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Support for Graduate Teaching Assistants at KCL: Fair Pay for Fair Feedback

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Did you know that over half of the teaching at King's College London is carried out by 'graduate teaching assistants' (i.e. PhD students paid on a casual basis to teach)?

The way GTAs' contracts are worked out means that, if we worked to time, we would have about 18 minutes to mark a 1,500 word essay. Because we care about our students and want to do the best job we can, most of us choose to work overtime for free.

Fair Pay for GTAs is a campaign group that has for some time been fighting for better pay, additional resources and more equitable treatment for graduate teaching assistants at King's College London.

According to a survey we conducted in 2014, 96% of King's GTAs regularly work past their contracted hours. The realities of preparation time, marking and contact with students means it is impossible to do a decent job in the terms set by our contracts.

Disturbingly, the college recently described GTAs as 'apprentices' in student-staff focus groups. This kind of language devalues our work and sets a dangerous precedent for part-time and casual workers at King's.

Under pressure from our campaign, GTAs have already been granted some concessions, including increased prep time, standardisation of pay across most departments and a limited reintroduction of the scrapped PGCAPHE teaching qualification, but there is still a lot to do.

Here are some of the proposals of our campaign:

  • Essay-based, first marking should be paid at a rate of 2000 words (as in Essex and Glasgow) per hour or, in non-essay based subjects, at an equivalent rate. This will allow us to offer students the high quality feedback they deserve without having to work for nothing.
  • Preparation time should be paid hourly at a 4:1 ratio with teaching. At the moment, it is measured at 2:1, meaning that preparing a one hour lesson on James Joyce would give us two paid hours. Have you ever tried reading Ulysses in two hours? 
  • All departments should provide decent training for GTAs and all mandatory training should be paid at the same rate as teaching. That way, we will be ready to provide a good standard of teaching to our cohorts.
  • The discontinued, two-year PGCAPHE course or a qualification of equal value should be made available to ALL casual teaching staff at King’s College London in order to further their career development.

You can find more a detailed list of proposals here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/154326464928753/?fref=ts

We've recently put our recommendations to management and they will be discussed at the Senior Executive Team and Senior Leadership Team meetings on April 21st and 28th respectively.

In these meetings, King's will have the opportunity to set the standard for fairly- paid teaching, rather than racing other universities to the bottom in the casualisation and exploitation stakes. 

If we do not receive a substantial improvement to our contracts from SET and SLT, we will be forced to consider further action, including delaying marking summer exams and final assessments. If this is to be avoided, it is essential that our proposals are heard.

We truly want to contribute to making King's a world-class institution. Our goal, as well as that of students and of management are the same: to make King's as good as it can be. But that can never happen while staff members are exploited, overworked and underpaid.

Please sign our petition calling on SET and SLT to take our demands seriously and offer decent contracts to casual teaching staff at King's College London.

Fair pay for fair feedback!

Sincerely,

Fair Pay for GTAs

P.S. you can find more information about the campaign on our blog: https://kclgtas.wordpress.com/

P.P.S. please direct any questions or concerns to Karen O'Brien, Vice-Principal (Education) and karen.obrien@kcl.ac.uk.

 

 



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