Colleges, Industrial action

College staff do two days unpaid work every week, new workload survey finds

New report lays bare the workload challenge facing the sector

New report lays bare the workload challenge facing the sector

20 Jun 2022, 0:01

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College staff are doing the equivalent of at least two days unpaid work every week, according to new research by the University and College Union. 

The report is based on the responses of more than 13,000 workers in universities, colleges, prison and adult and community education. 

Key findings included 93 per cent of the almost 2,500 college staff respondents saying their workload had increased over the past three years with more than three quarters (77 per cent) saying it has increased significantly. 

More than four in 10 (41.6 per cent) college staff say their workload is unmanageable. 

UCU said, in England, the workload crisis risks undermining the government’s levelling up agenda, saying that ministers and employers are setting “the sector up to fail”.

“This report lays bare the shocking reality for education staff in colleges and universities across the UK who are forced to work the equivalent of two days for free each week,” said UCU general secretary Jo Grady. 

“Employers are knowingly dining off the goodwill and dedication of staff and breaching vital safeguards, which if not addressed could result in investigations from the health and safety executive. 

“To treat staff in this way, all whilst holding down pay and attacking terms and conditions, shows the extent to which grotesque levels of exploitation have become commonplace in education.”

The aim of this survey was to investigate members’ workloads in further education and higher education, updating the findings of the 2016 UCU workload survey. 

It was conducted in November and December 2021. The answers to the number of extra hours staff work per week are based on a standard contractual 35-hour working week.

The union found that staff in FE colleges are working on average 49 hours per week FTE. 

This figure is slightly lower than in 2016, but the report said this doesn’t represent any meaningful change – staff are still working the equivalent of an additional two days unpaid each week.

FE respondents were also asked: “Thinking about the pace or intensity you currently work at, do you think this has changed over the last three years?”

More than 90 per cent said pace or intensity had increased (either slightly or significantly). 

David Hughes, AoC chief executive, told FE Week: “Staff in colleges showed their commitment to students in the Covid-19 pandemic going above and beyond in their efforts to support them. 

“Colleges are now facing enormous pressures caused by the tightest labour market in memory and the soaring cost of living. We have called on the education secretary to seek emergency funding from Treasury to support colleges with staff pay because it lags behind schools and industry and is making it difficult to retain and recruit top teaching talent.

“We continue to press DfE to reduce the burdensome bureaucracy faced by colleges, and to offer more flexibilities for colleges.”

Staff in prison education are working an average of 42.5 FTE hours per week, according to today’s report. This is slightly lower than the 2016 figure (45.8 FTE hours per week), but staff are still working more than a day unpaid every week.

As part of the research respondents were asked: “Thinking about the pace or intensity you currently work at, do you think this has changed over the last three years?”.

Almost 90 per cent of respondents said pace or intensity had increased, and more than three in four respondents stated that the pace or intensity of work has increased significantly.

Workers across colleges and universities cited more administrative work as a significant reason for workload increases. 

In colleges, 88 per cent of staff said that admin work had increased over the past three years. 

Covid was also a factor in workloads increasing. College staff ranked both increases in the use of technology for marking, communication and admin and increases in online working within the top five reasons for additional workloads.

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