A recent piece of national research by the University and College Union (UCU) found that lecturers working under temporary contracts may earn as little as £9 per hour, in real terms.
They found that over three-quarters (78%) of casual higher-education staff regularly work longer than their contracted hours. Part-time teaching staff do, on average, 45% of their work unpaid.
For a part-time lecturer, the median pay for a 10-hour contract is £187. However, the research says their weekly hours worked could be double that, meaning their 'real' hourly rate is £ 9.35. For comparison, the online food delivery company Deliveroo says, on average, their riders make £10 an hour.
In response to the claims, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), which represents universities across the UK, says "the number of atypical (casual) staff has fallen by 16.1% since 2011–12".
The independent Higher Education Policy Institute Think Tank has found that, nationally, nearly 69,000 academic staff are employed on atypical contracts in universities. Almost a quarter (23%) of those staff are on zero-hour contracts.
An investigation by the Newcastle Chronicle found that, in North East universities, it has become "standard practice" for staff to prepare teaching materials outside of their paid work. Many academics' contracts last for nine or ten months of an academic year. One lecturer told the paper that temporary contracts have "became my permanent career, there was nothing temporary about it".
In the UCU's research, 71% of academics say their working conditions have damaged their mental health. A growing number of lectures also say they have high-stress levels and poor mental well being. 97% of respondents on a fixed-term contract said they would rather be on a permanent one, and teaching unions have cited this as one of the reasons why eight days of strike action will take place from Monday 25 November to Wednesday 4 December this year.