UK universities’ marketization exposed during the coronavirus lockdowns

The spread of coronavirus in the UK has exposed the downsides of universities’ marketization, especially in the hiring processes.

Five weeks ago, on March 23rd, the lockdown was put in place in the UK by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country. This meant learning institutions and companies had to find new ways to continue with their services. It also meant working at home for companies and learning being moved online for these learning institutions.

UK universities’ marketization

For universities, students and universities swiftly made plans to continue learning through online platforms. The pandemic lockdowns have ended up exposing universities’ marketization and their shameful hiring processes over the last decade.

Recent data shows that 54 percent of the UK’s university staff are employed on insecure contracts. They are just a call away from being unemployed. Data also showed the majority of people employed under these contracts were women.  The spread of coronavirus has now put their livelihoods in jeopardy as universities explore ways in which they can reduce costs.

Data also showed that a third of the teaching staff were employed temporarily, making them easy to sack while considering a way to cut costs. The data also showed that 46 percent of universities in the UK used zero-hours contracts to deliver teaching.

These employees have become an easy target for universities, having close to zero protections for their jobs. This has resulted in many contract workers being furloughed or fired during the past few weeks the country has been in lockdown.

Universities’ marketization has also replaced scholarly careers with an economic analysis that looks at staff as unit cost per output. The academic communities that built the foundations of universities are now disposable liabilities. Permanent employment has also been replaced by cheaper hirings which are easier to dispose of while increasing the power the management of these universities holds.

Post pandemic running of universities will also change, with universities moving more towards virtual learning, which further cuts costs and reduces the number of people on their payroll. The urge to increase profits will result in loss source of income to many under unsecured contracts. This further highlights how far the universities marketization has gone and the impact it has had on university staff.


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