University staff face job losses around the country due to the coronavirus pandemic

Written by Amy Lakin
Second year English Literature student.
Images by Robert Cutts

University of Bristol has recently let go 84 members of staff on temporary and short-term contracts due to coronavirus, reports The Guardian. Their contracts ended on the 9th April.

The cuts come after universities, like many other businesses, have been drastically affected by the economic implications of the pandemic. International students that were due to enrol next academic year have since postponed or cancelled their places, due to uncertainties surrounding travel restrictions.

The University and College Union (UCU) in a 2019 report titled, ‘Counting the costs of casualisation in higher education’ reported that more than 50% of staff are in temporary contracts.

Charlotte Morris, a journalist for The Guardian and a lecturer at the University of Portsmouth wrote, ‘In academic, so- called ‘temporary’ staff range from new starters to those who are highly qualified and experienced. Many have been in these roles for years. Although universities are obliged to make staff permanent after four years of continuous service, many contracts are term- time only, which enables them to evade the law.’

The loss of employment hits university staff shortly after the recent UCU strikes, which took place between February and March. 

Newcastle University has also sent out redundancy emails to academics on fixed term contracts. 

University and College general secretary, Jo Grady, said: ‘Universities should suspend any dismissals for at least the period of the crisis and then review staff needs. Staff dismissed at this time will find it almost impossible to secure alternative employment whilst the crisis continues.

Universities should suspend any dismissals for at least the period of the crisis and then review staff needs

‘Furlough arrangements should apply to all staff – including those on insecure contracts – and the government should extend the one-year visa extension for NHS staff to cover people working in our colleges and universities. The government should underwrite funding at current levels and guarantee no institution will go to the wall.’

An online petition, along with the hashtag ‘CoronaContract’ has launched, in an effort to protect the needs of staff on casualised contracts.’ The campaign which has also launched a website hopes to secure employment for casualised UK university staff during the current global crisis.

The website can be found here.