The challenges of having several jobs in order to pay the bills seem a distant memory to me now, but increasingly young academics starting out in their career know that they face several years of this before securing a permanent position. Are their any advantages to working temporary contracts for many employers?
For many academics who have recently got their PhDs, the ‘holy grail’, employment-wise, is a permanent position. And in many ways this is a great advantage. It provides security; there’s no need to constantly spend time surfing jobs boards hunting for the next opportunity. It also enables you to settle into a year by year routine where the classes you prepare initially can be reused the following year.
However, this is not everyone’s goal. The problem with temporary or part time work is that the benefits are often poorer (such as sick pay, pensions etc). If this could be changed, perhaps some people would be happier to work in this way. It offers a great opportunity to see how a number of institutions works and also gives experience of working in different parts of the country. It allows you to be better informed when making decisions about where you might want to ‘settle down’ in the future.
For some people, often those who have already had careers elsewhere and are teaching in Higher Education simply because they love teaching, this way of working is ideal. They do not want to have a permanent job that involves piles of admin, a lot of meetings and sometimes involvement in office politics. They want to come in and teach young people, and that’s it.
So, while the temporary and part time work is not for everyone and for most it is a stepping stone to permanent work, some people actively choose this sort of arrangement. But for whatever reason employees end up on temporary contracts, institutions should work harder at treating these staff well.