Hundreds of academics on zero hour contracts at midlands universities

zero hour staff at midlands universities - chart

Help Me Investigate’s Nicole Froio has been looking at the use of zero hour contracts in Midlands universities. She reports in the Birmingham Mail:

“Almost one in five academic staff in the region – including lecturers, researchers and support workers – are on the contracts, which do not specify working hours, or give certainty of income.

“At the University of Wolverhampton more than half of academic staff are on zero hour contracts – 773 staff in total.

“The second highest zero hours employer in the region is Birmingham City University, with 733 staff working under uncertain circumstances.”

Help Me Investigate Education began looking at the figures after the University and College Union (UCU) sent FOI requests to universities around the country and comparing the numbers on zero hour contracts with figures on staffing from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

However, one university – Wolverhampton – appeared to have more academic staff on zero hour contracts than their entire academic workforce.

Persistent phonecalls to Wolverhampton University and the local UCU branch eventually brought us to the real figure, which was twice the one recorded by HESA.

We also spoke to HESA’s press office to find out why this might be the case. It seems zero hour staff may come under ‘atypical staff’ – not recorded in the main staffing figures, although this doesn’t explain the disparities between institutions. We’ve published data on atypical staff in a separate post on the Birmingham Datablog.

Read the full article in the Birmingham Mail’s Behind the Numbers section, a partnership with Help Me Investigate and Birmingham City University’s School of Media.

About Paul Bradshaw

Founder of Help Me Investigate. I'm a visiting professor at City University London's School of Journalism, and run an MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University. I publish the Online Journalism Blog, and am the co-author of the Online Journalism Handbook and Magazine Editing (3rd edition). I have a particular interest in Freedom of Information and data journalism.
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3 Responses to Hundreds of academics on zero hour contracts at midlands universities

  1. As freelance journalist and academic on a zero hours contract, I too am critical of ZHCs and the casualisation of academia. See my September 26 piece on the subject in Times Higher Education’s Opinion Section. See also my blog at

    All the same, Nicole Froio is guilty of sloppy journalism in comments attributed to Peter Dunn, Head of Communications at Warwick Uni. See my post of today on this matter at

    Re Wolverhampton’s fibs, I once asked Ian Benson of, “would it be safe for a university to give a false return, one lower than the true figure?” He replied:

    “There are no effective sanctions against public authorities lying in their FOI responses. The only offence is the deliberate destruction of data and even that is almost impossible to prosecute. Because we publicise the data we are given to staff within the organisations that supply it we hope the answers they give us are a bit more accurate than they might give to a member of public who kept the response to themselves. Experienced investigative journalists (ex World in Action, etc) whose judgement I trust reckon that authorities frequently lie in their responses to FOI requests.”

    best wishes, Phil

  2. Pingback: Help Me Investigate in 2013 – and 2014 | The Help Me Investigate Blog

  3. Piece on here re zero hrs may be useful . Offers historical analysis which is so needed. I know people on zero hrs, had no money for weeks. All jobs will go that way. What are unions doing?

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