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As a group of concerned undergraduates we were glad to see that the issue of post-graduate working conditions is being raised. We were aware of the issue before SCAN’s last publication, however we feel the issue requires a greater amount of attention given to it.
The University does have a code of practice for post-graduate employment, however a member of staff admitted they “don’t actively promote” it. We can only infer that this renders many post-graduates unaware of their official position and rights. This situation may leave some post-graduates in a position where they’re easily exploited.
It has become clear that there are pay discrepancies between departments and post-graduates pay does not necessarily reflect the level of work they are expected to do. As undergraduates we feel that post-graduate teachers should be fairly paid for all the work that they do and treated equally across all
departments within the university.
We believe that the ambiguity of current codes of practice and the fact they are not actively promoted displays a degree of disregard towards post-graduate teaching assistants.
For many postgraduate research students these teaching positions are essential, not only for financing their PhD studies but also for relevant experience in an increasingly competitive academic labour market. There is a clear danger that employers, who are all too aware of the economic and financial pressures these students
face, are taking advantage of them.
This unstable relationship between postgraduates and other members of staff is not isolated to Lancaster and is an issue that will only get worse as universities themselves are put under increasing financial strain while also becoming more profit-oriented.
As undergraduates we recognise the vital role that post-graduate teachers play within the university and are disappointed to learn that the university appears to view their labour as a given commodity.
Personally as a group we feel that many of our post-graduate teachers have been beyond merit this year and several of us feel we would not have achieved the same level of success- or any- without them.
It is our belief that the poor treatment of some post-graduates is part of a larger scenario where the structure of academia is being changed for profit. We hope that the long-term success of current and future students is not compromised by short-sighted decision making.
We do not feel it is acceptable for the current treatment of postgraduate teaching assistants to remain as it is. They should not have to endure lower standards and conditions than regular staff because of their precarious economic situation. We fully support any actions the postgraduates and the university take
to improve the present conditions.
A group of concerned undergraduates.