University lecturers on the breadline: is the UK following in America’s footsteps?

Nov 17, 2015 by

Recently Noura Wedell found herself contemplating something she never thought possible. Should she, a lecturer and researcher with almost two decades’ experience, walk away from a profession she loves because it doesn’t pay enough to live on or offer any long-term security?

Wedell, one of the rapidly expanding army of academics across the US struggling to survive on insecure low-paid contracts, where qualified professionals can earn as little as $15,000 (about £9,800) a year, says the situation is becoming untenable.

“The thing is the real economic hardship of this,” says Wedell, who lectures at the University of Southern California Roski School of Art and Design. Her annual wages from non-permanent contracts in the past few years have oscillated between $21,000 and $24,000 depending on how many classes she’s been given to teach. “Scrabbling around” for non-academic work to supplement her income has been essential. “I have to sublet my apartment during the summer and live with my mother – at 43. I have put off having a family because of this. The situation is obscene.”

Wedell says the financial and psychological strain has got to many, as the US higher education (HE) jobs market has shifted from full-time, tenured posts towards insecure contracted work. “I go to school via an underpass which is a homeless encampment. The real, present fear is that this is awaiting me. I know I have a support system … but that reality is close. Everyone is scared.”

Once upon a time a career in HE in the US was a bonafide route into a secure, middle-class job. Now, though, not only is the proportion of staff on insecure contracts at an all-time high, it is commonplace for “adjunct” or “contingent” faculty (typically part-timers or casual contracted staff, who often don’t know if they’ll be hired from one semester to the next) to be in or on the cusp of poverty.

Source: University lecturers on the breadline: is the UK following in America’s footsteps? | Education | The Guardian

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.