Lecturers working at universities are rarely given permanent contracts but do often put in overtime. Many of them find their workload very heavy, and their work environment doesn’t always feel safe. Pieter van den Heede and Giulia Evolvi, both lecturers at ESHCC, initiated the foundation of the Rotterdam chapter of Casual Academy. By now several of their colleagues have joined, including tutors working at ESSB. According to Van den Heede, the protest marked the start of Casual Rotterdam’s activities. “We hope the publicity this will garner allows us to reach many more of our colleagues.”
Contract about to expire
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I am a pregnant lecturer with a temporary contract, and that’s why we need to change the system
Many lecturers in academia are kept on temporary contracts. Giulia Evolvi (Erasmus School…
As Evolvi wrote in an opinion piece published by EM, many lecturers working at Erasmus University and other universities hop from one temporary contract to the next. For his part, Van den Heede is a lecturer and researcher at the Department of History, and he completely agrees with Evolvi. He has many colleagues whose contracts are always about to expire. “I’m lucky to some extent. My contract won’t expire until the end of next academic year. But there are a lot of people who have put in work for a long time but still find themselves in an uncertain situation due to the large size of the university’s flexible non-core workforce.”
Technically, universities are required to give lecturers who have served on two temporary contracts a permanent contract. However, in actual practice, they tend to dismiss such lecturers. Although many lecturers do manage to find new contracts at other universities, this only means that the carrousel will start all over again. Furthermore, the switch to a different university may cause lecturers to have to move to a different city. All these things combined make it very hard for them to get a mortgage or build a family, and the fundamental lack of certainty regarding their future is very stressful.
Van den Heede feels that this carrousel is ‘unacceptable’, because much of the work the lecturers do is of a long-term nature. “The courses continue to be taught. But the people who hand out the contracts feel forced by the universities to only give out temporary contracts. This is partly due to the way in which universities are funded, but I do think universities can take some steps of their own.”
The amount of funding departments receive depends on the number of students enrolled, but student numbers fluctuate, and moreover, funding is granted several years in arrears, meaning fluctuations are not properly accounted for at the right time. As a result, departments may find themselves underfunded, and so the overarching faculties seek to find financial security by awarding as few permanent contracts as possible.
The new academic collective agreement that came into force last year stipulates that assistant professors and higher-ranked academics must always be eligible for a permanent contract. However, no clear arrangements were specified in that agreement for lower-ranked academics. “We feel that the interests of lecturers on temporary contracts were not sufficiently taken into account,” said Van den Heede.