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Academics at Irish colleges stressed over 'flex' hours contracts

Union says academics’ working hours are far greater than established norms.

Image: Shutterstock/Matej Kastelic

FLEXIBLE HOURS CONTRACTS are putting academics in Irish third-level institutions under considerable pressure, a new report has said.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland said the two additional teaching hours imposed on lecturers by the Haddington Road Agreement has required them to spend several further hours on lesson planning and assessment.

It said that academics’ working hours are “far in excess of established international norms” as a result.

A survey of 1,200 academics, commissioned by the TUI along with the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT), found that just under three in four academics believe that their working conditions have deteriorated in recent years.

The study found that:

  • 55% of respondents believe that the teaching aspects of their job are not adequately supported by management,
  • 64% did not see themselves as having any role in the decision-making processes of their institutions,
  • 67% feel that internal communication in their place of work is “inadequate”,
  • 53% have experienced greater pressure to raise external funding since the time of their appointment.

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Launching the report, Mike Jennings, IFUT general secretary, said that academics now work longer hours while having less administrative support.

The proportion of academics who experience difficulty in securing external funding must also be addressed, he said.

On the one hand, the government emphasises the vital role that research and development must play in the recovery of our economy and society. On the other, it is evident that [there is a lack of] policies and procedures to facilitate academics the actual time to engage in research activities.

Staff numbers

Education consultant John Walshe, a former adviser to Minister Ruairi Quinn, said that higher education has suffered “severely compared to other parts of the public service.”

Between 2008 and 2013, he said, there was a 17% decrease in staff numbers at third-level institutions, while the number of second-level teachers dropped by 2%.

There was a 3% increase in the number of primary school teachers in the same five-year period.

The report points out the number of students enrolled in higher education increased by 16% between 2008 to 2014, while third-level funding decreased by 29% between 2007 and 2014.

Read: Teachers’ union set to reject new €2,000-increase pay agreement >

Read: What value are we putting on higher education? >

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Catherine Healy

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