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THE HERALD FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 9 2016


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How fair is my uni?’ Students UCU (the University and College


Union) are running a campaign to encourage prospective students to look beyond the freebies and gimmicks offered by universities when they come to make their choice of where to study. The campaign was launched on


Facebook in the lead up to ‘results day’, when prospective students find out their A level grades. Students were urged to check out how the universities that they were considering fared on equal pay and whether their lecturers might be on ‘Sports Direct-style’ contracts. (In fairness, Sports Direct are in the process of offering casual retail staff guaranteed hours instead of zero-hours contracts, responding to being named and shamed by a parliamentary inquiry). The UCU website that students are directed to asks ‘Does your uni pay fair?’ Enter the name of a university and you can find out how much more, on average, male academics there earn compared to their female counterparts. The result also reveals what percentage of teaching staff are on casual contracts, including zero-hours contracts.


FREEBIES AND GIMMICKS In the face of a decline in student


applications and, as we will read in the context of almost every news story for the next few years, ‘uncertainties over the Brexit fallout’, universities have increasingly turned to offering free iPads, discounted second degrees and even the dating app Tinder to try to attract students. This is not all new, of course, universities have a history in trying to outdo each other in their offers. Even in the age of climate crisis, for instance, universities still vie to offer jet-fuelled field trips to faraway lands. UCU wants students to better research and understand what they can expect from their chosen university. UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “There have been some unusual pitches to students to fill places this year, but we hope they will look beyond the freebies and gimmicks and spend time properly researching their options. Deciding whether or not to study, and where, are life-altering decisions and universities must not put undue pressure on students. Students are in a strong position this year and should not be rushed into a decision.” HOW ABER UNI FARES ON FAIR PLAY


On average across Britain, female


academics are paid £6,103 less per year than their male counterparts, while 49% of university teachers are on casual contracts, according to UCU’s data. Aberystwyth University, UCU calculate, pays women on average £5,244 or 12.3% per year less than men and 40.8% of teaching staff are on casual contracts. While this better than the average, then, UCU claim it still means that too many


Kelvin Mason Aberystwyth Reporter kelvin.mason@herald.email


staff have little job security and are not being paid what they deserve while their career progression is severely hampered. Comparing Aberystwyth to former University of Wales contemporaries, Cardiff University pays women on average £9,348 or 17.5% per year less than men and employs 44.5% of teaching staff on casual contracts. For Bangor the report is even worse, with women paid on average £9,750 or 20.1% less than men while 59.9% of teaching staff are on casual contracts. The University of Wales changed from a federal structure in 2007, with most constituent colleges becoming independent universities. It was abolished in 2011, although some administrative connections are expected to drag on until next year. Casting the net of comparison a little


wider over former colleges under the University of Wales, the potted results are: Swansea has a gender pay gap of £8,630 or 17.5%, and 46.2% of teaching staff are on casual contracts; The gap at Cardiff Metropolitan University is £1,977 or 4.3% with 30.5% on casual contracts. While any inequality in women’s pay and any precariousness of employment is nothing to be celebrated, it look as if Cardiff Met are doing comparatively well. Rounding off the comparison in Wales, Trinity Saint David pays women on average £3,228 or 7.6% less than men but to its credit has only 15.9% of teaching staff on casual contracts. To check out other universities in Wales and beyond, go to http://unireport.web.ucu. org.uk/


ABER WOMEN BEYOND STATISTICS


The data behind UCU’s verdict on


universities is drawn from a report by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) and data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency. The Herald also wanted to look beyond the figures, though, particularly to consider how Aberystwyth University performed on equality. A number of women told us their stories. Many felt the dearth of female academics in their department very keenly, especially in senior positions with influence. In 2015, Times Higher Education reported that 45% of the UK’s 194,245 academic staff were women. However, only 22% of professors were female. Excluding professors, around one-third of senior academic staff are women. Considering one department at Aberystwyth University, Geography and Earth Sciences, out of 39 academic staff listed online, just five are women (12%) and only one of 16 professors is a woman (6%). One of our informants, formerly


Aberystwyth University reception


of that department, did not believe that this figure could be explained by an imbalance between men and women interested in the subject, as the number of postgraduate students over the years had been roughly equal. As we’ve reported previously in the


Herald, postgraduate staff who take up teaching roles in Aberystwyth University are working hard, often on contracts that allow too little time for preparing lectures and tutorials. Women in this position frequently felt that they also got landed with ‘the lion’s share of pastoral care’. They did not, by contrast, believe that women were offered an equal proportion of jobs at the end of their studies. One woman told us: “Short-term contracts mean issues like gender equality, as well as harassment and bullying, casual sexism, and a whole variety of other work related issues go undealt with because people are trying so hard to maintain their positions with the university that they do not want to complain or rock the boat. I’ve only recently joined a union, but I expect that as conditions worsen, particularly with short-term contracts becoming increasingly the norm, that being part of a union will become more and more necessary.” Some of our informants talked


of departments having a ‘boys club’ atmosphere that contributed to female academics choosing to move on to take up jobs elsewhere: “As a young female academic, the lack of female professors meant a lack of mentors and supporters, as I think a great deal relies on this. That is not to say that male academics cannot be supporters and advocates, and indeed some are so very effectively. However, I would say that there is a level of casual sexism expressed in Aberystwyth University which leads to things like the low number of women in academic roles, and the shocking 12% pay gap between men and women, and the fact that I think women often work much harder to try and establish themselves and earn


respect. There is a certain attitude that this is normal and to be expected. I don’t think many male academics see it as relevant to them personally that there are these low numbers of women and few of them take it upon themselves to really advocate for more equality and diversity. Most just see it as the norm, which they don’t particularly have an interest in changing.”


UCU ABERYSTWYTH DEPLORE THE GENDER PAY GAP


We asked the local UCU branch to


comment on the union’s campaign on gender equality and fair pay. Aberystwyth UCU Secretary Roger Boyle told us: “UCU have engaged with Aberystwyth University on the issue of casual contracts frequently over the past months and years. We are pleased to report that Aberystwyth University has taken positive steps towards a reduction in the use of such contracts. However, there is still work to be done and we will continue to press the management of Aberystwyth University on this issue over the coming months. The gender pay gap is deplored by UCU. We recognise that this gap exists widely both within and without the higher education sector. At Aberystwyth University, UCU is taking every opportunity to reduce the gender pay gap by supporting affected individuals and by negotiating changes to policies and procedures. Aberystwyth University has engaged constructively with UCU on this issue during the last couple of years.”


UNI WORKING CLOSELY WITH UNIONS


Aberystwyth University confirms


that is working closely with recognised trade unions. Currently, discussions are focussed on fixed term contracts with service in excess of two years. As of the first of August last year, Aberystwyth University told us they employed 2,477 staff. On the issue of casual contracts for


teaching staff, the university claims that 89% are on permanent contracts and the remaining 11% on fixed term deals. A spokesperson told us: “the makeup of our published data for academic staff can often include research staff and those staff employed to deliver lifelong learning courses, dance teachers for our Arts Centre and summer university appointments etcetera. The nature of a number of these courses are short-term and these can therefore present a different picture than if we had solely provided data on a single element of our academic staff, i.e. namely teaching staff.” Addressing the issue of gender


inequality, the university carried out ‘a comprehensive Equal Pay Audit’ in April 2015. It found there to be no significant gender pay gaps within the main pay scales, which include teaching staff. Moreover, the audit found that the 5% pay gap in the Grade 1 band recorded in 2010 had been equalised. Grade 1 is the lowest salary scale for academic and support staff. The university considers a pay gap of up to 5% to be within normal tolerance. The audit did reveal a Professorial pay gap, although that was on the decrease due in part, the university believes, to the introduction of a revised and transparent academic promotions process. The University report that it is working to further decrease this gap. An Aberystwyth University


spokesperson told us: “As a University, our aim is to ensure that all staff are treated fairly both in terms of pay and career progression. We do not recognise the figures used by the University and College Union which seem to be based on outdated and incorrect data. Our own figures are based on the latest data submitted to the Higher Education Statistics Authority (HESA).” Aberystwyth University told us that 452 members of academic staff are women (47%). Although only 13% of professors are women, the University claim they are working on this issue and that the gap is


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