A tragedy in three acts: an update on the STP’s ‘advance hardship payment’ fiasco

Act 1:

As you may know, ten days ago it emerged that, due to the arbitrary cut-off dates set by Sessional Teaching Payroll (STP) to process claims and issue payments, tutors that began teaching in October would not receive any payment for their work until the 24th of November. In practice, this would have meant tutors would have been working for 7 or 8 weeks before being paid. This is because the STP stipulated that timesheets had to be submitted by the 6th of October in order for teachers to be paid by the 24th of October. The problem with this is that the 6th of October marked the start of term, meaning that many teachers had not even begun teaching at that point!

In response to this ludicrous state of affairs, the University College Union (UCU) complained to the STP team, pointing out the unfairness of this system. As a result of this lobbying and of the many complaints by angry tutors, the STP team initially agreed to allow teachers to apply for ‘Hardship Advance Payment’ (a ridiculous and insulting name, considering that our ‘hardship’ is being caused by the University’s unwillingness to pay us our wages on time) which would allow them to receive some of the money that they are owed before the 24th of November.

On the notice published on the STP website on Monday 23rd October, it was originally stated that “individuals can apply for an advance of 65% of the value of timesheet that were submitted on time and authorised by the department (or up to £100)”. All tutors concerned, and UCU alike, interpreted this as meaning that tutors would be allowed to claim 65% of the value of the hours submitted and authorised up to that point – or up to £100 in case the 65% amount was lower than that. Not ideal, but better than nothing, we thought!

Act 2

The story did not end there, however. The notice on the STP website was changed retroactively on Wednesday 25th of October (still stating the 23rd of October publication date, however – cheeky!). Without any transparency or any apparent rationale, the wording of the announcement was modified to state that the amount of money available to each teacher was to be capped at £100.

For many teachers, some of whom have families to support, this is a meagre sum of money to live on until the end of November. To make matters worse, the STP team has given teachers only one week to submit claims for Hardship Advance Payment, with a deadline of Monday 30th of October. In addition, the procedure to submit a payment claim has not been properly publicised. No email has been sent around to inform teachers of the coming delay in their remuneration, nor of the possibility of applying for this advance payment.

Act 3

UCU and the SU complained again to HR and the STP team, asking for the £100 cap to be lifted and for the 65% threshold for advance payment to be applied with no capping. After a lot of emails ignored, selective silences and follow-up phone calls, HR finally responded to UCU on Friday 27th of October, agreeing for the £100 cap to be lifted and stating that tutors would be able to claim up to 65% of timesheet value submitted and approved by their department up to and including the 15th of October. They also agreed to move the deadline to apply for the advance payments to Wednesday 1st of November at 5pm. Whilst it is positive that the £100 cap has been removed following pressure from UCU and the SU, the deadline of 15th October as cut-off point to calculate the advance is yet a new arbitrary requirement, that was never mentioned in any of the previous communications or notices. So what is the University playing at? It appears that every time that we raise our voices to complain, they shift the goalpost so as to avoid having to pay us what we are owed.

This story does not end here – take action now!

At the time of writing (Monday 30th of October), still no update has been published on the STP website about the new terms and conditions and deadlines to apply for these advance payments. UCU has communicated to its members about the updated guidance received from HR on Friday 27th, but still no information has been made available by the University to its workers. As always, hourly paid workers are left in a limbo where they are denied not only fundamental employment rights – such as the right to receive payments on time – but also the basic courtesy of receiving clear information and being treated in a transparent and dignified fashion. As Warwick Anti-Casualisation, we see this as yet another episode testifying to the contempt with which the University of Warwick treats its most vulnerable workers. The very fact that this measure has been named a “hardship advance” payment is insulting – as it implies that the University is doing us a courtesy by granting us some pocket money “in advance”, rather than acknowledging its failure in setting up a payment system which is fit for purpose and aligned with the timings of term time!

The advice we would like to give is that those who want to should apply for an advance payment equal to 65% of the hours worked and submitted so far, ignoring any arbitrary “cap”. If the administration decides to withhold or unfairly cap the pay that we are rightfully entitled to, shame on them – but let’s not do their dirty work for them!

For those interested, the payment claim form can be found hidden away in the Human Resources website next to a short (and still incorrect) explanation: https://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/humanresources/internal/payroll/stp/announcements/?newsItem=8a17841b5f2acca4015f48dc9a9a68ee

If you have submitted timesheets and these have not yet been approved by your department, write to anticasualisation@warwickucu.org.uk and the union will help you to chase this up.

We would also like to encourage all hourly-paid teachers to write to the STP office at the Human Resources department to complain about this outrageous mismanagement of our wages and disregard for our working conditions: stp@warwick.ac.uk.  If you are going to submit an advance payment claim, you can use the following template to express your disappointment, or just make up your own!

“Dear STP team,

My name is X and I am a STP tutor in X department.

Thank you for your response to concerns about income insecurity of STP tutors before November. However, calling this a “hardship advancement payment” is insulting. £100 is not adequate remuneration for the hours and effort I have spent on teaching in the past few weeks, and more importantly, the actual amount that I deserve. As a responsible employer, paying employees in a timely way is not a mercy you do, but your obligation.

Attached is my payment request form, please process the full amount of pay that I am entitled to as soon as possible. I am CC’ing the UCU and the SU in this email for their information.

I look forward to hearing from you.”

Feel free to CC your Students’ Union Postgraduate Officer (postgrads@warwicksu.com) and the UCU’s anti-casualisation representatives (anticasualisation@warwickucu.org.uk). In addition, we would also like to encourage you to join UCU if you have not already (it is free!): https://www.ucu.org.uk/join.

And of course, join us!  Like our Facebook page (‘Warwick Anti-Casualisation’) and help us fight against insecure working conditions, and come along to our next organising meeting. It’s only by keeping up the pressure that we will make progress!

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More STP problems: pay withheld from teachers at Warwick

This term has seen the implementation of the University’s new Sessional Teaching Payroll (STP) system, yet it is already off to a rocky start.

Hourly-paid teachers, who are the main point of contact for students, are being forced into financial difficulties by an unfair payment system. Teachers that began teaching in October will not receive any payment for their work until the 26th of November, meaning that they will have to work for 7 or 8 weeks before being paid. This is because the STP stipulated that timesheets had to be submitted by the 6th of October in order for teachers to be paid by the 26th of October. The problem with this is that the 6th of October marked the start of term, meaning that many teachers had not even begun teaching at that point!

In response to this, the University College Union (UCU) complained to the STP team, pointing out the unfairness of this system. As a result of this lobbying, the STP team agreed to allow teachers to apply for ‘Hardship Advance Payment’ (a ridiculous name, considering that our ‘hardship’ is being caused by the University’s unwilling to pay us our wages) which would allow them to receive some of the money that they are owed before the 26th of November. However, the amount of money available to each teacher was limited to just £100. For many teachers, some of whom have families to support, this is a meagre sum of money to live on until the end of November. To make matters worse, the STP team has given teachers only one week to submit claims for Hardship Advance Payment, with a deadline of Monday 30th of October. In addition, the procedure to submit a payment claim has not been properly publicised. No email has been sent around to inform teachers of the coming delay in their remuneration. For those interested, the payment claim form can be found hidden away in the Human Resources website next to a short explanation: https://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/humanresources/internal/payroll/stp/announcements/?newsItem=8a17841b5f2acca4015f48dc9a9a68ee

This particular issue with the rollout of STP is only one of many. From what we can gather, all hourly-paid teachers in the History department have yet to be issued contracts, a situation that puts them in a position of utmost arbitrariness with regard to their working conditions. In addition, there are huge problems with regard to the remuneration of marking hours in the English department, and there is a total lack of transparency in the advice and feedback hours for teachers in the Politics department.

We would like to encourage all hourly-paid teachers to write to the STP office at the Human Resources department to complain about this outrageous mismanagement of our wages and disregard for our working conditions: stp@warwick.ac.uk. Feel free to CC your Students’ Union Postgraduate Officer (postgrads@warwicksu.com) and the UCU’s anti-casualisation representatives (anticasualisation@warwickucu.org.uk). In addition, we would also like to encourage you to join UCU if you have not already (it is free!): https://www.ucu.org.uk/join. And of course, join us! Like our facebook page and help us fight against insecure working conditions.

Hourly-paid teaching at Warwick: a brief history

When teaching at a big, powerful university like Warwick, it’s easy to feel like your pay and conditions are set in stone, with no possibility of improvement. Yet, while it’s certainly difficult to affect change, there is reason to believe that significant advances can be made in how teachers are treated at this university. We thought that it might be useful to provide a brief overview of some of the struggles for better pay and conditions at Warwick in recent years.

In April 2015, the university announced the creation of a new hiring system for hourly-paid teachers, called TeachHigher, which was designed to replace the old Variable Monthly Staff (VAM) system. Under this scheme, teachers would be hired through a separate company owned by Warwick, and would be legally considered ‘workers’ rather than ‘employees’ of the university, thus stripping them of employment rights and securities.

This controversial ‘insourcing’ plan met fierce resistance, both on campus – from teachers, the SU, the University and College Union (UCU), Warwick for Free Education and the group Fighting Against Casualisation in Education (FACE) – and in the national press – with coverage from the Independent, Times Higher Education, and Vice. This pressure worked, and in early June 2015, the university announced their abandonment of TeachHigher.

In its place, the university began planning a new system to replace VAM, named the Sessional Teaching Payroll (STP). Determined not to get complacent, teachers and anti-casualisation activists began to build a campaign to make sure STP was not simply TeachHigher under a new banner. In March 2016, Warwick Anti-Casualisation (WAC) launched a campaign to get teachers to keep a teaching diary for the week, in order to track how many hours they spent on seminars, preparation, and advice and feedback. The results of the survey demonstrated that teachers in STP pilot departments were performing many unpaid hours of work.

Building on the data collected from the teaching diaries, WAC launched its 6 Demands petition in November 2016. This campaign demanded that hourly-paid teachers must 1) be made employees of the university; 2) be paid for every hour worked; 3) be paid at consistent and fair rates; 4) that there must be pay harmony across departments; 5) that compulsory teaching as a condition for scholarships must be abolished; and 6) that teachers must be paid for compulsory training.

This campaign gained a lot of exposure on campus, following a number of public events, and was given a further boost when the group Warwick for Free Education occupied a new conference centre on campus and included WAC’s 6 Demands amongst their own demands. The petition finally gained more than 1,100 signatures – from students, staff, and alumni – and was delivered to university management in December 2016.

The 6 Demands campaign listed its first success in January 2017: Vice Chancellor Stuart Croft agreed to meet with WAC representatives and discuss teaching conditions at Warwick. Croft agreed that hourly-paid teachers should have the right to be represented by UCU – a very important step for a highly casualised, non-unionised workforce. However, while the campaign resulted in significant improvements to the new STP framework, it is still a deeply problematic scheme, as detailed in this WAC post and this SU blogpost.

The recent history of the struggle for fairer teaching at Warwick has seen both successes and setbacks – but what is clear is that the current terms and conditions are not set in stone, and can be changed through collective campaigning.  

6 demands 5 months on: some victories achieved and the road ahead

It was only last December that Warwick Anti-Casualisation delivered our “6 Demands” petition, complete with more than 1,100 signatures, to University of Warwick management. In the five months since submitting our petition, there has been important progress. We met with Vice Chancellor Stuart Croft to discuss our demands; as a result of the petition, University and College Union (UCU) has begun working out a recognition agreement that will allow hourly-paid teachers to be represented by them; and we have worked hard with the SU and UCU to ensure that the voices of hourly-paid tutors were heard in the formulation of the new Sessional Teaching Payroll (STP) framework. Right now, the University of Warwick’s STP Steering Group is meeting to decide on the new Sessional Teaching Payroll framework, which will apply to all hourly-paid tutors at Warwick from the next academic year. So what has happened with our six demands?

While it is certain that the campaigns of the last five months have made a significant contribution to improving the position of sessional teachers at Warwick, we must not delude ourselves into thinking the battle is over – there is still a great deal of work to do, because most of our basic demands for fair teaching conditions remain unmet. And this is the current balance sheet of our 6 demands when compared to the new framework.

Demand 1: “Hourly-paid teachers must be made employees of the University. Currently, hourly-paid teachers hold the inferior legal status of ‘workers’ but not of ‘employees’. This deprives them, unjustifiably, of the standard employment rights enjoyed by salaried members of staff”.

Current status: There has been zero progress on this fundamental and basic demand. Even under the new STP framework, hourly-paid teachers will still be hired through so-called contracts for services. This deprives teachers of employment rights such as job security, payment for training, sick pay, pensions, maternity leave, and year-on-year pay progression.

Demand 2: “Hourly-paid teachers must be paid for every hour worked. Assigned time allowances do not reflect the reality of teaching. As a result, teachers have to work many unpaid hours”.

Current status: After the very vocal outcry regarding this issue, from casualised teachers, the Students’ Union, and UCU, there has been some welcome progress on this issue in the new STP framework. However, the results are mixed and vary across different faculties.

Arts and Social Sciences:
One additional hour of advice and feedback will be paid to hourly-paid teachers (two hours for every two seminar groups of less than 25, with double rates for larger groups).The pay rate for essay marking will be increased, to one hour of pay per 3000 words.

However, exam marking will not improve – under the proposed new STP framework, it will remain at one hour paid per six hours of script. Furthermore, this will not address the fact that teachers are not given additional payment for written exam feedback, which is required by some departments. Teachers will still be forced to complete this extra work in their own free time.

Laboratory and Mathematical Sciences:
There has been some progress in the Laboratory Sciences guaranteeing certain levels of preparation. However, in the Mathematical Sciences preparation time and marking rates remain completely at the discretion of these departments. While flexibility is required for varying lengths of assessments, the level of permissible variation leaves students with no guarantees that they will receive sufficient time allocated to do the necessary work. There has been no concerted effort within departments to ensure that marking rates are appropriate. Furthermore basic principles adopted for the Arts and Social Sciences have not been taken on board for the Mathematical Sciences. This clearly undermines the whole purpose of STP, which was to harmonise teaching practices across the university, which in turn threatens that teachers in some departments will get a worse deal than others.

Demand 3: “Hourly-paid teachers must be paid at consistent and fair rates. Some departments pay different rates for different tasks within the same job, despite them being interconnected and requiring the same skill level. To recognise the level of skill involved in the teaching delivered, we demand a pay rate of at least FA5 for all tasks”.

Current status: We have seen some important progress on this demand, as all tasks within specific jobs are now paid at the same rate. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement. Certain teaching roles in the Sciences will still be paid at FA4, despite requiring advanced, university level skills. We continue to argue that this is unacceptable.

Demand 4: “There must be pay harmony across departments. At the moment pay rates vary across departments; we demand equal pay for equal work across departments”.

Current status: Unfortunately, pay harmony across departments still does not exist. Some roles in the sciences will still be paid at FA4 rather than FA5. Furthermore, in the Sciences, departments will continue to have the power to assign paid preparation and advice and feedback times at will, which will lead to further discrepancies in pay.

Demand 5: “Compulsory teaching as a condition for scholarships must be abolished. Teaching bursaries are exploitative because they basically require PhD students to work for free. Not only do these arrangements make it hard for postgraduate researchers to meet their actual living costs, but they are also not conducive to the long-term quality of teaching”.

Current status: There has been mixed progress on this demand. At first glance, it appears that teaching bursaries have truly been abolished – but this is misleading. The new framework rules that teaching must not be part of any research related bursary or scholarship, but that payment for teaching must instead be outlined separately. So far so good. However, as the framework does not stipulate the minimum amount of money provided by research bursaries, this leaves open the possibility that departments will merely lower the amount of funding attached to scholarships and thus force PhD students to take up teaching anyway in order to get by. For teaching to truly be a choice, research scholarships need to be set at a level that allows for a decent standard of living; for example, equivalent to the RCUK level.

Demand 6: “Hourly-paid teachers should be paid for the hours they spend undertaking teaching-related training. This should include all hours needed to achieve affiliate Higher Education Academy (HEA) status”.

Current status: Through sleight of hand, the University has failed to address this demand. While the new framework does state that all mandatory training will be paid, it sneakily defines the basic teaching training that every teacher must undergo as a mandatory “transferable skill” workshop. Additional training will only be paid if departments have additional training requirements, such as briefings on specific rules regarding marking and feedback. The key teacher training will continue to be completely unpaid. This demonstrates that the University is either not interested in offering its students well-trained teachers, or is hoping that hourly-paid teachers will complete the necessary training in their own free time.

Without the pressure applied by hourly-paid tutors, the SU and UCU, no progress would have been made and the STP framework would be much worse than what is currently on the table. We are proud of the concessions that WAC’s campaign has been able to extract, and we owe all of our supporters a big thank you for helping us to get to this point. The road ahead, however, is still long. WAC will continue to organise and agitate until all our demands for equal pay, real employment contracts and fair working conditions for sessional teachers are met.

Together we can win – watch this space and message us to find out how to get involved!

WAC statement on the progress of Warwick’s Sessional Teaching Project

Today marks the last day when the University will be accepting feedback from hourly paid tutors before proceeding to finalise and approve the new ‘role descriptors’ for sessional teaching roles within the University, as part of its ‘Sessional Teaching Project’ farce.

We are extremely disappointed that the University has chosen to ignore the voices of over 1100 members of the Warwick community in drawing up the new role profiles for the Sessional Teaching Payroll. These new ‘role descriptors’, which are supposed to capture the skills, attributes and tasks involved in each teaching role, have been drawn up through an alleged process of ‘consultation’ which has however been purely cosmetic. Hourly paid tutors in departments have not been put in a position to meaningfully shape the content of these new roles descriptions, and the process has remained firmly led by management throughout. The proposed role descriptors will now be subject to a ‘technical’ and supposedly neutral process of assessment to determine the appropriate pay grade at which they will be remunerated. But their current formulation significantly underestimates the level of skills and competences involved in some of the teaching roles, especially in the Sciences, and makes it highly likely that these will be ‘neutrally’ assessed to fall within a lower pay grade (i.e. FA4) than equivalent roles in the Social Sciences (FA5). This, in our view, is completely unacceptable, and in direct contradiction with the demands we presented in our petition.

When the university scrapped its Teach Higher project in 2015, we welcomed the University’s declared commitment to formulating a new payment model with the input of those who will be affected by it. We applaud all those hourly-paid tutors who have sought to intervene in the university’s plans via the formal ‘feedback’ mechanisms, but we are sorry to say our initial fear that the STP user group feedback would not find its way into the university’s final plans has been vindicated. Instead, the university has treated the particulars of STP as a foregone conclusion; and the resulting role descriptors are a proof of such approach. If Teach Higher demonstrated the political will of the university, STP has been the means by which the university has tried to assert that will, despite opposition.

Our 6 demands were clear, and thanks to 1100+ signatories, they were loud. Across the university, many educators privately welcomed the change of leadership at the helm in 2016, but the administration’s approach of delaying meaningful negotiations about our six demands after the completion of the STP process suggests little has changed in reality.

Our struggle continues.

We demand that:

1) Hourly-paid teachers must be made employees of the University. Currently, hourly-paid teachers hold the inferior legal status of ‘workers’ but not of ‘employees’. This deprives them, unjustifiably, of the standard employment rights enjoyed by salaried members of staff.
2) Hourly-paid teachers must be paid for every hour worked. Assigned time allowances do not reflect the reality of teaching. As a result, teachers have to work many unpaid hours.
3) Hourly-paid teachers must be paid at consistent and fair rates. Some departments pay different rates for different tasks within the same job, despite them being interconnected and requiring the same skill level. To recognise the level of skill involved in the teaching delivered, we demand a pay rate of at least FA5 for all tasks.
4) There must be pay harmony across departments. At the moment pay rates vary across departments; we demand equal pay for equal work across departments.
5) Compulsory teaching as a condition for scholarships must be abolished. Teaching bursaries are exploitative because they basically require PhD students to work for free. Not only do these arrangements make it hard for postgraduate researchers to meet their actual living costs, but they are also not conducive to the long-term quality of teaching.
6) Hourly-paid teachers should be paid for the hours they spend undertaking teaching-related training. This should include all hours needed to achieve affiliate Higher Education Academy (HEA) status.”

There are good reasons so many teachers object to lecture capture

Election week is upon us and it’s incredibly heartening to see that a number of people have chosen to divert the electorate’s attention to the marketisation of HE. Specifics range from the need to oppose the HE reform bill and the impending Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), the boycott of the National Student Survey, and the casualisation and low pay of hourly-paid teachers.

To see such a wide spread of candidates across various posts all pitching on these issues would have been unthinkable just a couple of years ago, and it’s much to the credit of Warwick for Free Education, the work of recent sabbatical officers, and (dare I say it) Warwick Anti-Casualisation and its forerunners that these topics are becoming a staple feature of students’ concerns. Go to any staff or UCU meeting and you’ll see the regard students are held in for their capacity to mobilise and campaign around important issues, so to see students taking up causes that matter so much to teachers’ working conditions (i.e. students’ learning conditions) is genuinely exciting.

Yet a key sticking point remains. Like bus provision and food prices before it, it’s a demand which is almost universally seen as the new vote-winner: lecture capture.

Lecture capture is an umbrella term for a technological capability possessed by universities which has grown in use in HE over the last ten years. In short, it is a program which creates an audiovisual recording of lectures to be viewed online at a later date. Options range from a recording of projected slides overlaid with an audio recording, to a camera recording of lecturers in the classroom.

What’s so bad about lecture capture? There are two related issues here, each sending a shiver up the spine of many teachers: the implications of the technology itself, and the effect of students campaigning for it.

A motion passed at the 2016 UCU Congress noted eight inexhaustive concerns arising from lecture capture:

  • Its potential use in peer observation
  • Issues of academic freedom
  • Additional workload and time pressures
  • Possible issues for disabled staff and students
  • Questions over pedagogic value
  • Use of recordings to monitor staff performance
  • The need for guidelines on intellectual property rights
  • The right of the individual to opt out

In particular, the motion highlighted the potential use as a performance (i.e. disciplinary) mechanism by managers and the future replacement of people (by recordings) on taught modules as areas for concern, calling for a consultation of members.

The UCU has always maintained the basic principle that teachers should not be recorded without their agreement, which makes it alarming that SU candidates tend to speak in terms of a generalised (or even mandatory) rolling out of the system. Aside from the obvious question of whether a simulated lecture can ever be a substitute for ‘the real thing’, which I will bracket here, there are a number of contentious political and legal issues related to lecture capture which make its widespread implementation anything but straightforward.

The first is about legal rights. The law suggests any materials produced by an employee of the university in the course of their role are assumed to be copyright of the institution – so lecture slides or handouts, prepared presentation notes or a script, etc. Note that it’s not clear where hourly-paid tutors (who are not recognised as ‘employees’) would stand in this equation, and nor does copyright extend to students – which raises questions over the future of class participation if the university wants to market the recorded lectures (which I’ll get onto shortly).

Aside from the issue of copyright, there are also performance rights attached to lectures. This means live presentations made by a teacher are the intellectual property of the teacher in the first instance. Consequently, any recording made by the employer require (by law) the agreement of the teacher. Further to these key issues, there are a host of problems introduced depending on who’s ‘producing’ the recording, whether the recording is audio or audiovisual, and the use of copyrighted or personal material in class.

The second is an employment issue which feeds into wider political issues around marketisation and managerialism in the sector. Aside from casualised teachers, lectures tend to be given by employees. Employees have employment contracts, which set out the obligations of the employee and employer. So far, the UCU has raised questions over the implications of lecture capture for prior agreed contractual obligations. In particular, it is feared lecture capture could effectively put ‘a boss in every classroom’ with recorded lectures used as sticks to beat staff with in the name of euphemistically-titled ‘performance monitoring’, similar to how call centre workers’ recorded phone calls are used as a disciplinary and control mechanism. While inviting peers to sit in on classes can be pedagogically useful in terms of feedback and improvement, it’s quite another thing for your boss to be able to drop in on any lecture at any time.

Furthermore, and more worryingly, some institutions are going so far as to develop digital libraries of recordings for use as future teaching tools. In 2013, UCU guidance raised the very real concern – widely held – that “these developments open up the possibility of the franchising or selling of staff lecture performances” which raises the prospect of “recorded lectures being used as justification for a reduction in direct student contact time and in actual teaching staff”. In the worst case scenario, advances in lecture capture could mean universities are able to employ staff on fixed term or casual contracts, record their lectures, and run the module they wrote and taught long after their employment has been discontinued by the university.

A third issue relates to academic freedom. As the university holds the copyright of any captured lecture, there exists a risk of excerpts being made which take elements from the lecture out of their context without the teacher’s control or consent. A further concern exists in the prospect of increasingly managerially-minded institutions looking to intervene in the content of lectures or modules, especially those given my heterodox academics. At Warwick, students and staff ought to be aware that the university is currently attempting to reform Statute 24; the regulation which “ensures that academic staff have freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom, and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions, without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or privileges” – in short it protects academics from being made redundant if they say or publish something the university doesn’t like or feels isn’t marketable enough, in turn protecting the purpose and mission of the university by virtue of it being a university. The proposed redraft classes as ‘gross misconduct’ any “conduct which could damage the reputation of the university”. Yes, that’s right: ‘could’. The university has shown where its political will lies on academic freedom; lecture capture only exacerbates matters.

These are just three real concerns about lecture capture in and of itself, but the situation is made worse for teachers by the status lecture capture has among student politicians.

First off, the UCU’s position is that “filming and recording lectures should be negotiated between the union and the employer, specifying the circumstances in which filming or recording lectures is acceptable”. It’s a really basic principle that a decent union shouldn’t try to directly contradict other unions (especially in the same sector). It flies in the face of inter-union discussions and strategy, and weakens both our hands when it comes to dealing with management.

For all the performance rights possessed by teachers, there’s a growing culture of expectation around lecture capture in many institutions which serves to benefit management first and foremost and creates a tough atmosphere for teachers who are pressured into waiving their legal right not to be recorded. When teachers and the UCU try to reinforce this basic principle of consent, the university’s first line of defence is “it’s what students want”. Unsurprisingly, universities want to employ teachers who are ‘in tune with what students want’ more than teachers who get all precious about who has which rights and all that nonsense.

So far I’ve focused almost entirely on why institutions want lecture capture, and why so many teachers fear and loathe it so much.

Of course generally students campaign for lecture capture for an altogether less malevolent reason: accessibility.

I doubt you would find many teachers who would be opposed to recording lectures for personal use on access grounds, and certainly the UCU encourages staff to be supportive of requests for recordings by disabled students as a ‘reasonable adjustment’. However, as the motion to last year’s UCU congress states: “Lecture capture for reasons of inclusivity (e.g. as part of ‘Inclusive Learning Policies’) should not be undertaken uncritically. Adjustments that are reasonable in the individual case may not be reasonable in the general case…”

I wouldn’t deny that there may exist some teachers out there who are more intransigent. I should highlight there is the under-considered issue here that disability and other personal issues can be just and appropriate reasons for staff not wanting to be recorded, though I also concede that some academics might just be dicks when it comes to making reasonable adjustments in practice.

But there’s a difference between students campaigning for the university or departments or individual teachers to be more proactive in making reasonable adjustments, and campaigning to extend the reach of lecture capture, a specific technological capability which pressures teachers into forgoing their legal rights, autonomy and academic freedom.

Like constant demands for ‘improved feedback’ and more gimmicky initiatives such as ‘Rate My Module’, the campaign for lecture capture ignores the effect it has on ordinary teachers and the position it puts them in, misdirecting good intentions towards increased managerial strength. There’s good sense in all these initiatives, but they’re often framed in oppositional terms, as if teachers aren’t also being pressured and assessed year-round. Instead, a well-meaning demand ends up being counterproductive because the first route adopted to achieve the goal is too often the most top-down one available.

Take ‘improved feedback’ – many departments now specify how many ‘lines’ of feedback markers have to give as a performance mechanism, resulting in formulaic and generic feedback due the time pressures placed on marking. The terrible irony is we often know the feedback isn’t the best it could be while we’re giving it, but we’re expected to read, assess and write feedback for papers in unrealistic times. Any extra time we’d like to give it is unpaid, which few tutors can afford, so the real solution is for the university to pay tutors properly and afford us the time and wages necessary to provide actually-useful written and verbal feedback.

Similarly, there are real (non-lecture capture) solutions available for the problems students who advocate lecture capture are trying to answer. For accessibility, the university should provide students with an easier means of indicating which adjustments they require, and teachers should be afforded paid time to ensure self-made personal-use recordings can reach students with access needs in good time. The UCU and SU could do more to remind all teachers of the importance and necessity or making reasonable adjustments. Where a desire exists for a learning or revision aid (the second most common reason students advocate lecture capture), the university should be providing better study skills training so that students are able to take notes effectively during classes.

These are prosaic suggestions, but they all aim to take on the issues underpinning the recent desire for lecture capture. Many universities are less interested in these alternative solutions, because for university bosses lecture capture is a unique prize: it satisfies students and opens a new world for managerialist adventures. Until we receive the necessary reassurances, lecture capture remains an insidious management tool which undermines educators and points to the digital marketisation and casualisation of HE. Pressure to adopt lecture capture is increasing all the time – we can’t afford to be uncritical of it. Teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions.

This is an individually authored post by a member of Warwick Anti-Casualisation.

WAC’s Six Demands endorsed by Department of English & Comparative Literary Studies!

It’s been a little over a month since Warwick Anti-Casualisation submitted its Six Demands for fair teaching conditions at Warwick to the University’s management. Since then, we’ve seen real progress at the very highest echelons of the University, with WAC members meeting Vice Chancellor Stuart Croft to discuss the future of hourly paid teaching at Warwick and negotiations on setting up a framework for collective bargaining for hourly paid tutors starting soon.

However, it is important that we press our demands at all levels of the University hierarchy. For this reason, it is particularly exciting to be able to announce that the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies have decided to endorse WAC’s 6 Demands. It is excellent to see this solidarity between full time and hourly paid academics, both of whom are concerned about the real dangers to teachers and students posed by a system that forces teachers to prepare their classes hurriedly, for little pay and with the threat of job insecurity hanging over their heads.

It is especially important that Departments adopt a just stance towards hourly paid teaching pay and conditions at a time when the Sessional Teaching Project (STP) is being piloted in numerous Departments and coming to its conclusion soon. The STP is ostensibly a pilot scheme designed to review teaching conditions at Warwick, yet it has excluded the voices of actual hourly paid teachers from the start. By lobbying our Departments – including both full time faculty and Heads of Departments – we can make sure that the concerns of casualised teachers are taken into account during this review process.

As such, WAC invites hourly paid teachers, and concerned students and faculty members more generally, to encourage their Departments to follow the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies in officially endorsing the content of the six demands for fair teaching at Warwick at their departmental or faculty meetings.

This is a concrete and meaningful display of solidarity that faculty members can take to support the campaign of hourly paid tutors for fair pay and conditions. The University cares deeply about Departments’ positions on the remuneration and employment conditions of hourly paid tutors, hence these official endorsements send a very strong message about the collective will of the University’s academic community, one that cannot be ignored.

Moreover, if a Department has taken a supportive stance towards hourly paid teachers, it is crucial that they make this known to the University’s management – whether that be the VC or other members of the University Senate.

We must keep the pressure up to ensure that teachers and students get a fair deal at Warwick!