Why YES to Industrial Strike Action for Universities?

Followers of my blog will understand that my academic career so far has been nothing but headache, hard slog and exploitation. From getting into legal disputes as university members attempted to publish my research to calming Job Seekers Allowance for 3 years without employment, to being employed for 2 years on a zero-hour contract, my career in higher education has not been glamorous but gruelling.

The institutions lecturers and teaching staff are striking against are the same institutions that marketed, sold and awarded us our qualifications. My undergraduate degree came with a certain amount of student debt, and so did my masters and PhD. Yet my senior staff members an universities have told me that “PhDs don’t necessarily mean anything” when it comes to job interviews and career progression at the institutions that sell PhD qualifications to people like myself.

I am 47 and employed on a part-time contract. I am trying my best to find full-time employment but struggling. The reasons why I cannot progress in my career are unclear but my earning potentials seem limited to £18.5K p/a. To achieve that level of income I have had to take 10 years out of work to study for a PhD and then incur students debts such as course fees, books and accommodation. Nevertheless, this is a step up from the £3-8K p/a that I was earning with zero-hour contracts which universities had me employed on for 2 years.

At current university the former Vice Chancellor awarded herself an £800,000 pay-out in her final working year. At the university close to mine, the Vice Chancellor earned £468,000 p/a and awarded herself a £600,000 in her final year. It is painfully clear to university staff in our local area where the money has been going, and how any financial income accumulated in higher education has been unequally distributed.

How is an income of £3-8K comparable to £800,000K?

Plus these gross incomes were paid out to senior management just prior to coronavirus lockdown when universities complained of huge drops incomes. It was then the responsibility of the teachers, admin and lectuering staff to “pull together” to save these sinking ships – how that money could have come in handy for a rainy day?

More importantly, the standard of education at local universities has plummeted. Lectures being delivered online rather than face-to-face and new management structures mean that the unknowldeable people are employing the wrong people to teach and lecture students on a low-cost, “need to know” basis. Teaching has become about service-provision. Topical slideshows are prepared by unqualified staff with no research experience to entertain and appease students; departments are no longer driven in the pursuit of high quality knowledge but exist as systems for the system’s sake. When the people with the knowledge and skills are no longer valuable to autonomous systems, standards of education and students are suffering from a lack of knowledge inputs. This needs addressing.

We must unite and fight the effects of neoliberalism in higher education.

Please post and comments and thoughts on this in the comments below. If you are working in higher education and feel isolated and bullied by senior staff then I highly recommend joining a union such as UCU.

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Online phantom

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