Memorandum submitted by the National Association
of Teachers of Further and Higher Education (NATFHE)
NATFHE represents 69,000 lecturers in further
and higher education (post 1992 sector), many of whom are employed
on fixed-term contracts. Relatively few of our 19,000 members
in higher education are employed as contract researchers, we estimate
that approximately 3,000 staff in the post 1992 university sector
are employed in this capacity. Many lecturers in the post 1992
sector support their teaching with significant research, a large
number do this on a fixed term contract basis. In responding to
this Select Committee enquiry we wish to address the questions
posed as follows.
NATFHE believes that continued use of fixed
term and hourly paid contracts of employment in higher education
does matter in that casualisation compromises quality and restricts
career development for thousands of researchers and academics
in Higher Education. The Bett Report
noted that higher education sector employed proportionately more
staff on fixed term contracts of employment than most other sectors.
In fact only the catering industry employs more (45 per cent)
than higher education (44 per cent). The extent of casualisation
within higher education is not at issue, what should be urgently
addressed are the effects of casualisation on quality research
and teaching and also the detrimental effect on academic and research
The Bett report
noted the effects of fixed term appointments on quality in terms
of both teaching and research. Staff at the end of a fixed term
contract, may focus on securing employment elsewhere at the end
of the contractual period. Bett suggested that this posed a risk
in terms of quality. NATFHE commissioned research into the link
between casual forms of employment in higher education and the
quality of teaching and research,
which suggested that the continued use of fixed term contracts
could lead to a diminution in quality. It was suggested that this
risk was most acute in subject areas such as science. The conditions
of employment for the ever-increasing number of contract researchers
was found to exert a negative influence on the quality of research.
The position of fixed term contract staff (as
well as academic staff) in the UK will be affected by the way
in which the government has chosen to transpose the EC Directive
on Fixed Term Work (1999/70/EC) due to become law in the UK in
NATFHE believes that by transposing the legislation
solely according to the needs and wishes of employers, the government
has failed to take the opportunity to reduce the extent of casualisation
within higher education and the UK economy.
Unlike some other European states the UK government
has chosen to transpose the Directive to allow employers to retain
the ability to employ unlimited numbers of employees on fixed
term contracts. NATFHE believes that the Directive should be transposed
in such a way as to limit the number of fixed term contracts any
employer can use throughout the year. The UK Regulations will
allow an employer to continue to employ staff on fixed term contracts
for at least four years or longer, provided the use of such a
contract can be objectively justified.
The definition of objective justification contained
within the Regulations is minimal, to the extent that the protection
offered to fix term employees (against the successive use of fixed
term contracts) will be determined by the courts as the legislation
leaves many questions unanswered. Nonetheless we have been able
to negotiate improved, though still imperfect, criteria on objective
justification with the higher education employers (see below).
NATFHE believes that there should be a limit
on the number of fixed term contracts an employer can use in any
given year. The maximum duration of a fixed term contract should
be two years rather than four years. NATFHE believes an employee
in post for over two years should be provided with a permanent
contract of employment. Objective justification should not be
used as an all-embracing justification for continuing the practice
Researchers will be especially vulnerable to
an employer's justification for continued use of fixed term contracts
where the viability of long term research funding is uncertain.
The manner in which the UK government has transposed the Directive
will limit the intended scope of employment protection. Staff
in higher education will over time, benefit from the Regulations,
however many may have to wait for four years before the Regulations
can be tested.
Attempts have been made by both employers and
trade unions within higher education to address the issue of casualisation,
both parties recognise the need to avoid lengthy and expensive
litigation. In 2000 the higher education trade unions (apart from
AUT) and the UCEA concluded agreement on the "Fixed Term
and casual employment in HEa guide to good practice.
This guidance was intended to build upon the Concordat and the
Research Careers Initiative and contained guidance for institutions
on the management of fixed term staff.
The forthcoming Fixed Term Work Regulations
(and consequential amendments to the part Time Workers Regulations)
are currently being addressed by the new Joint Council for Higher
Education Staff (JNCHES). Higher education trade unions and employers
have agreed (subject to final ratification in July 2002) on new
guidance on fixed term and casual employment for the sector, which
incorporates changes to the relevant legislation due to take effect
from October 2002. The guidance stresses the need for careful
management of fixed term staff, including contract researchers
stressing that staff on these contracts should be given:
The same opportunity as other staff
to use services to assist better performance, such as staff development,
training, appraisal, careers advice for research staff.
Similar terms and conditions of employment
to those in comparable jobs with indefinite employment in the
institution unless the difference can be justified, in accordance
with the legislation, for necessary and appropriate objective
Information on, and the opportunity
to apply for, more secure positions.
A regular review to consider, as
appropriate, indefinite employment on full-time, fractional or
The guidance also recommends the following criteria
and examples for the justification of continued or successive
use of fixed term contracts after 4 years within higher education
The post requires specialist expertise
or recent experience not already available within the institution
in the short term.
To cover staff absence as appropriate
(eg parental and adoptive leave, long-term sickness, sabbatical
leave or secondment).
The contract is to provide a secondment
or career development opportunity.
Input from specialist practitioners.
Where the student or other business
demand can be clearly demonstrated as particularly uncertain.
Where there is no reasonably foreseeable
prospect of short-term funding being renewed nor other external
or internal funding being available or becoming available. Where
the short-term funding has already been renewed, continuing use
of the fixed-term contract would need to be justified by objective
As part of their day-to-day management, institutions
will be recommended to ensure that fixed-term and casual employees
A statement of their terms and conditions
of employment, in accordance with statutory requirements.
Information on, and the opportunity
to apply for, vacancies in the same way as other staff.
Appropriate opportunities to enhance
skills and career development.
A periodic review to consider whether
indefinite employment is appropriate.
On request, a written statement within
21 days explaining (a) any differences in their employment arrangements
from those of comparable permanent employees taking into account
the overall remuneration package or (b) after 4 years continuous
service, whether the contract is indefinite or the objective reasons
for continuing the fixed-term employment.
The forthcoming Employment Bill also proposes
to remove the use of redundancy waiver clauses from 1 October
2002. In order to anticipate this change the JNCHES guidance will
also recommend that adequate and proper procedures should be in
place for dealing with the risk of terminating a fixed-term contract
including the following components:
Up to four months before expiry
of the contract, all the alternative options should be considered
eg renewal, redeployment.
Up to three months before the expiry
date, consultation should take place with the post-holder on the
prospects for alternative options, taking account of the post-holder's
The post-holder should be given information
about other positions in the institution.
Where the expiry of the contract
is a redundancy, consultation should take place with the recognised
union(s) in accordance with statutory requirements, further consultation
should take place with the recognised union(s) and the post-holder
Implementation of this guidance by higher education
institutions should result in improved management of fixed term
contract staff, comparable pay and conditions for fixed term and
permanent staff with more fixed term staff converting to permanent
status over the medium to long term. However the government's
insistence on imposing a four year waiting period before the continued
use of a fixed term contract (which can and will can be challenged)
will result in many staff continuing to face the insecurity and
uncertainty of casual employment in higher education for far longer
than is necessary or justifiable. If the UK Regulations had not
stipulated a waiting period of four years, a lesser period could
have been negotiated.
In relation to contract research staff the draft
JNCHES guidance states that
"Contract research staff are a distinctive
group of employees in HE, with a high proportion employed on fixed-term
contracts. It is recognised that this has occurred in the past
because of the short-term funding of these posts. However, it
is also recognised that the Fixed-Term Employee Regulations will
require in a major overhaul of the way they are employed in the
future, resulting in a significant transfer to and use of indefinite
contracts. The ending of short-term funding will continue to raise
the possibility of termination of these indefinite contracts.
Where the research can be continued, all other appropriate sources
of funding, both internal and external, need to be considered
to replace the ending of the specific funding stream. Where this
is not available, redeployment or other measures should be considered
in order to render the redundancy procedures fair in accordance
with the legislation. Institutions are recommended to have appropriate
termination procedures in place and the resources to administer
them, particularly since the reason for the termination is likely
to be redundancy. These will include individual and collective
consultation, redeployment and appropriate contractual notice.
Progress has already been made in identifying,
encouraging and disseminating best practice in all aspects of
career management for contract research staff. This arises from
the Concordat agreed between HE institutions, the Research Councils,
the British Academy and the Royal Society and the subsequent establishment
of the Research Careers Initiative".
NATFHE believes that the prospects for reducing
the use of fixed term contracts in higher education are favourable.
However, the precarious nature of research funding and the reluctance
of employers to commit to and invest in their research staff indicate
that more needs to be done by government to encourage higher education
employers to end the culture of casualisation prevalent within
2. What are the implications for researchers
and their careers?
The Roberts' Review
highlighted the damaging effect of continued use of fixed term
contracts of employment and the lack of a viable career structure
for most contract researchers. The preponderance of fixed term
contracts was also found to act as a "major barrier to the
recruitment and development of postdoctoral researchers".
The review found that contract researchers represented
28 per cent of full time academic staff, however this proportion
rose within SET (Science, Engineering and Technology) subjects
to 42 per cent. Whilst NATFHE recognises the greater proportion
of contract researchers employed within SET subjects on a casual
basis, we also believe that the overall number of academic staff
employed on a casual basis throughout the sector is unacceptably
HESA statistics show that during 1999-2000 higher
education institutions employed 31,450 full time staff designated
No reliable figures on the number of part time research staff
are currently available.
The distribution of contract researchers amongst the nine HESA
cost centres (including SET subjects) shows that the majority
(34 per cent) were employed in the subject areas of biology, physics
and mathematics (see charts 1 and 2 below). A significant proportion
(30 per cent) were employed in the subject areas of medicine,
dentistry and health studies, whilst engineering accounted for
18 per cent of all full time researchers within the higher education
sector. The SET subjects account for some 16,420 (53 per cent)
of all full time researchers. If recruitment and retention difficulties
are affecting SET subject areas, it is submitted that any such
difficulties are not exerting a negative influence on recruitment
and retention over and above the extent to which all subject areas
experience such difficulties. Engineering has 5,540 (18 per cent)
of the total number of full time research staff and 15,610 (14
per cent) of all academic and research staff. Biology, Physical
Sciences and Mathematics employ 10,880 (35 per cent) of the total
number of full time research staff in the sector and employ 24,090
(21 per cent) of all academic and research staff. Both Engineering
and Bioscience are relatively well provided with contract researchers
This is even true when comparing the number
of researchers as a proportion of the total academic establishment.
Administration, Business and Social Science employ only 2,560
(8 per cent) of the total number of researchers, yet within this
subject area 19,870 (18 per cent) of the total number of academic
and research staff are employed.
The Roberts' Review notes that other subject
areas are affected by the same recruitment and retention difficulties.
SET subjects already employ a greater proportion of research staff
than do other larger subject areas.
NATFHE does not believe that a case has been
made for SET subjects to receive differential treatment. We believe
that the Select Committee should take into account other policy
priorities, particularly in the area of health and social policy.
Delivering the NHS Plan will involve a significant increase in
research and development as well as an increase in teaching resources.
The government has set a challenging target of widening participation
in higher education, to ensure that by 2010, 50 per cent of those
under 30 will have had some experience of higher education. NATFHE
acknowledges the need to increase resources and rewards for researchers
in SET subjects, however we would also argue that the same additional
resources should be put into other subject areas.
The Roberts' Review
also highlights the relative low salaries of contract researchers.
We would point out that in the post 1992-university sector the
Researcher A pay scale commences at £11,562 (less than the
Local Government pay rate for a school meals supervisor). Clearly
if the higher education sector is to attract the best PhD graduates
concerted action must be taken to improve salary levels for contract
The Bett Report made a series of recommendations
on the need to increase the minimum levels of academic salaries
including the recommendation for a salary of £20,000 for
entry grade research posts in pre and post 1992 Institutions.
The academic trade unions (AUT, NATFHE and EIS) have for the first
time submitted a joint pay claim for 2002-03 incorporating the
Bett recommendations on minimum salaries for research and academic
It is worth noting that since 1998 no progress
has been made towards achieving Bett's recommendations on pay
levels for higher education as a whole. In 2001-02, lecturers'
pay in the post-1992 institutions, outside Scotland, is £19,191-£26,163,
while lecturers' pay in the pre-1992 institutions is £20,470-£24,435
compared with the Bett comparator of junior police inspectors
who now earn between £33,849-£36,834.
The Bett comparator of an experienced teacher
(with threshold payments) now earns between £25,959 and £30,018
whilst the pay of Lecturers remains below the minimum levels suggested
by Bett (which were to be achieved by 2002).
Salaries for Senior Lecturers in post-1992 institutions
and Lecturer B's in pre-1992 institutions in 2002 should, according
to Bett, commence at £28,000. Yet in February 2002 Senior
Lecturers in post-1992 universities outside Scotland will still
be paid only £25,793 on appointment and in March 2002 the
Lecturer B scale will start at £25,455.
Bett compared Senior Lecturers in the post-1992
institutions who now earn between £24,417 and £32,265
with larger Inspector roles. The salary for Chief Inspector roles
in 2000 ranged from £37,830 to £40,878 substantially
more than the pay of senior lecturers. Bett also compared Senior
Lecturers' salaries to those of senior teachers who, with advanced
teaching skills, can now be placed on a salary scale anywhere
between £27,939 and £44,571. Clearly it is not just
researchers who require urgent action to increase pay, the rewards
available to all academic and research staff in the UK are inadequate
and will result in significant recruitment and retention difficulties
in the foreseeable future. Raising research salaries alone will
not induce good postgraduates to contemplate an academic career,
going beyond a brief period of research.
In 2001 NATFHE published international comparisons
of average academic salary spending power for 1998 (quoted in
the Roberts' Review).
|Country||Average annual salary
spending power 1998
This table shows the purchasing power of average academic
pay relative to that of the UK. All figures for this table have
been derived from official OECD statistics, either those published
in "Education At A Glance 2001" or in the datasets which
underlie the tables and which are available from www.oecd.org
NATFHE believes that comparisons between relative academic and
research salaries both within the UK and also on an international
basis demonstrate the need to increase investment in higher education
academic and research staff through a significant increase in
general levels of pay.
The Roberts' Review
comments on the disparity between academic pay levels and the
pay of comparable groups in the rest of the UK economy. We would
agree with the conclusions of the Review that the pay of researchers
should be increased to the level suggested by Bett. However, NATFHE
can find no firm evidence within the review to substantiate the
assertion that academics in SET subjects are affected to a greater
extent than academics in other subject areas.
We would specifically caution against distorting the higher
education pay system to the detriment of staff within non-SET
subjects. The higher education pay system has to take into account
many pressures and external tensions, differential salary payments
for staff within SET subjects may increase the drift away from
higher education for groups of academics and researchers in health
and education. Furthermore the highly likely forthcoming establishment
of a Research Council for Arts and Humanities should be considered
and care should be taken not to diminish the proportion of eligible
staff who would be attracted to posts within non-SET subject areas.
NATFHE recommends that action is taken to improve the pay and
conditions for all research and academic staff, this would have
the net effect of attracting more staff into higher education.
The approach suggested by the Roberts' Review could result in
incentive lead recruitment to SET subjects at the expense of non-SET
areas crucial to higher education. The objective must be to increase
the pool of talent available to institutions rather than to allow
only SET subjects to improve recruitment and retention from an
all too small pool of staff.
3. Is there evidence that the present situation causes
good researchers to leave?
The recruitment and retention difficulties experienced by
higher education institutions have been subject to investigation
and analysis by the Bett Committee and also through more recent
IRS research (commissioned by HEFCE, SCOP, UCEA and UUK).
The recruitment and retention survey carried out by the Bett Committee
found that institutions experienced recruitment and retention
difficulties in many different subject areas including; business
subjects, engineering, computing and information technology, mathematics
and nursing and midwifery. Retention problems were identified
amongst researchers, fixed term contract staff and young staff.
Many of the recruitment and retention problems were directly attributable
to pay outside the higher education sector. This problem was particularly
acute in subject areas such as computing, accountancy, law, engineering,
management and health studies. The more recent IRS research found
that 18 per cent of institutions were experiencing difficulties
in recruiting academic staff in 2001, whereas only 6 per cent
experienced such difficulties in 1998. The number of institutions
reporting difficulties in retaining staff rose from 2 per cent
in 1998 to 8 per cent in 2001
The subjects most frequently cited as causing recruitment
Business related subjectsmanagement, accountancy,
finance, economics and law.
Engineering electrical, mechanical and
Health service related subjectsnursing,
midwifery, professions allied to medicine.
Science biological, chemistry and physics.
Retention difficulties were most acute for lecturers rather
than for researchers with most institutions reporting difficulties
in recruiting lecturers.
The underlying reasons for retention problems were attributed
in no small part to academic pay levels. Two thirds of respondents
cited pay as a major factor underlying recruitment and retention
problems in the sector. The academic staff most likely to leave
for work in the private sector were those employed in IT, computing,
law and accountancy. However, staff in health studies and education
were also likely to leave post, attracted by the higher pay levels
now available within the NHS or within the state school system.
In summary NATFHE believes that the present situation may
compel some research staff to consider leaving or not entering
higher education. The reasons for this relate to the preponderance
of fixed term contracts and detrimental effects of casualisation,
low starting salaries and subsequent pay levels which compare
unfavourably with comparable occupations within the rest of the
UK economy. However, institutions report recruitment and retention
problems in many subject areas. We do not believe that a valid
case has been made to justify targeting researchers and academics
in SET subjects to the detriment of other subject areas. Whilst
the government is committed to increasing the capacity for quality
scientific research and development in the UK, due care should
be taken to ensure that any additional measures do further exacerbate
the problems of low relative pay levels and poor recruitment and
retention throughout the higher education system. We suggest that
many (non SET) subjects could make an identical case for pay premiums
based on factors relevant to the appropriate discipline. Furthermore,
pay throughout the whole of a career is the determining factor,
not just pay for an initial period as a researcher.
4. What would be the right balance between contract and
permanent research staff?
NATFHE believes that the vast majority of research and academic
staff should be employed on a permanent basis. The forthcoming
Fixed Term Work Regulations and the JNCHES agreement on casualisation
will exert a positive effect on the issue of casualisation. We
anticipate a significant reduction in the number of fixed term
contract staff over the short to medium term. The proposed career
pathways for research staff (trajectories as described in the
Roberts' Review) will only be viable if employers invest in research
staff over a considerable period of time. This will require the
provision of permanent contracts of employment. Whilst fixed term
contract staff are treated as a disposable resource by so many
higher education employers, there can never be an acceptable balance
of fixed term and permanent staff. NATFHE believes that the higher
education sector has no option other than to drastically reduce
the number of fixed term researchers and fixed term academic staff.
5. Has the Concordat and the Research Careers Initiative
made any difference?
NATFHE does not believe that the Concordat and the Research
Careers Initiative have made much noticeable difference to the
manner in which employing institutions manage their contract researchers.
Within the post 1992 university sector it is extremely difficult
to find many examples of good practice.
One exception to the rule is to be found at the University
of Gloucester, where the 1999-2000 HESA data
shows that the University had 13 per cent of academic staff on
fixed-term contracts. A recent analysis of this data published
by the Times Higher Educational Supplement shows that the University
has the second lowest proportion of such staff of all Universities
in the UK. Despite its relative position the University has, however,
agreed that it will reduce the number of staff on fixed-term contracts
and will only use them where it is essential.
In future the University itself (despite its relatively low
level of research income which makes progress harder than would
be the case for larger institutions) will accept greater responsibility
for managing risks associated with time-limited funding streams
rather than expect individuals to do so.
NATFHE believes that this approach is central for any strategy
aimed at reducing casualisation and enabling higher education
staff to develop their talents and to realise their full potential.
It is a matter of concern that this perspective is not shared
by the majority of higher education employers who continue ask
their employees to shoulder the risks and consequences involved
in dealing with uncertain funding patterns. The University of
Gloucester is also remarkable in other ways as can be demonstrated
by the consistent and fair implementation of a range of employment
policies beneficial to staff and to the University as an employer.
Unfortunately this is not typical of the behaviour of the majority
of UK universities and colleges of higher education. We believe
that the University of Gloucester would have acted to reduce the
proportion of staff employed on fixed term contracts regardless
of the existence of the Concordat, which was only advisory and
lacked the weight of a national collective agreement. As a consequence
the Concordat has not had a noticeable impact within higher education.
6. How should policy move forward?
The Roberts' Review
highlights the lack of a coherent career structure for researchers.
NATFHE believes that researchers should have parity with academic
staff and should be paid at the same rates as a lecturer performing
work at a similar level. An integrated career structure would
not only fairly reward researchers but would also provide incentives
for good practice and good teaching.
The suggested "career trajectory" is an attempt
to provide a coherent career pathway for researchers, however
the structure outlined within the Roberts' Review would result
in the continuation of casualised employment practice within the
NATFHE believes that in future the use of fixed term contracts
will (and should) become the exception rather than the norm. Researchers
employed for over four years will have the right to transfer to
permanent contracts if their employer is unable to justify the
continued use of such a contract. Uncertain funding streams may
provide some scope for employers to justify continued use of fixed
term contracts, however this reasoning has yet to be tested in
The fact that funding has remained constant for as long as
four years may be sufficient to justify conversion to permanent
status. For the Roberts' Review to criticise the extent of casualisation
in higher education is laudable, it is unfortunate that the suggested
career structure would retain the essential features of the current
exploitative employment relationship under the guise of an employers
need to respond flexibly to the market. As stated elsewhere, NATFHE
believes that if institutions want to improve research quality
and standards, they must invest in their staff. In practical terms
this entails higher education employers behaving in a comparable
way to most UK employers, by finally shouldering the risks of
uncertain research funding themselves rather than continuing to
expose their employees to the risks and consequences of uncertain
NATFHE supports the suggested development of academic career
trajectory for research staff leading to a research active teaching
role. We also support the suggestion of a research associate trajectory
and an industrial trajectory. The establishment of such career
pathways for research staff can only be of benefit to employees
and employers alike provided that the assumption is that this
would be a permanent career pathway, rather than a series of unrelated
short term posts.
The Roberts' Recommendations on the establishment of career
pathways is consistent with the recommendations of the Bett Report
that non-prescriptive national criteria and appropriate procedures
should be developed for UK academic staff. NATFHE believes that
new research career pathways should be established and that researchers
should be free to change career direction and pursue new career
pathways as their career develops.
The academic trade unions are currently negotiating the shape
and structure of new academic pay structures with UCEA. The development
of viable career pathways for researchers should be addressed
within those negotiations for national application.
Whatever recommendations the Select Committee set out at
the conclusion of their investigation must take into account the
need to adhere to best practice in equal opportunities. Any proposal
to establish differential salary levels for academic and research
staff in SET subjects will have to be justified in terms of equal
pay for work of equal value, NATFHE suggests that this would be
extremely difficult to achieve.
To ensure that pay systems operate within the current legislative
framework, academics and researchers performing like or similar
work must receive the same rates of pay regardless of subject
area. Market supplements may be justified provided arrangements
are transparent, proofed against claims for equal value and reviewed
on a regular basis. The higher education sector is making great
efforts to address the problem of equal pay, we hope that the
Select Committee will recognise the need to improve pay and conditions
in a fair, equitable and transparent manner for all contract researchers
and all academics throughout the sector.
24 June 2002
The Independent Review of Higher Education Pay and Conditions,
Chaired by Sir Michael Bett. 1999. HMSO para 213. Back
Ibid para 215. Back
Casualisation and Quality by A Chintis and G Williams, Institute
of Education, University of London 1999. Back
The agreement can be viewed on the NATFHE web site http://www.natfhe.org.uk/down/casual.doc. Back
Draft JNCHES Guidance on Fixed Term and Casual Employment-2002. Back
Set for Success-The supply of people with science, technology,
engineering and mathematics skills. Report of Sir Gareth Roberts'
Roberts Review page 143. Back
HESA statistics on the number of staff employed by age, grade,
gender, institution and cost centre grouping. Back
HESA collect data on the number of fractional employees only
where the contracted hours equate to more than 0.25 WTE. Back
Roberts' Review para 5.28. Back
Roberts' Review para 5.53. Back
Recruitment and retention of staff in UK higher education 2001-research
commissioned by HEFCE, SCOP, UCEA and UUK. Back
Bett Report 1998-Appendix E. Back
Recruitment and retention of staff in UK higher education 2001-page
Recruitment and retention of staff in UK higher education 2001-page
HESA data on numbers of academic staff employed on fixed term
contracts 1999-2000. Back
Roberts' Review 5.18. Back
The Bett Report 1998 para 129. Back