On Warwick’s Outsourcing (a few updates)


A few days ago news surfaced of the University of Warwick’s plan to outsource some of its teaching to a company called Teach Higher. According to the website Fighting Against Casualisation in Education (FACE):

Hourly paid academic staff… will no longer be employed directly by the university but by a separate employer: ‘Teach Higher’. Teach Higher has been set up by Warwick University-owned ‘Warwick Employment Group’, and is about to be piloted at Warwick University. But it is a national company, which intends to be rolled out across UK universities… Teach Higher is about to be piloted with six Departments at Warwick; Sociology, Philosophy, Politics and International Studies, Mathematics, Chemistry and Modern Foreign Languages. This academic year hourly paid academics will be recruited via Teach Higher only in order to carry out exam invigilation. They plan to pilot it with all other academic work (e.g. teaching) from October 2015 onwards.

FACE raises concerns about this.

Teach Higher represents a significant threat not only to working conditions of casualised academic staff, but also to the possibilities for organisation and resistance… Because staff employed by Teach Higher will no longer be employed directly by the University, this means they will lose union recognition, will not be covered by national pay bargaining etc., and, crucially, will not be able to participate in national industrial action voted for by UCU in Higher Education.

I contacted Matthew Nudds, head of the Department of Philosophy at Warwick, to see how his department would be affected and whether they were consulted about participating in the plan. He writes:

The new organisation will take over the management of contracts for hourly paid staff that are currently the responsibility of individual departments. In philosophy, the only people we employ on such contracts are Graduate Teaching Assistants who teach seminar classes that back up the lectures taught by academic staff (actually that might not be strictly true: we sometimes pay UG and PG students for doing things like helping out at open days). We try to give all our graduates an opportunity to do such teaching and view it as good for them – as part of their professional development and as a way to earn some money – and good for us, but it means that there is quite a lot of administration involved in setting up contracts, managing timesheets, and so on, which at the moment is done in the department. Teach Higher will take that over, but it will also ensure that GTAs have the same terms and conditions whichever department they are working for, and are paid the same for doing the same work (my sense is that at the moment there is quite a lot of variation across departments – some departments pay extra for preparation and marking and some don’t, for example, and I’m not sure we all pay the same for invigilating, and that’s rightly viewed as unfair). It is also likely to reduce the mistakes that can occur when there are so many different contracts, for doing what is basically the same job or jobs, across the institution.

So, all in all, I view this as a good thing. The philosophy department has been consulted, and we are happy with what is being proposed, at least as I understand it. I asked whether our GTAs would be worse off because of the changes, and have been assured that they won’t be. It won’t make any difference to how we select GTAs to teach, nor to what we ask them to teach, how we mentor them, or to how we monitor their teaching.  

On his understanding, the outsourcing to Teach Higher will neither increase the number of temporary contract (casualised) employees nor worsen their working conditions.

UPDATE (4/8/15): See the link that Daniel Brunson posts in his comment below. It appears that Teach Higher is offering to pay associate tutors £5/hour, which is less than the minimum wage. Anyone have an explanation for this? (It may not be a real ad, but instead a dummy ad or placeholder. I don’t know.) UPDATE 2: via Twitter, Maarten Steenhagen informs me that the ad linked to in Brunson’s comment appears to be either an old ad, a mistake, or a doctoring, as the same job description appears on an ad from the University of Leicester offering £20.95 per hour. Note: Brunson is not responsible for the image in the linked post!

UPDATE 3 (4/9/15): Warwick University has released an “update on TeachHigher” that includes some clarifications, including:

Discussions over the last few months clearly established that TeachHigher should be constituted as an academic services department. That has been done and staff and students will now find it listed amongst the other academic services departments on the University’s website. Some staff and students may have seen in some social media a reference to a suggestion that this would be an outsourced service, an interpretation taken from the minutes of a Board of Graduate Studies meeting. In fact hourly teaching and research will never be outsourced at Warwick and TeachHigher will start and remain as an academic services department at Warwick.

UPDATE 4 (4/15/15): A look at the various claims made about TeachHigher at Warwick, here.

guest
22 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
nona
nona
6 years ago

Interestingly, the dept head’s view seems to confirm a recent comment by an anonymous post-grad at Leiter’s blog: http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2015/04/warwick-to-begin-outsourcing-some-teaching-including-in-philosophy.html#comment-6a00d8341c2e6353ef01b7c772e00a970b

However, the post-grad’s take seems to be somewhat less favourable when s/he points out the following “To my knowledge the departments response has been largely something of a ‘power play’, knowing that in reality post-docs are semi obligated (for cv’ purposes and to actually get some experience of teaching) to just do the teaching regardless of fair remuneration. However, as more TA’s have expressed anger about this situation it seems, in line with other departments presumably behaving similarly, teaching is being outsourced in order to bypass their complaints.”Report

Warwick tutor
Warwick tutor
6 years ago

I have some comments on this as a postgraduate tutor based at the University of Warwick.

At present, all teaching staff at the University are (meant to) get a contract. Teach Higher offer instead a “work agreement” that is quite explicitly not a contract of employment: “This Agreement or any Assignment or Assignment Statement does not give rise to a contract of employment between you and us or between you and
the Client with whom you are placed.” (source: https://www.teachhigher.com/Media/TeachHigher/Terms/T_and_C.pdf)

Moreover, Teach Higher is *not* part of the University of Warwick in terms of employment law, as it is a wholly-owned subsidiary, part of the Warwick Employment Group (http://www.warwickemploymentgroup.com/). This makes it possible for Teach Higher to hire temporary workers in a manner that is not consistent with University statutes, and treat casualised teaching staff in a very different way to permanent departmental staff.

Finally, it’s worth bearing in mind that some of the disparity in terms of pay and conditions in different departments at Warwick is due to campaigning on the part of casualised tutors (including postdocs as well as postgrads). For example, teachers in the Sociology department have successfully lobbied to be paid for marking, and teachers in the History department have ensured that there are better terms and conditions for casualised staff in the department. This kind of progress puts pressure on the rest of the University to improve conditions, and is likely to be quashed by Teach Higher, who are unlikely to make the some kind of concessions. Moreover, teaching staff will no longer be able to argue for change *within* departments in a collegial manner, but instead will find themselves in a position where (in collegial terms) there is no connection between worker and employer and (in contractual terms) people who make a fuss can have their employment quietly terminated, as has happened with teachers working for sister company Unitemps.

In short, Teach Higher will ensure that casualised teaching work is even more precarious than at present. Report

Former Warwick philosophy PhD
Former Warwick philosophy PhD
6 years ago

I would think it behooves Mr. Nudds to think a little more carefully about the responsibilities that philosophy teachers have always had toward the well-being of their students. I will not be recommending Warwick Philosophy to my students as long as this is in place.Report

Observer
Observer
6 years ago

Firstly, it is not necessary to create a separate company to regularise pay between departments. The HR function in other organisations can do this in house, so it is nonsense that Warwick cannot and should not be used as a justification.
Secondly, the only way that casualisation is going to get better, whoever the employer, is if you all go on strike. And not just for one day, but until agreement can be reached.Report

Daniel Brunson
Daniel Brunson
6 years ago
Some Serious Questions
Some Serious Questions
6 years ago

I do think this is startlingly naïve. What use is ‘but we have assurances’ going to be 5, 10, 20 years down the line? Unless protections are written into the agreement from the outset, such assurances are not worth the paper they’re not written on…Report

Daniel Brunson
Daniel Brunson
6 years ago

A correction from the original source:

“The Teach Higher trial scheme hasn’t started yet, and as far as we can tell the MA it references doesn’t exist. Not to mention it’s illegal to employ under the minimum wage. So it seems that this advert is yet another Warwick uni PR gaffe.”

https://warwick4freeducation.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/teach-higher-outsourcing-scheme-hiring-lecturers-at-5-an-hour/Report

Vroomfondel
Vroomfondel
6 years ago

Normally, professional philosophers in one place aren’t in a position to do much about the pay and conditions of philosophers elsewhere.

But this might be a case where we (or those of us with links to the UK) can at least do something symbolic: there’s a very large and prestigious philosophy conference – the Joint session of the Aristotelian Society and Mind Association going on there this summer. I wonder whether a boycott might be appropriate.Report

More correction...
More correction...
6 years ago

Your source continues by saying: “But this gaffe is illustrative. We know that the purpose of Teach Higher it to worsen the conditions of precarious academic workers in order to lower the cost of teaching. It is, absolutely, outsourcing. The low pay and exploitation of hourly paid staff is already a reality – with many staff being paid below the minimum wage once preparation time is taken into account.”Report

Mike Otsuka
6 years ago

I can see why, as of 8 pm on 9 April, the comment of a postgraduate tutor (teaching assistant) named “Warwick Tutor” has received 53 positive votes. It comes across as a well-reasoned and evidence-based indictment of TeachHigher, which is uncontradicted by anything I have read elsewhere. If what Warwick tutor says is accurate, I trust and hope my colleagues in Philosophy and Politics will reconsider their involvement in this pilot. Otherwise, I hope they will explain why Warwick tutor’s account is inaccurate and TeachHigher is not, in fact, as bad as all this.Report

Mike Otsuka
6 years ago

Re Update 3, there is the following response on Open Democracy to Warwick management’s claim that “hourly teaching and research will never be outsourced at Warwick and TeachHigher will start and remain as an academic services department at Warwick”:

“This is a disingenuous claim, predicated on the misleading idea that if a tutor is being paid by a company owned by the university, then they are still an in-house employee of the university. In reality, the use of a university-owned private company as a staffing agency constitutes a process of ‘internal outsourcing’, using a shared services model to serve the dual purpose of centralising the hiring of casual staff while being able to terminate employees’ ‘assignments’ at any time.”

Link: https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/craig-mcvegas/coming-to-university-near-you-casualisation-through-internal-outsourcingReport

Dennis Leech
Dennis Leech
6 years ago

The latest ‘Update on Teach Higher’ (yesterday 9th April) on the university’s Intranet http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/insite/news/intnews2/teachhigher
describes the five goals to be:
*A fair, transparent and consistent approach to recruitment and remuneration
*A structured, tailored approach to professional development
*Full visibility of internal and external opportunities
*An easy to access record of work completed, to support individuals with the development of their CVs
*A simpler, more professional service for engaging hourly paid teachers and researchers.

You will notice there is nothing about equalising pay between departments. So what the head of Philosophy said is a red herring.

The statement that ‘hourly teaching and research will never be outsourced at Warwick ‘ is a direct untruth. There is a lot of teaching and research currently organised through Unitemps which is a wholly own subsidiary of Warwick University limited. In 2013 during the industrial action a member who participated by cancelling seminars was summarily sacked. Although we (the UCU) argued that she was teaching a UoW module and Unitemps is 100pc owned by UoW she should in fairness have been treated as employed by the UoW. But it cut no ice – the management stood on the technicality.Report

Mike Otsuka
6 years ago

The comments of Dennis Leech (who is past President of Warwick’s branch of UCU) provide confirmation that, contrary to assurances to Matt Nudds, GTAs will be made worse off by TeachHigher in the following respects that FACE mentions: “Because staff employed by Teach Higher will no longer be employed directly by the University, this means they will lose union recognition, will not be covered by national pay bargaining etc., and, crucially, will not be able to participate in national industrial action voted for by UCU in Higher Education.”

If Warwick’s management didn’t mention the loss of protections that GTAs have as UCU members, I would urge the six Departments in the pilot to withdraw on grounds that they were not made aware of this aspect of the pilot. The academics who are permanent members of these Departments surely don’t want to associate themselves with the pioneering of the stripping of their GTAs of union protection.Report

Jean Crocker
Jean Crocker
6 years ago

Enormously well done to the GTAs who got better terms and conditions in their departments. As ever those of us who are hourly paid need full support from the staff on all contracts including permanent full-time contracts, via the union. Hope Warwick UCU is fully engaged, I see Dennis Leech is supportive. If it comes to strike, or pressure of any kind, it needs to be everyone – those on very casualised contracts are potentially taking a big risk if they fight alone. I understand there may be an amendment to a Congress motion to get this on the national agenda. The hourly paid at Warwick – contact the Anti-casualisation Committee; come to the Training Day on casualisation (not sure when it is); stand for the anticas com; you are the grass roots all rightReport

Matt Nudds
Matt Nudds
6 years ago

I thought it would be helpful to briefly respond to some of the questions that have been asked, particularly Mike Otsuka’s.

The University says that one of its aims in establishing TeachHigher is to bring consistency and transparency of pay for those in temporary academic roles. I take it that by ‘transparency’ they mean that it’s clear what people are expected to do (what marking, preparation, etc.), and by ‘consistency’ they mean that people are paid the same to do the same.

I have been told that all hours will be paid at the agreed rate from the TeachHigher “tariff”, which is related directly to grades and spinal points on the nationally agreed pay framework. I infer that changes in the Warwick pay scale that reflect national pay awards will feed through to changes in the hourly TeachHigher rates.

On the question of union representation, I have checked with Warwick’s Director of HR and have been told that staff employed through TeachHigher will have exactly the same union rights as our GTAs have currently. The change will make no difference. Currently our GTAs have the right to join a union, strike, and have trade union representation. They are apparently not covered by collective bargaining, but it seems most of that is done nationally anyway.Report

Mike Otsuka
6 years ago

Thanks, Matt, for your reply. Regarding the assurances from HR regarding union rights, I think it would be important to establish whether or not the retention of these rights is simply at the discretion of management. For those GTAs employed directly by the university, rather than via TeachHigher, are these rights guaranteed in a more robust form, by contrast, such as by your University’s statutes (which are especially difficult to amend) or their ordinances? If TeachHigher’s legal relation to the University is similar to that of UniTemps then, given what Dennis Leech says, it appears that these retained GTA union rights are simply at the discretion of management. Moreover, management has a history (recounted by Dennis) of treating their UniTemps seminar teachers less well than university employees.Report

Mike Otsuka
6 years ago

Setting aside my above concerns about the robustness of currently retained union rights for Warwick’s GTAs, there is the further issue of how TeachHigher will fulfil its “aspiration to operate as a commercial franchise, akin to Unitemps” at other universities. It is reasonable to suspect that one of their commercial selling points will be the provision of other universities with a more ‘flexible’ workforce of GTAs and other hourly teachers with fewer union and other employment protections than they would retain if they were employees of their own university. Academics at Warwick should therefore seek a public and written guarantee from TeachHigher that they will never employ postgraduate GTAs and other hourly teachers on less good terms, or provide them with fewer union rights and protections, than they would have received had they been directly employed by their universities. If they do not receive this, they should disassociate their Departments from a pilot that will help get such a commercial franchise off the ground.Report

Former Warwick philosophy PhD
Former Warwick philosophy PhD
6 years ago

I can understand addressing “particularly” an external senior colleague if one approaches such a question strictly as a matter of maintaining the credibility of position one has taken on an adminstrative matter. Notwithstanding the utility of the latter exchange, which admittedly there is some, this is not just an administrative matter. What still needs to be addressed are the inter-related issues of economic precarity and lack of collegiality. To some extent, of course, it has always been a high risk proposition to engage in a PhD in Philosophy. But students do it because they are dedicated. How can they continue to be dedicated, at Warwick, if the signals are that their teaching apprenticeship experiences can be outsourced to some private for-profit company? Sometimes the leaders in an institution need to sacrifice adminstrative efficiency in order to create a culture of collegiality.Report

Miguel Costa Matos
6 years ago

Thank you, Mike, for your eloquent interaction with this issue. I hope your colleagues in Philosophy and PAIS will get the message.
1.Regarding TeachHigher, it is vital to remember that GTAs will be working on ‘assignments’, not posts, and an ‘agreement’, not a contract. The Terms and Conditions specifically state that assignments do “not give rise to a contract of employment between you and us or between you and the Client [i.e. the University]”. The T+Cs also state that ‘assignments’ may be terminated “without notice or liability”. This is verbatim the same as Unitemps T+Cs. It follows that while GTAs hired under TeachHigher may join a union, they won’t enjoy the privileges of union recognition (which only comes with direct employment) and they can face retaliation “without liability” (as happened with Unitemps cf. Dennis Leech’s example).
This is unsurprising given Warwick Employment Group, an informal umbrella group for Unitemps, jobs.ac.uk and TeachHigher, call GTAs a ‘flexible teaching resource’.
There are no ‘assurances’ which can erase the reality of precarity.

2. I would to raise the attention of the academic community to the meaning of TeachHigher for GTAs who are not British or European. The requirements of a Tier 2 Visa – £20,000 p.a. in income and a post of employment – are incompatible with piece work, which is, it seems, the form TeachHigher will take. This contrasts with wage work, such as teaching fellowships, or tutor positions, which are currently widely in practice. By shutting off non-British/EU GTAs, Warwick is adding to existing problems of white and Eurocentric privilege within academia. It stands at stark contrast with the international University it has sought to portray itself as.

P.S. As a student campaigning against TeachHigher, I may well get in touch with you about open letters, etc. in the future.
P.P.S. As a student of political theory under Adam Swift, I have learnt a lot with your work! Keep up the good fight 🙂Report

Dennis Leech
Dennis Leech
5 years ago

I am surprised that a philosopher should claim that consistency is the same as equality. I would be more amazed if Warwick management had any intention of equalising pay between departments when a large part of the whole raison d’être of the human resources operation lies in finding ways of paying different people differently. Rates of pay in economics are much higher than in philosophy for example. Also there are large differences between departments in the amount of funding available in the very department-centric system here.

I am not sure what Matt’s last sentence means. My understanding is that collective bargaining is what the union does at all levels including locally. We have actually been trying to bargain collectively for hourly paid staff for the past two years. Who says they are not covered by collective bargaining? Certainly not us.Report

WarwickGradstudent
WarwickGradstudent
5 years ago

Update regarding TeachHigher at Warwick: “We recognise that ongoing scrutiny of Teach Higher has become a distraction and Teach Higher should be disbanded” (http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/insite/news/intnews2/th_update).Report