Edinburgh University under fire for post without summer pay

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Academics from across Scotland have joined together to protest at attempts by a university to recruit a lecturer on a contract that does not pay them over the summer break.

Academics from across Scotland have joined together to protest at attempts by a university to recruit a lecturer on a contract that does not pay them over the summer break.

Edinburgh University. Picture: Ian Georgeson.

Edinburgh University. Picture: Ian Georgeson.

The post, in the English literature department at the University of Edinburgh, was advertised as being “pay suspended” over the summer months of July and August due to it being a teaching-only – rather than research – post.

The letter to the university’s human resources department, put together by a group of academics, said: “Anyone who has had any kind of teaching-only position in higher education knows that they are always expected to work over the summer. This can include designing and collating module handbooks, teaching preparation, course organisation – all of this is on top of the research that one needs to do in order to get a permanent academic position, research which is often expected by one’s employer, even when one is in a teaching-only position in a research-led department.

“We would be very surprised if the person appointed to this position was not expected to do some or all of this over the summer – work for which they would not be paid.”

The letter added: “Additionally, we would remind you that living expenses in Edinburgh increase significantly in the summer, during the very months that you are proposing to suspend pay.”

The union that represents university academics accused the institution of “penny pinching” and called on it to remove the advert, saying it would write to the university asking it to review its position on ten-month contracts.

The post, with a salary of £33,199 to £39,609 per annum, pro rata, was to cover a temporary absence in the department from September until December 2020.

It said the “pro-active” candidate would need to teach pre-honours and honours courses and requires experience teaching literature from the early modern period through to the 18th century. They would also have to supervise undergraduate dissertations “across a range of topics”.

The university later changed the wording of the ad from “suspended pay” to “for the months of July and August working hours will be zero”, but critics said the wording made no difference.

University and College Union Scotland official Mary Senior said: “Looking to penny pinch by refusing to pay staff properly sends a terrible message and displays a disregard for what the job entails and the work staff would engage in over the summer.”

A spokesman for the University of Edinburgh said: “We value the work of our teaching fellows. The job advert in question contained an error, which has since been corrected.”