Supervisors win pay for mandatory departmental training

The change has been described as a ‘first win’ against Cambridge’s ‘internal gig-economy’


The University has agreed to pay supervisors for training mandated by their departments, Cambridge University and College Union (UCU) revealed yesterday (9/05).

The background

All supervisors are mandated by the Senior Tutors Committee and the General Board to undertake five hours of CCLT training before beginning to teach. This training is currently unpaid because the University insists it should be paid for by the Colleges since it concerns college-based teaching. 

Some Faculties and Departments also require their supervisors to undertake additional training. Because this second type of training is based in departments, which are linked to the central University rather than individual colleges, it is the University who has power over payment policy.

Until now, the University had no central position on whether this second type of training should be paid or unpaid, so it varied by faculty. Cambridge UCU have been fighting for all training to be paid sice 2018. 

Matthew Lloyd Roberts, a J4CS organiser, told us that the situation concerning unpaid training was “obscene.” He continued “precariously employed and freelance workers are forced to attend unpaid training sessions in order to teach at one of the wealthiest and most prestigious universities in the world.”

The campaign

In 2021, Cambridge UCU and Cambridge Student Union (SU) officially launched a joint campaign called J4CS (Justice 4 College Supervisors), demanding “fair pay, paid training, and secure contracts” for supervisors. The campaign drew support from national figures including Jo Grady, General Secretary of UCU, and Daniel Zeichner, Cambridge’s MP.

J4CS’ demands were originally rejected by the Senior Tutors Committee. However, in January 2022 J4CS responded with a postcard campaign that saw over 600 postcards from supervisors who supported the campaign delivered to the University and Colleges. 

Following this, the University met with representatives from the campaign, and “committed to investigating the matter [of Faculties mandating training to supervisors] further.” 

Yesterday, following that investigation, the University has agreed to “draft guidance that mandates Faculties to pay for the supervision training they require.”

The reaction

Cambridge UCU described this win as “the result of years of relentless work and organising by casualised workers at the University.” This follows the University agreeing to officially recognise UCU last month. 

Other groups have also chimed in with praise for the policy change. Anjum Nahar, Postgraduate President of Cambridge SU, said that the move was a “brilliant step towards improving the working conditions of supervisors.”

Cambridge Defend Education (CDE), have insisted the move will benefit students. They told The Tab “students are increasingly becoming aware that they lose out from staff being underpaid and overworked. Poor working conditions decrease the quality of education that students receive.”

Similarly, supervisors themselves have expressed how “glad” they are that “supervisors have forced the University to rethink its position.”

Where next?

However, Cambridge UCU claim it is merely the “first win” of a broader campaign. 

Lloyd Roberts told The Tab that the move was only a “partial solution”, since supervisors still faced unpaid CCLT training, and J4CS demands for payment to increase to reflect marking and preparation time, as well as secure contracts for supervisors, have not been met. 

Simina Dragos, who is also a supervisor and J4CS organiser, said that the University relies is “forcing [supervisors] to shoulder the costs whilst sitting on endowments worth billions.”

CDE agreed that more must be done to combat the “internal gig economy” of the supervision system, demanding that “the Senior Tutors Committee must now ensure that the gross disparity between hours worked and hours paid is finally ended.”

On Twitter, Cambridge UCU directed supervisors to continue campaigning by signing up to their “#BillThemAll” pledge, which requires supervisors to track the “unpaid hours” they work in order to “demonstrate the extent of underpayment in the supervision system.”

J4CS also told The Tab that students who “want to see supervisors’ conditions improve” should attend the rally they are hosting outside Clare College at 2pm on 27th May. Inside, J4CS members will be “meeting with the Senior Tutors for the very first time after years of being ignored and shut out.”

City Councillor Alice Gilderdale and County Councillor Dr Alex Bulat have both announced they will be joining the protest on the 27th.

J4CS finished their statement to the Tab by saying “only by standing together can we build a fairer university.”

The University’s Office for External Affairs and Communications commented “this matter will be considered by the General Board’s Education Committee, before a consultation of Faculties and Departments takes place about a guidance document relating to this issue.”

Featured image credits: Rebekah Treganna