Utrecht University offers revolving door teacher hopes

With 30 percent of the employees on temporary contracts, the universities are well above the national average. PhD students, without a fixed contract in any case, are not even included. Utrecht University allocates 50 million to reduce work pressure and expand the number of permanent jobs.

Anyone who loves historical radio and television shows like OVT and Hidden Past has probably heard Sanne Frequin talk enthusiastically about medieval works of art. TV viewers may know her from series such as ‘Behind the Dikes’ or ‘The Battle of the Binnenhof’. “I think it is very important that scientific knowledge reaches a wide audience,” says the art history teacher, who makes the unpaid media appearances alongside his full-time job at Utrecht University (UU). She also researches in her spare time.

Frequin is also active at the Utrecht Teaching Academy, a network of educators who want to contribute to the quality of education and who are not afraid of sensitive topics. She recently made the podcast series ‘Ik Vertrek’ together with social geography teacher Stef Dingemans. In it, the temporary teachers interview about their education, their students and their often involuntary departure after the end of their contract.

This article is from February Education Magazine. Do you want to stay informed about everything that goes on in education? Become a member of AOb and receive Uddannelsesmagasinet every month.

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Sanne Frequin has been a substitute for eleven years. “I belong to the nomads who move from university to university. I now have a colleague whom I have already met three times at another university. ” Frequin started as a PhD student at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). She then worked briefly at the Free University and then at Leiden University for two years. At UU, she started with a sick leave, after which she was given a longer temporary contract. “If I had a neighborhood for all the times people said to me ‘drop them’, I would be rich now,” she laughs.

“I am always very open and transparent about my precarious position at the university,” says the medieval expert. “Temporary colleagues often do not dare to resign because people have the idea that you will not get a new contract because you are not good enough in your profession. But I have already applied for my own job twice and just did not get it, because then I would have to have a permanent contract. I would like to make it clear that a large part of the university education is handled by teachers with precarious jobs. We kept education going during the pandemic. “

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This is no exaggeration. The share of temporary jobs has grown steadily over the past fifteen years. Even without PhD students who are still in temporary employment, universities with 30 percent of employees on temporary contracts are well above the national average of 23 percent, the Rathenau Institute calculated in November last year. Also in comparison with other countries, Dutch universities have many temps.

The lower the position, the higher the percentage of temporary contracts. By 2020, 7 percent of the more than 3,500 professors were in temporary employment. Of the 2,800 associate professors, only 5 per cent had a temporary position, against 28 per cent of the almost 6,400 assistant professors. At the very bottom of the academic ladder, there are 5,300 permanent teachers, 61 percent of whom have a temporary contract.

The differences between the universities are great. At the University of Twente, 11 percent of assistant professors have a temporary contract, at Erasmus University it is 57 percent. Among lecturers without a research assignment, that percentage even varies from 31 at Erasmus to 90 at UU. Teachers also have a smaller time, 0.7 man-years is usually the maximum, while their work does not even fit into a 40-hour work week. The lack of job security and the high workload cause social insecurity.

Last year, the action groups Casual Leiden and 0.7 were set up in Leiden and Utrecht, which give anonymous substitute teachers a voice and demand permanent jobs for construction work. The agreement reached last summer was a bitter pill for the random movement, which is now also active in other university towns. From now on, professors, assistant professors and support staff will receive a permanent contract after one year of temporary employment. But permanent jobs for teachers who are only teachers cannot be discussed with universities because they maintain the intertwining of education and research. This means that the collective agreements on more permanent employment for university lecturers are very easy to evade, the action groups warn.

“Temporary employment must be necessary and explicable. Of course, it is difficult to explain that 90 percent of the lecturers at Utrecht University are in temporary employment. ”

Therefore, it is agreed in the agreement that it must be agreed in the Local Council for each university to tackle work pressure and the size of the flexible layer. “Temporary employment needs to be needed and explained,” said district chief Ahmed Charifi, who advises local AOb representatives. “Of course, it’s hard to explain that 90 percent of the teachers at UU are in temporary employment.”

It’s just not right, says Sanne Frequin. “It is always said that there is no money, but education money enters the universities through the students, and the number of students has only grown in recent years. The money is there, because I am always paid. ”

“The problem at universities is that employers’ costs are decentralized to the lowest level in the organization,” says AOb WO&O sector director Donald Pechler. “A small department is itself responsible for any redundancy costs. If you put financial risks so low in the organization, you get defensive policies. Then the risks are transferred to the employee by not offering her job security. Executive boards should take more responsibility. They are the employer and should behave as such. “

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Utrecht University seems to realize this. In December, the local consultation committee received a plan to reduce the workload and increase the number of permanent jobs. The management will earmark 50 million euros for this over the next six years. This could increase if the new cabinet makes further investments.

The measures are simple. A number of university lecturers are given more time to do research, which reduces the workload. Part of their education must then be given by new colleagues. It creates permanent jobs for substitute teachers like Sanne Frequin. The faculties can also take other measures, such as giving PhD students an extra year so that they can be sent out as lecturers. Or hire additional student assistants. As long as the number of permanent jobs increases and the number of temporary contracts decreases.

“These teachers have been teaching satisfactorily for many years. Then you can not suddenly say that you have to be promoted to continue with that work. “

Tim de Winkel, one of the founders of Action Group 0.7, was pleasantly surprised at the speed with which the plan was being developed. “UU is the only university that has a concrete plan and makes its own money available. Nothing but praise for it. “De Winkel has joined the AOb to keep his finger on the pulse of UU’s Local Counseling. Needed because teachers and assistant professors are hardly represented by the unions.” Because they are not members. “De Winkel has little. trust in the faculties. “The rules have been deliberately circumvented there in the past. I want to keep a close eye on whether the workload is really declining.”

But there is another snake in the grass. Teachers who are not promoted are not eligible for the new assistant professor positions. “It’s weird, of course,” Pechler says. “These teachers have been teaching satisfactorily for many years. Then you can not suddenly say that you have to be promoted to continue that work. The work has not changed, has it? “

Burnt out

The door is ajar for Sanne Frequin. She received her doctorate in December for the research she started eleven years ago at UvA. The medieval specialist showed how the counts of Hainaut in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries used their burial monuments for political propaganda. In Utrecht Cathedral, one of the surviving tombs can be seen in its original, colorful condition. It’s a 3D print that Frequin has crowdfunded.

It’s too late for Stef Dingemans from the podcast series ‘I’m leaving’. He himself left UU and now works as a teacher at Fontys Hogeschool in Eindhoven. “His contract expired,” Frequin says. “He really wanted a PhD, but he did not get that opportunity. I really wonder how to let such a valuable employee go. ”

“We are talking about the public sector. Why should such a large flexible need to be maintained there? ”

Pechler does not want to appear angry: “Of course you have to count your blessings and UU is taking a step forward. But we are not there yet. Teachers should also have a career perspective. This means that they must be able to carry out education-related research. We want them to have the prospect of a permanent job, just like the rest of the staff. We are talking about the public sector. Why should such a large flexible need to be maintained there? ”

AkademieKus, which is awarded by AOb together with Casual Leiden and 0.7 on Valentine’s Day, therefore goes this year to an initiative that has led to several permanent contracts. A positive gesture, but for the relaxed movement, February 14 is also the starting shot for new actions. Under the motto ‘The university no longer loves us’, they are preparing for demonstrations, sit-ins and strikes that will get other university boards started. “Desperately needed,” says Tim de Winkel. “At 0.7, there are reports from teachers who are so burnt out that they can not even go to the fridge anymore.”

This article is from the February issue of Education Magazine, which is sent to AOb members eleven times a year. Want to know more about all the benefits of AOb membership? Look here.

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