In 2018 we were made aware of PhD students' concerns around their employment rights as associate tutors at UEA. The concerns they raised matched those of PhD associate tutors in the years before them, indicating that not enough progress had been made by the university, thus prompting the Student's Union to conduct a full investigation and report. From the anecdotal accounts forwarded to us, there seemed to be a lack of consistency in how associate tutors are recruited, trained, paid, and supported across schools and Faculties.
Given the harsh reality that every PhD student wishing to progress into an academic career will require teaching experience, associate tutors may be more willing to 'accept' poor working conditions than risk having no work at all.
Regulation and support of teaching opportunities for PhD students can have subsequent negative impact in the following areas, making it a serious concern:
- The mental health of PhD students
- The educational experience of undergraduate students
- The number of BME PhD students progressing into academic careers
You can can read the full report here.
If you are concerned about your experience as an Associate Tutor, the University's policy on Postgraduate Research Employment can be found here. We continue to work alongside the Academic Director of Research Programmes to implement our recommendations. All PhD Associate Tutors at UEA should be provided with guidance on what they can reasonably expect as a member of staff at the university before they start teaching.