Bristol Uni teaching staff on hourly contracts ‘can’t afford much else but groceries’

‘Students deserve to be taught by tutors who aren’t worrying about their bills’

University of Bristol teaching staff scraping by on hourly contracts have told The Tab they can’t provide students with adequate teaching due to economic anxiety.

Amidst 18 days of UCU strike action this term, teaching staff spoke to The Bristol Tab about the struggle of being employed on an hourly-paid Teaching Support Role contract (TSR), saying “many of us work at around (and indeed, under) minimum wage”.

Having already conducted a series of strikes this past November, pressure is mounting on universities across the country from both disgruntled students and staff members to address the issues surrounding pensions and pay.

Amy*, a teacher in the Faculty of Arts, gets paid for 21 marking hours which is supposed to cover three assignments and two seminar groups, which she describes as “ridiculous” if students want “thoughtful feedback”.

Rebecca*, also in the Faculty of Arts and employed under a TSR contract, has said that because of the “unimaginable workload” the quality of teaching students receive has not been “to the standard we would wish”.

The insecure nature of these contracts which get reviewed on either a termly or yearly basis has meant that many “don’t qualify for mortgages and are considered risky by landlords”, in the words of a tutor in the Faculty of Arts.

Although in response to last November’s strikes, the university increased the paid hours of those under TSR contracts, this has been criticised as “Giving breadcrumbs” when teachers “Can’t afford much else apart from groceries.”

Bristol University’s website claims that they argued for a larger pay increment this year. Still, it was refused as unaffordable by the other member institutions of the University & Colleges Employers Association.

The University has been criticized for relying on TSRs as “Cheap labour” despite claiming to be “Reducing casualisation in our workforce.”

A University of Bristol spokesperson said: “We continue to review the balance of fixed-term and hourly paid contracts across the University, resulting in more secure employment opportunities for more colleagues. Since 2019 we have prioritised reducing our reliance on hourly-paid teaching staff (Teaching Support Roles), reducing our overall number by a third in that time. We continue to identify where fixed-term and permanent roles should be created for sustainable teaching delivery and management of workloads.”

However, in data obtained by The Tab, the number of academic staff employed on these contracts stood at 694 in the 2020/21 academic year and increased to 707 the following year, with figures standing at 694 for the ongoing year with a shorter date range.

*Names have been changed for anonymity.

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