Warwick University has set up a company, Teach Higher, which until the University backtracked, was going to be a means to outsource hourly paid academic staff. The University now say Teach Higher will not be a subsidary, but a department within the university. Staff will be directly employed on current terms and conditions.
It is good the University have backtracked but no one can be complacent. At the very least a Teach High “department” will be a way of streaming casualisation throughout the University — employment more hourly-paid academic staff.
Ultimately Teach Higher could become something like Uni Temps, which mainly employed, catering, cleaning and security staff at universities across the country. We don’t know why Warwick decided to set up a separate company for outsourced academic staff, except that they possibly felt the need for ‘re-branding’ because it slightly more difficult to impose hyper-casualised positions on a previously more prestigious type of work such as academia.)
This academic year hourly paid academics will be recruited via Teach Higher only in order to carry out exam invigilation. They plan to pilot it with all other academic work (e.g. teaching) from October 2015 onwards.
Academia is turning into a two tier system — with low paid casualised staff (who increasingly do the bulk of departmental teaching) separated out from permanent staff.
For a couple of years now, casualised academic staff in Higher Education have been beginning to organise at a grassroots level — no longer willing to put up with working excessively long hours for what works out at less than the minimum wage, when universities increasingly rely on us to provide the majority of their teaching.
In February 2015 a national FACE conference (Fighting Against Casualisation in Education), attended by over 150 people, brought together casualised academics from across the UK to share their experiences of organising against this kind of exploitation. Perhaps Teach Higher should be seen as management’s response to such exciting new developments.
FACE are saying end casualised contracts and give fractional and fixed-term staff the same rights as permanent staff.