THE North East’s leading university has become embroiled in a pay row, after advertising unpaid “voluntary” teaching jobs.
On its own website, Durham University is offering what it calls a “voluntary development opportunity” for PhD students to design and offer “extracurricular seminars” for undergraduates in its Department of Theology and Religion.
The University and College Union (UCU), which represents academics, said unpaid posts undermined the principles of equal pay, exploited people able to work for free and discriminated against those who could not afford to do so.
UCU regional support official Jon Bryan said: “The advert says its requires applicants to devise and deliver courses without payment, which is completely at odds with the firm commitment Durham gave us last year that it does not recruit unpaid staff.
“The university needs to make a clear statement outlining its position on people working for free.
“We simply do not accept the defence that teaching for free is a development opportunity – clearly it is not available to people who cannot afford to work for free.
“Universities should be striving for excellence, not seeking to exploit those who can afford to work for nothing as free labour.”
However, a Durham University spokesperson said the seminars were set up in response to demand from its postgraduate students who wanted to broaden their teaching experience for their own professional development.
The spokesperson said: “Participation is entirely voluntary and feedback has been positive from both the postgraduates designing and delivering the courses and the undergraduates who take them; many said it improved their understand and appreciation of the subject area.
“A wide range of paid teaching assistant opportunities are also available within the department and our postgraduates have the opportunity to apply for these.”
Durham, one of the world’s top 100 universities, charges the maximum £9,000-a-year in student tuition fees and has been criticised by the trade union Unison for allegedly paying hundreds of its workers less than the living wage of £7.45 an hour while vice-chancellor Professor Chris Higgins picks up a salary of £232,000 a year.
Source – Northern Echo 22 Oct 2013