University students are well known for burning the midnight oil. Stereotypes abound, but the reality is that many are forced to combine the pressures of student life with often low paid and casualised employment - not to mention those that have family or caring responsibilities to think about as well.
This means that when assessment time comes they can often be found working a zero-hours contract through the day and then awake all night in a desperate scramble to revise and meet deadlines.
What is perhaps less well known is that excessive workloads and long working hours are a major source of stress for university lecturers too.
The intensification of academic work - linked to top-down managerialism, the relentless demands of research and publication, and changing student expectations - also make it increasingly difficult for lecturers to have a sensible work-life balance.
University lecturers today need to demonstrate excellence with their research, teach effectively, take care of numerous administrative tasks, apply for grants to conduct further research, be readily available to assist students, and mark very large volumes of student work to strict deadlines.
And for every demand made of lecturers, there’s a target statistic to be measured against - performance review targets, module satisfaction questionnaires, NSS, REF, TEF, etc. - adding further stresses.
Further, lecturers are being forced to work more for less pay and this intensification of workload has coincided with widening inequalities of pay on university campuses.
The inflation busting pay increases of senior university leaders have once again come under the spotlight, with the average Vice Chancellor’s salary now sitting at £280,877 when pension contributions are taken into account. This represents an average 13% pay increase since 2009/10.
Meanwhile there has been a real terms decline to the pay of an ordinary lecturer over the same period that represents over a 16% loss, and is expected to reach 19.5% by the end of 2017.
Both staff and students today are subject to an exploitative and anxiety inducing working environment. Something has to give, and it shouldn’t be the sanity of those working or studying in universities.
For this reason, the EIS-ULA will this year be stepping-up our campaigning around these issues and calling on our sister unions - the NUS, UCU, Unison and Unite - to join us in the fight for fair pay in universities and against excessive workloads.
Members are asked to contact their branch representatives to see how they can help with this campaign.