The University and College Union (UCU) says the sector is overly reliant on casualised staff with millions of students taught every day by temporary teachers with little or no employment rights or job security. Freedom of Information requests by UCU found that, in 112 further education colleges, 30% of teaching staff were on zero-hours or similar contracts.
In universities, a similar survey of 75 institutions found 17% of teaching staff were on zero-hours or similar contracts. Among university researchers, 67% of staff were on temporary contracts, according to the UCU.
The union said the exploitation of staff is damaging for education with insecure staff unable to build up long term relationships with their students, denied office and other facilities and constantly looking for the next contract. Staff report that without permanent contracts, they find it difficult to gain mortgages or loans, or plan their careers or families.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt, said: “Students in colleges and universities would be horrified if they knew that many of those who teach them have little or no employment rights, no job security and that most of our groundbreaking research staff are without permanent contracts.
“The UK’s excellent academic reputation has unfortunately been built upon the disgraceful exploitation of thousands of temporary staff, with universities and colleges using the fierce competition for permanent jobs to create a no-rights culture for teachers and researchers.
“Universities and colleges receive £24bn a year from government and many billions more from students yet too many are happy to adopt appalling working practices which leave many staff unable to get a mortgage or plan a family.”