Open Letter to Students from Casualised Academics at UAL

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.[1] 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).[2] 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.[3] 

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.[4] We do not generally know how many hours we will be offered from one year to the next.[5] 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’[6] – 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.[7] 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%.[8] These inequalities have wide-ranging effects, and must be seen in connection with the unacceptable BAME attainment gap at UAL.[9] 

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.[10] 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.[11] 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.

Signed:

  1. Jennifer Warren, PhD Candidate at CSM and Visiting Practitioner at LCF
  2. Beth Bramich, Associate Lecturer at CSM and Admin at Afterall
  3. David Morris, Pathway Leader, MRes Art: Exhibition Studies at CSM
  4. Annie Goh, Lecturer CSM Art Programme & Associate Lecturer at LCC
  5. Murad Khan, Visiting Practitioner MRes Art: Theory and Philosophy
  6. Rahul Patel, Associate Lecturer at CSM and Teaching Learning and Employability Exchange UAL
  7. Charlotte Grace, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM
  8. Verity-Jane Keefe, Associate Lecturer (MArch, Spatial Practices) and Visiting Practitioner (Fine Art) at CSM
  9. Dr. Julia King, Associate Lecturer, MArch, Spatial Practices, CSM
  10. Tom Dyckhoff, Associate Lecturer, MArch, Spatial Practices, CSM
  11. Carlotta Novella, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM
  12. Georgina Day, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM
  13. Tessa Baird, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM
  14. Mikel Azcona, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM
  15. Laida Juanikorena, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM
  16. Sakiko Kohashi, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM
  17. Dejan Mrdja, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM
  18. Albane Duvillier, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM
  19. Naomi Gibson, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM
  20. Andrew Belfield, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM
  21. Douglas Murphy, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM
  22. Eleni Axioti, Associate Lecturer, BA Arch, Spatial Practices, CSM, and Preparation for Media, Design and Screen
  23. Joyce Cronin, Short course tutor 
  24. Margherita Huntley, Associate Lecturer, BA Graphic Design, Camberwell College of Arts
  25. Eva Weinmayr, Associate Lecturer, CSM Fine Art
  26. Mariam Atieh, Associate Lecturer, Fashion Cultures and Histories/Fashion Photography, London College of Fashion
  27. Andrew Brash, Associate Lecturer, CSM & Camberwell
  28. Teleica Kirkland, Associate Lecturer, Fashion Cultures and Histories, LCF
  29. Olya Troitskaya, Associate Lecturer, BA Graphic Design, Camberwell College of Arts
  30. Erik Hartin, Associate Lecturer, BA Design for Art Direction, LCC
  31. Adrian Sledmere, Associate Lecturer, BA Advertising, LCC
  32. Max Colson, Associate Lecturer and Academic Support Lecturer, CSM
  33. Anne McCloy, Associate Lecturer, BA Fashion CSM; Fractional Lecturer BA Womenswear LCF
  34. Claire M. Holdsworth, Associate Lecturer, MRes Art: Moving Image, CSM and BA Animation, LCC
  35. Zadoc Nava, Associate Lecturer, MA Documentary Film
  36. Louis Hartnoll, Associate Lecturer, MRes Art: Exhibition Studies
  37. Jeremy Hutchison, Associate Lecturer, BA Design for Art Direction, LCC
  38. Matthias Kispert, Associate Lecturer, BA Sound Art and Design, LCC
  39. Elisa Adami, Associate Lecturer, MRes Art: Theory and Philosophy, CSM
  40. Alex Fletcher, Associate Lecturer, MRes Art: Theory and Philosophy, CSM
  41. Gracia Ramirez, Associate Lecturer, BA Media Communications, BA Contemporary Media Culture, LCC
  42. Toni Hollowood, Associate Lecturer, BA and MA Design for Art Direction, LCC
  43. Jennifer Martin, Associate Lecturer, BA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography,
  44. Sean McKeown, LCC Media Communications 
  45. Tereza Pavlickova, Associate Lecturer, LCC BA Media Communications 
  46. Andrés Saenz de Sicilia, Associate Lecturer, MRes Art: Theory & Philosophy
  47. Jennifer Williams-Baffoe, Short Course Lecturer, CSM
  48. Nora Heidorn, Associate Lecturer, Culture and Enterprise, CSM
  49. Ellen Mara De Wachter, Associate Lecturer, BA Culture, Curation and Criticism, CSM
  50. Emma Lacey, BA Ceramic Design, CSM
  51. Jane Penty, in support of AL and VP colleagues 
  52. George Mellor, Associate Lecturer, BA Illustration, Camberwell College of Arts
  53. Ben Bethell, Associate Lecturer, BA and MA Culture, Criticism and Curation, CSM
  54. Barbara Plotz, Associate Lecturer, BA Contemporary Media Cultures, LCC
  55. Adjoa Armah – Associate Lecturer CSM and Visiting Practitioner at Afterall
  56. Louise Garrett, Associate Lecturer, BA and MA Culture, Criticism and Curation, CSM
  57. John Miers, Associate Lecturer, BA and MA Culture, Criticism and Curation, Academic Support, CSM
  58. Anna Fitzpatrick, Associate Lecturer, Fashion Cultures and Histories, LCF
  59. Helena Vilalta, co-Pathway Leader, MRes Art: Exhibition Studies, CSM
  60. Gemma Copeland, Associate Lecturer, BA Graphic Communication Design, CSM
  61. Katelyn Toth-Fejel, Associate Lecturer, School of Design and Technology, LCF
  62. Katherine Pogson, Associate Lecturer, Fashion Cultures and Histories, LCF
  63. Hannah Ellis, Acting Year 3 Leader, BA Graphic Design, Camberwell, and Associate Lecturer, MA Graphic Communication Design, CSM
  64. Erica Scourti, Associate Lecturer, MRes Art, CSM
  65. Irene Montero, Short Course lecturer, CSM 
  66. Gabrielle Miller, Associate Lecturer, School of Design and Technology and Fashion Business School, LCF 
  67. Lee Weinberg, Tutor MA CCC, CSM
  68. Jo Pickering, Associate lecturer, Cultural and Historical Studies, LCF
  69. Lewis Bush, in support of AL and VP colleagues 
  70. Helena Goldwater, Pathway Leader 4D+, BAFA, CSM. In support of AL and VP colleagues
  71. Kyran Joughin, Associate Lecturer, PDT, FA, Wimbledon College of Arts
  72. Denise Kwan, Lecturer/sculpture-theory, Camberwell-Wimbledon
  73. Joanne McVey, English Language Development AL, Language Centre, UAL
  74. Ami Clarke, Associate Lecturer, MA Fine Art, CSM
  75. Paul Tarrago, Associate lecturer, Wimbledon College of Art
  76. John Bently, AL, BA illustration/foundation, Camberwell
  77. Helen Robertson, Associate Lecturer in Fine Art CSM and Camberwell College of Arts
  78. Jack Clarke, Associate Lecturer, BA Design Courses, Camberwell & CSM; MA Design for Art Direction, LCC
  79. Luke Parry, 2nd Year Painting, Camberwell
  80. Zarina Muhammad & Gabrielle de la Puente, Central St Martins
  81. Rachel Pimm, Associate Lecturer, BA Sculpture, Painting, Drawing and Photography, Camberwell
  82. Rosalind Wilson, Associate Lecturer / Illustration / CCW
  83. Daniel Sinsel, AL, BA Painting, Camberwell
  84. Isabel Greenberg, Associate Lecturer, Illustration, Camberwell College Of Arts
  85. Herb Shellenberger, Associate Lecturer, BA Performance Design and Practice, CSM
  86. Jhinuk Sarkar, Associate Lecturer for the Teaching Learning Exchange and Visiting Practitioner for Academic Study Support, UAL-wide
  87. Mary Kuper AL, BA Illustration, Camberwell College of Arts
  88. Jonny Briggs, Associate Lecturer, BA and MA Photography, LCC
  89. Dr. Jenna Rossi-Camus, Associate Lecturer / Cultural and Historical Studies /LCF & Chelsea
  90. Helen Charman, Associate Lecturer, Camberwell College of Arts
  91. Krasimira Butseva, Associate lecturer, Photography, LCC
  92. Owen Parry, AL Fine Art, CSM
  93. Anahita Razmi, Associate Lecturer, BA Fine Art, CSM
  94. Shireen Pervaiz, Language Development Tutor
  95. Suky Best, Associate Lecturer, MA Contemporary Photography Philosophies and Practices

[1]https://www.arts.ac.uk/students/stories/ucu-industrial-action-frequently-asked-questions-for-students

[2]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

[3]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

[4]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.

[5]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.
Source: https://artslondon.sharepoint.com/sites/CanvasContent/Documents/HPL-Security-of-Employment-Agreement-(2016).pdf

[6]“Second class academic citizens: The dehumanising effects of casualisation in higher education.” Jan 2020. Source:
https://www.ucu.org.uk/media/10681/second_class_academic_citizens/pdf/secondclassacademiccitizens

[7]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

[8]“Second class academic citizens.” As above.
https://www.ucu.org.uk/media/10681/second_class_academic_citizens/pdf/secondclassacademiccitizens

[9]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

[10]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.

[11]https://www.nus.org.uk/en/news/press-releases/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-ucu-strike/
https://www.arts-su.com/artssu-supports-ucu

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