BBC News has just noticed that many people working in our universities are on precarious contracts at several universities, as well as doing other low paid work for which they are massively over-qualified.  Hardly a shocker for anyone working in the sector, but it’s presumably come to light because of the UCU strike, which has gone into its second stage this week. It reminded me of my July 2017 post on One job at a time? when I calculated that in one week in 2017, I was combining 7 jobs, and that didn’t even include my own research – the sort of thing that in theory ought to lead to the chance of a permanent position but for which, of course, I don’t get paid at all.   And I’m in no better position now than I was then.  I have been lucky in the last few months, going from some teaching cover at Liverpool Hope to some more at Edge Hill.  But when this runs out, who knows? The one thing that you can confidently say about covering for someone’s research leave is that it will finish – it doesn’t translate into permanent work.  The only thing that I know will carry on is a single hour of private GCSE tutoring per week.  It would hardly pay the bills, so it’s hardly good for my mental health.

My twitter feed is made up mainly of other academics and university support staff, many of whom are stiking over significant, detrimental changes to their pensions.  The strike hasn’t really had an impact on my work because my teaching is mainly at post-’92 universities.  But my twitter feed has become a very depressing place to be. Not because I disapprove, you understand. My colleagues’ complaints are justified and I wholly support them.

No. It’s because day by day, it shows me the effect of the marketisation of education combined with the undermining and devaluing of the profession that I wanted to be part of.  I don’t think my students are my customers, despite what they’re paying for their degrees.  And I don’t know a single person working in the university system that doesn’t work massively over and above the hours for which they’re contracted (and the same goes for teachers in schools, too).   I’d have second thoughts, but I don’t seem to be having any better luck getting any jobs elsewhere.  It’s looking horribly as if I’m going to be looking for that one job for a long time yet to come.  But at the moment, it’s difficult to look forward to it.