Discount University: we pay our staff peanuts and worry about the consequences later


On Thursday, April 30th, we held an awareness-raising protest at the University of Maynooth. It was to bring some light to the fact that most of the teaching and research carried out in our universities and colleges today is done by people with no job security at all. Worse still, they are paid for only a fraction of the work that they do – they are not paid for preparation, administration and consultation with students. The action on Thursday was to highlight the exploitative rates of pay and deteriorating working conditions of front-line workers in our universities and colleges.

In the spirit of public theatre, we (temporary, part-time and casual-hours staff) set up our own recruitment stall for the fictional – though perhaps more upfront – ‘Discount University’. It is of course hard to compete with other universities in Ireland. Even the more prestigious institutions have precariously employed staff, who they pay almost nothing for correcting students work (as little as 1.05 euro per paper).

Applicants for positions were rigorously tested on their ability to grade student papers in real-life conditions. We offered training in the art of speed-reading and quality grading lest they be fined for failing to provide students with meaningful feedback. We made it clear that not everyone that applied for a position would be guaranteed a zero/low-hours contract – if they were not up to scratch we could just resort to the JobBridge scheme to get workers for nothing at all.


In holding this recruitment event, we were highlighting the issue of casualization in Irish universities. Irish universities have been raising the cost of education to students while increasing class sizes and cutting the wages paid to those at the frontline of teaching and grading; many research and teaching staff now struggle to make a living.

This was the second manifestation of the Discount University and we will not go away until our teaching conditions (and by extension student learning conditions) are improved. See you at the next Discount University!


Statement of Solidarity with Occupy LSE & De Nieuwe Universiteit

Statement of Solidarity from Third Level Workplace Watch

Third Level Workplace Watch extends solidarity to students engaged in two significant university occupations, one at the London School of Economics inspired by a second at the Maagdenhuis by the New University/ De Nieuwe Universiteit at the University of Amsterdam. Though these occupations are in different universities and in different countries, their demands are very much the same and shared by us.

We commend their opposition to the neoliberalisation of higher education and fully support the actions they have taken to highlight this issue. We agree that universities and colleges are in crisis. Neoliberalism has fundamentally changed the nature of work within higher education. An increasing reliance on low paid, casual labour to deliver much of the teaching load is now commonplace across the sector. The higher education workplace is now even more hierarchical, exclusionary, gendered, and racialised as fewer women and people of colour get into permanent ranks, trapped instead on the hamster wheel of temporary work. This precarity is a feature of neoliberalism – systemic, enduring and exacerbated by austerity budgets, but not created by them.

Exploitative work practices directly impacts on the quality of education. Staff, student ratios are increasing, fees are rising, and teaching is undermined by a reliance on unpaid/low paid casual labour.

Those on hourly paid and zero hours contracts receive inadequate remuneration for their work, often completing student feedback, consultation, lecture and module preparation for free. Many of these lecturers are forced to rely on social welfare in order to survive. Some of these workers are students who also pay high fees to the same institutions that exploit their labour.

Our working conditions are your learning conditions. Your struggle is our struggle.

Solidarity to all those involved.
Third Level Workplace Watch
Dublin, Ireland