation at a national level exacerbates existing inequalities: 28% of white male academics are on fixed-term contracts, whereas the figure for Asian female academics is 45%. These inequalities have wide-ranging effects, and must be seen in connection with the unacceptable BAME attainment gap at UAL.
We welcome the attention that the university paid to this issue in recent years, including the creation of new roles through the Academic Development Fund. However, it is ironic that these roles are being upheld in this statement as a contribution to reducing staff workloads, when a closer look at job descriptions makes evident they reproduce the very issues that have pushed us to strike action.
Many of these roles are fractional – at LCF 9 of 19 new roles are part-time – and the demands are extremely high for their pay grade. This becomes all the more troubling when these roles are targeted specifically at BAME candidates. This reflects a wider situation of systematic underpayment and under-recognition of non-white and migrant staff at UAL, also demonstrated in UAL’s continued unwillingness to follow the example of other universities by in-housing outsourced staff. No action has been taken to bring the cleaners and security staff in house, for example, despite years of campaigning and ever-worsening conditions.
Casualisation and Its Impact on Students
The recent UAL email emphasises the impact this strike will have on you, our students. We recognise that this action will be disruptive – it is a last resort for us. However, this action is a response to the University’s use of employment practices that negatively impact your learning every day.
This is the reason that the Students’ Union are supporting the strike. We know that students often complain about the lack of cohesion within their courses. This is not surprising when so many of staff members are unable to be active parts of our departments, largely due to the systematic use of casual contracts. Many students don’t feel that their courses are well-organised, which reflects the disjointed nature of course teams run on fractional and casual staff. Casualisation has very real impacts on students’ learning: Our working conditions are your learning conditions.
Hourly-paid and casual contracts ultimately mean departments don’t work cohesively, staff members are stressed and overworked, and we don’t have the time we would like to build relationships with you. We want to be able to do our jobs well, and have stability and security. This can only benefit you, so we are asking you to support our strike and be part of pushing for change at UAL.
To add your name to the open letter, please do so here.
- Jennifer Warren, PhD Candidate at CSM and Visiting Practitioner at LCF
- Beth Bramich, Associate Lecturer at CSM and Admin at Afterall
- David Morris, Pathway Leader, MRes Art: Exhibition Studies at CSM
- Annie Goh, Lecturer CSM Art Programme & Associate Lecturer at LCC
- Murad Khan, Visiting Practitioner MRes Art: Theory and Philosophy
- Rahul Patel, Associate Lecturer at CSM and Teaching Learning and Employability Exchange UAL
- Charlotte Grace, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM
- Verity-Jane Keefe, Associate Lecturer (MArch, Spatial Practices) and Visiting Practitioner (Fine Art) at CSM
- Dr. Julia King, Associate Lecturer, MArch, Spatial Practices, CSM
- Tom Dyckhoff, Associate Lecturer, MArch, Spatial Practices, CSM
- Carlotta Novella, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM
- Georgina Day, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM
- Tessa Baird, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM
- Mikel Azcona, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM
- Laida Juanikorena, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM
- Sakiko Kohashi, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM
- Dejan Mrdja, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM
- Albane Duvillier, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM
- Naomi Gibson, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM
- Andrew Belfield, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM
- Douglas Murphy, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM
- Eleni Axioti, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM, and Preparation for Media, Design and Screen
- Joyce Cronin, Short course tutor
- Margherita Huntley, Associate Lecturer, BA Graphic Design, Camberwell College of Arts
- Eva Weinmayr, Associate Lecturer, CSM Fine Art
- Mariam Atieh, Associate Lecturer, Fashion Cultures and Histories/Fashion Photography, London College of Fashion
- Andrew Brash, Associate Lecturer, CSM & Camberwell
- Teleica Kirkland, Associate Lecturer, Fashion Cultures and Histories, LCF
- Olya Troitskaya, Associate Lecturer, BA Graphic Design, Camberwell College of Arts
- Erik Hartin, Associate Lecturer, BA Design for Art Direction, LCC
- Adrian Sledmere, Associate Lecturer, BA Advertising, LCC
- Max Colson, Associate Lecturer and Academic Support Lecturer, CSM
- Anne McCloy, Associate Lecturer, BA Fashion CSM; Fractional Lecturer BA Womenswear LCF
- Claire M. Holdsworth, Associate Lecturer, MRes Art: Moving Image, CSM and BA Animation, LCC
- Zadoc Nava, Associate Lecturer, MA Documentary Film
- Louis Hartnoll, Associate Lecturer, MRes Art: Exhibition Studies
- Jeremy Hutchison, Associate Lecturer, BA Design for Art Direction, LCC
- Matthias Kispert, Associate Lecturer, BA Sound Art and Design, LCC
- Elisa Adami, Associate Lecturer, MRes Art: Theory and Philosophy, CSM
- Alex Fletcher, Associate Lecturer, MRes Art: Theory and Philosophy, CSM
- Gracia Ramirez, Associate Lecturer, BA Media Communications, BA Contemporary Media Culture, LCC
- Toni Hollowood, Associate Lecturer, BA and MA Design for Art Direction, LCC
- Jennifer Martin, Associate Lecturer, BA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography,
- Sean McKeown, LCC Media Communications
- Tereza Pavlickova, Associate Lecturer, LCC BA Media Communications
- Andrés Saenz de Sicilia, Associate Lecturer, MRes Art: Theory & Philosophy
- Jennifer Williams-Baffoe, Short Course Lecturer, CSM
- Nora Heidorn, Associate Lecturer, Culture and Enterprise, CSM
- Ellen Mara De Wachter, Associate Lecturer, BA Culture, Curation and Criticism, CSM
- Emma Lacey, BA Ceramic Design, CSM
- Jane Penty, in support of AL and VP colleagues
- George Mellor, Associate Lecturer, BA Illustration, Camberwell College of Arts
- Ben Bethell, Associate Lecturer, BA and MA Culture, Criticism and Curation, CSM
- Barbara Plotz, Associate Lecturer, BA Contemporary Media Cultures, LCC
- Adjoa Armah – Associate Lecturer CSM and Visiting Practitioner at Afterall
- Louise Garrett, Associate Lecturer, BA and MA Culture, Criticism and Curation, CSM
- John Miers, Associate Lecturer, BA and MA Culture, Criticism and Curation, Academic Support, CSM
- Anna Fitzpatrick, Associate Lecturer, Fashion Cultures and Histories, LCF
- Helena Vilalta, co-Pathway Leader, MRes Art: Exhibition Studies, CSM
- Gemma Copeland, Associate Lecturer, BA Graphic Communication Design, CSM
- Katelyn Toth-Fejel, Associate Lecturer, School of Design and Technology, LCF
- Katherine Pogson, Associate Lecturer, Fashion Cultures and Histories, LCF
- Hannah Ellis, Acting Year 3 Leader, BA Graphic Design, Camberwell, and Associate Lecturer, MA Graphic Communication Design, CSM
- Erica Scourti, Associate Lecturer, MRes Art, CSM
- Irene Montero, Short Course lecturer, CSM
- Gabrielle Miller, Associate Lecturer, School of Design and Technology and Fashion Business School, LCF
- Lee Weinberg, Tutor MA CCC, CSM
- Jo Pickering, Associate lecturer, Cultural and Historical Studies, LCF
- Lewis Bush, in support of AL and VP colleagues
- Helena Goldwater, Pathway Leader 4D+, BAFA, CSM. In support of AL and VP colleagues
- Kyran Joughin, Associate Lecturer, PDT, FA, Wimbledon College of Arts
- Denise Kwan, Lecturer/sculpture-theory, Camberwell-Wimbledon
- Joanne McVey, English Language Development AL, Language Centre, UAL
- Ami Clarke, Associate Lecturer, MA Fine Art, CSM
- Paul Tarrago, Associate lecturer, Wimbledon College of Art
- John Bently, AL, BA illustration/foundation, Camberwell
- Helen Robertson, Associate Lecturer in Fine Art CSM and Camberwell College of Arts
- Jack Clarke, Associate Lecturer, BA Design Courses, Camberwell & CSM; MA Design for Art Direction, LCC
- Luke Parry, 2nd Year Painting, Camberwell
- Zarina Muhammad & Gabrielle de la Puente, Central St Martins
- Rachel Pimm, Associate Lecturer, BA Sculpture, Painting, Drawing and Photography, Camberwell
- Rosalind Wilson, Associate Lecturer / Illustration / CCW
- Daniel Sinsel, AL, BA Painting, Camberwell
- Isabel Greenberg, Associate Lecturer, Illustration, Camberwell College Of Arts
- Herb Shellenberger, Associate Lecturer, BA Performance Design and Practice, CSM
- Jhinuk Sarkar, Associate Lecturer for the Teaching Learning Exchange and Visiting Practitioner for Academic Study Support, UAL-wide
- Mary Kuper AL, BA Illustration, Camberwell College of Arts
- Jonny Briggs, Associate Lecturer, BA and MA Photography, LCC
- Dr. Jenna Rossi-Camus, Associate Lecturer / Cultural and Historical Studies /LCF & Chelsea
- Helen Charman, Associate Lecturer, Camberwell College of Arts
- Krasimira Butseva, Associate lecturer, Photography, LCC
- Owen Parry, AL Fine Art, CSM
- Anahita Razmi, Associate Lecturer, BA Fine Art, CSM
- Shireen Pervaiz, Language Development Tutor
- Suky Best, Associate Lecturer, MA Contemporary Photography Philosophies and Practices
UAL’s Annual Report and Financial Statement 2019 lists 2,584 Associate Lecturers. Source: https://www.arts.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0024/193155/UAL-_FS_2019.pdf
Counting the costs of casualisation in higher education. Key findings of a survey conducted by the University and College Union, June 2019. Source: https://www.ucu.org.uk/media/10336/Counting-the-costs-of-casualisation-in-higher-education-Jun-19/pdf/ucu_casualisation_in_HE_survey_report_Jun19.pdf
Although UAL has a “no zero hours policy” and has committed to this at an institutional level, there are still practices ongoing which undermine this – for example, anecdotal evidence indicates that a HPL can be asked to work with a week’s or even less notice and if they are unable to, their hours are often offered to somebody else. As no guidelines for good practice of issuing contracts to HPLs exist, much is left up to the individual course leader’s discretion.
The Security of Employment Agreement between UAL and UCU (last revised in 2016) stipulates that if an AL (Associate Lecturer) or VP (Visiting Practitioner) has had continuous employment with the university for at least two years, and employment has included at least 90 core hours of work, the AL/VP will usually be entitled for the year ahead to a minimum of 80% of the core hours worked in the previous year. An AL or VP will usually secure permanent status after four years of continuous service, unless there is an “objective justification” to be kept on a fixed term contract. However, as the previous footnote indicates, practices across colleges and course leaders according to anecdotal evidence indicate divergences.
“Second class academic citizens: The dehumanising effects of casualisation in higher education.” Jan 2020. Source:
The communication details an intended deduction of 1/260 of our yearly pay for each day of strike action – rather than 1/365 adopted by other institutions – this can mean the difference of hundreds of pounds. Deducting pay as soon as possible after a strike is also more harsh than many other universities. Source: https://artslondon.sharepoint.com/sites/CanvasContent/Documents/Internal%20Communications/Industrial%20Action/Impact%20of%20industrial%20action.pdf
“Second class academic citizens.” As above.
See Duna Sabri, ‘Students’ Experience of Identity and Attainment at UAL: Final year 4 report of a longitudinal study for the University of the Arts London’, December 2017. Source: http://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/14370/1/year%204%20report%20-%20%20final.pdf
Staff members for these advertised roles are expected to be involved in curriculum development, have responsibility for a year group, pastoral support, attainment, be a mental health first aider and teach. They are expected to hold PhDs, teaching qualifications and evidence of research and professional practice, all whilst being paid on the lowest grade for academic staff.