All posts by Carol Miers

Get the UCU data: higher education zero hour contracts

We’ve been reporting on the use of zero hour contracts in higher education, following FOI requests by the University and Colleges Union (UCU). Of 162 requests sent by the UCU, 142 replied.

Edinburgh and Glasgow universities – both members of the Russell research group which attracts billions in grants – and the Royal College of Art are among the elite institutions using zero hour contracts.

Understanding the HE FOI data:

The HE employees are divided into three groups:

  • teaching staff,
  • researchers, and
  • academic support services (for example librarians, administration, or computing).

The first column gives the total number of employees on zero-hour contracts in that institution. The three beige columns on the right break this down into teachers/lecturers (T), researchers (R), and academic support (AR). Between the two are staffing numbers according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

Teachers at top universities on zero hour contracts

Four of the UK’s top universities are among those employing the most lecturers on zero hour contracts leading to insecure and uncertain work.

Research from University and Colleges Union (UCU) shows Bath, Edinburgh, Lancaster and Glasgow universities together employ 5,500 teachers, researchers or academic services staff with no guarantee of work.

When contacted some universities were quick to qualify their use:

  • Lancaster University said the contracts were only for students.
  • At Cambridge where they have 83 staff on zero hours, a spokesperson said in a statement they were only used in very specific situations:

“Typically, such contracts are used for seasonal work, and are advantageous to employees who are taking a second job that they need to fit around other commitments, or students wishing to do some flexible working alongside their studies.”

Fourteen of the top twenty universities in the Complete University Guide for 2014 are using zero hour contracts. Only London School of Economics (LSE), Exeter, York, Leicester, University of Birmingham and King’s College London do not. An LSE spokesman said:

“LSE has not and does not employ any staff on formal zero hours contracts of employment.”

Locations of the twenty Higher Education institutions with the most zero hour contracts.

More than 1 in 8 of those employed in higher education survive on zero hour contracts, the University and College Union (UCU) survey shows.

Of those in teaching or research it is almost 1 in 6.

The data shows that of 141 HE institutions, more than half use zero hour contracts.

Back in May, on learning about the spread and impact for its members, UCU began making Freedom of Information requests to find out how widely the contracts were used. 87% of institutions responded.

The survey defines zero hour contracts in use in Higher Education (HE) as an arrangement where the employer has no obligation to offer work or guarantee a minimum number of hours.

After seven years in higher education, for example, a PhD student on a zero hour contract would have no security of income. Visiting lecturer Carrie Dunn wrote about the high workload and the insecurity this brings.

Some say the unpredictability of research grants and lecturers on sabbaticals demands flexibility but those facing sudden drops in hours may have been unaware of their terms when they radically altered without warning. As an alternative, centres have offered short term or minimum hour contracts.

Since the UCU survey, Edinburgh University has agreed to stop using zero hour contracts and signed an agreement with UCU after the survey revealed they were the worst employers having the highest number on zero hours at 2712.

Related reports:

Useful posts to Sept 6: welfare reforms mauled;whose upturn? dreading UC

These are some welfare links we found interesting during the first week of September.

Help build an interagency map across the UK

As scores of citizens battle to keep food on the table, supporting agencies try to be effective while facing more pressure due to welfare cuts.

But where are they based? From the Citizens Advice Bureau to the Trussell Trust what is in your area? To populate the map, please enter the details of an organisation you know of in the form below.

Who is doing what in your neighbourhood?

Key for map icon colours
Welfare areas: Children or Youth Red, Mental Health Green, Welfare Blue Homelessness Yellow Poverty Purple



Useful links to August 30th: living costs crisis; intern death; DWP zero hours; modern workers

These are some welfare links we found interesting during the second two weeks of August.

Cafcass applications, Blackpool the most, Scilly Isles the least

The number of children in care applications is on the rise, shown by figures released by the adoption and care process body, Cafcass June 2013.

Blackpool, Stockton-on-Tees and South Tyneside had the highest number of care applications per 10,000 children. But in which areas are the applications increasing? St Helens, saw the number almost double, to become the fourth highest nationally.

Thurrock, a town which finished last on the government’s wellbeing survey July 2012, has seen an even larger rise, more than double the numbers of children for care and now among the top twenty.

Overall, London-Havering, Thurrock and St Helens saw the largest relative increase amongst the English authorities between 2012-13. Out of the top eleven, five were in London.

Which care applications fell the most in the same period?  York which more than halved the number, at 60%.

In the City of London, the care applications rocketed, 2009 – 2012, before dropping again. Why?

“The City of London used to be on the Croydon duty rota (we took unaccompanied asylum seeking children) but we came off in 2009 due to a lack of resources,” said Shaista Afzal, City of London team manager.

What is the difference between the authorities having the highest number of applications and those having the lowest, per number of children?

The biggest is between Blackpool with 32 and the Isles of Scilly with zero.

The Isles of Scilly comes top not having a single application in 2012 or again in 2013.

Seaside towns are reportedly suffering above average levels of deprivation so are receiving funding from the Coastal Communities Fund.

Margate, Clacton, Blackpool and Skegness in Lincolnshire are on that list, the Independent said.

Here are the calculations on the Cafcass data, Pages 7 – 11.

Download the original data at : Cafcass care application figures June 2013

Useful links from August 1st to 15th: child households; pooling resources; youth deal.

These are some welfare links we found interesting during the first two weeks of August.

Backs against the wall: How the bedroom tax is affecting communities

As insolvent welfare tenants stream through the Magistrates’ courts, citizens rally against the ‘bedroom tax’, using words, actions and songs. Tom Walker and HMI Welfare are gathering this together.
How is your community affected by the bedroom tax? #bedroomtax @HMIW @No_BedroomTax


Useful links for July: Universal credits; food banks; austerity blogs

These are the welfare links we have been looking at in July and with May and June’s round-up recently covered, they are now almost up to date.

Keep your fingers on the keyboard to let us know if and how you use the data, or how we can improve by using the comment form below.

Useful links for June: bedroom tax; zero hour contracts; food poverty.

There are three round-up pieces over a few days, of news and data source items on welfare related issues. They are to bridge the gap of the last few months before these news stops become a regular post.

Keep your fingers hovering over the comment form below as we would really like to find out how you use the data links and what areas you want included.