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National Survey reveals a Casual Academic workforce struggling to make a living and do their job

Posted 30 May 2012 by Jeannie Rea (NTEU National Office)

A national survey of casual academic staff in Australian universities has revealed a workforce struggling to make a living and do their job with the resources they are given.

Nearly 1500 individuals responded to the NTEU’s survey conducted earlier this year and open to all casual academic and research staff regardless of union affiliation.

“The findings from this survey, one of the largest undertaken in Australia, are extremely alarming,” said Jeannie Rea, NTEU National President.

“A large number of casual academics are struggling to put together an income, with many having had more than one appointment during the survey period and a significant number having as many as four separate jobs in multiple universities.”

“The majority of survey respondents work over and above what they are paid for. Many indicated they did not have access to the resources necessary to do their job properly.

“This is of particular concern given that more than half of all undergraduate teaching in our universities is carried out by casual academic staff. This has implications for the quality of undergraduate education.”

“The survey also explodes the myth constructed by many in university management, that staff appreciated casual working arrangements because it gives them flexibility,” said Rea.

“The majority of survey respondents aspire to a full time academic career. Many are trapped, however, in a succession of insecure, stressful, temporary work arrangements that have harmful financial and physical impacts.”

“I continually hear stories from talented young academics that have left the sector because they have had enough of the stress involved and feel there is no possibility of a stable career in higher education.”

“It’s a major waste of talent which cannot afford.”

A briefing paper on results of the NTEU’s Casual Teaching and Research Staff Survey 2012 is available for download here:

Bulletin Or Leaflet
(579 KB) - PDF


For further information and comment:

Jeannie Rea, NTEU National President: 0434 609 531

Andrew Nette, NTEU Media Officer: 0431 217 131


  1. Matthew McGowan said on 11:56 Tuesday 11 Sep, 2012

    [ 0 ] Janet

    Unfortunately, your experience is far too widespread. The union is trying to improve the situation, but it is a hard slog.

    In the bargaining round, we improved pay through the normal increase, achieving an increase in the leave loading, and ensuring that marking is paid separately. We also tried to establish career entry positions in universities called 'Early Career Fellowships'. Unfortunately, this has not substantially changed the dynamic.

    This time around, we are seeking to create 2,000 new Scholarly Teaching Fellows across the country which are intended to convert casual labour into more secure employment,

    The economics of the sector and a lack of a real commitment to develop future academics by our universities, are both contributing to the problem. Under budget pressure, local departmental heads make decisions to replace existing continuing work with casual work to help balance the budget. These local decisions aggregate and creates a sector wide problem.

    This is also one of the reasons the union continues to argue for more funding for the sector as well as pushing our employers in bargaining.

    I realise none of this solves your current situation in the short run, but you can play a role in helping the union pursue these issues by getting in touch with your local branch. The union is only as effective as our members and we need more members willing to tell us their stories and to help build the case for change.

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  2. Janet Saunders said on 8:41 Tuesday 11 Sep, 2012

    [ +2 ] I am surprised to read that so many casuals are in a similar situation to me. I feel exploited and disappointed. I too am trapped in a position where I feel I am set to fail. My part-time teaching position runs out in Feb and the expectation is, that I will return to the tenuous position of a casual yet again. My research continues for another 4 years, and as this involves studying student groups, I am bound to continue teaching for part of this time. I can not take up other contracts offered to me and my professional skills fade as the years contnue. I can neither go forward nor backwards. The prospect of full-time employment at the University seems unlikely. I have already remorgaged my house and rely on my husband to continue working to support, what appear to be now, a very poor career decision. This has caused great tension and stress in our family. I will no doubt continue, as I have invested several years in this venture and enjoy the teaching and being with the sudents. My employment prospects will most likely lie in corporate training, which I find disappointing.

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