Is university a lottery ticket?

Drs Vanessa Fredericks and Marina Harvey with Professor Guy Standing
Drs Vanessa Fredericks and Marina Harvey with Professor Guy Standing

Members of the BLASST team recently heard Professor Guy Standing (Professor of Development, University of London) speak at a public lecture hosted by the Centre for Workforce Futures. Promoting a new vocabulary of the “precariat”, Standing extends its original meaning of “temporary or seasonal workers” as he elaborates on labour security.

Sessional academics are part of this precariat, and so they may lack a “secure work-based identity” and suffer from “status discord” (Standing’s words), i.e. having high levels of formal education but accepting jobs on low incomes. Indeed, he spoke of university as a lottery ticket, describing the growth in precariat, or sessional, positions as a new core and a new norm.

Interestingly, when speaking about what positive progress could be made, he states that precariat voices are needed in governance. This aligns with what the BLASST national sessional staff standards framework already evidences as good practice! Examples of relevant good practice standards from the BLASST framework include:

  • Sessional staff are represented on university committees and bodies e.g. L&T committee, Senate, Staff Consultative group; and the institution provides resources to support this (3.1b)
  • Sessional staff representatives are invited and paid to attend departmental meetings, learning and teaching meetings (1.3a)

Given that the author of “The Precariat’”and “A Precariat Charter” has identified the precariat as a “new dangerous class”, we promote the BLASST national standards as an effective way to manage this risk.