Emma Watson Oxford

Two of Emma Watson’s lecturers at Oxford are suing the university for unfair dismissal

The lecturers also compared their situation to the Post Office scandal

Two lecturers at the University of Oxford who teach Emma Watson are suing the university over its policy of zero-hour contracts.

Alice Jolly and Rebecca Abrams were both lecturers on Oxford’s creative writing course which Emma Watson began studying in September.

In an interview with the Financial Times last year, Emma Watson revealed she was going back to university having reignited her love for writing during lockdown when she began writing poetry and a series of essays. She was pictured at her matriculation ceremony (where students officially enrol at the university) last year but has otherwise kept her Oxford student life private.

But her lecturers Alice Jolly and Rebecca Abrams are now suing the university for breach of contract and unfair dismissal and took their claims to an employment tribunal this week.

Alice Jolly said: “Our course is so high profile that Emma Watson attends and pays £20,000. I myself won a scholarship to Oxford University and I have won some of the top literary prizes in this country.

“Yet I have worked for 16 years on a zero hours contract for teaching on this course and was dismissed when I complained. Where is the justice in that?”

The lecturers claim the university treated them as gig-economy workers, keeping them on insecure casual contracts that lasted for 15 years, until they were abruptly discontinued after they made a formal complaint to the university.

Emma Watson Oxford

Via Alessandro Bremec/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

Dr Abrams also compared the university’s computer system, Redpot, which generated the payment for lecturers based on the number of hours worked to the Post Office Horizon scandal and said: “It’s like the Post Office data system – wrong! There are constant errors and underpayments.”

Another lecturer at the university who attended the hearing in support said it was common knowledge among staff at the University of Oxford that the Redpot IT system makes mistakes. She said: “There is quite of lot of room for error in the way that Redpot works.

“The admin can put in the wrong amount of hours for a specific tutor, the rates are not corrected or updated regularly, and this is often the case – and the result is just a sum of money which is not broken down, and so difficult to understand for the payee.”

The first hearing of the court case was held on Monday (January 15th) at the Reading Employment Tribunal Centre.

Anna Beale, a solicitor representing the university, said zero-hours contracts had the advantage of granting the teaching staff more flexibility.

The lawyer representing the lecturers responded: “I do not accept that flexibility claim – there is no real flexibility because there is a power imbalance here.

“Oxford University is one of the most powerful universities in the world and I’m a person on a zero-hours contract. If I turn down work from them I have no power to get it back. I am powerless in this relationship.”

Rebecca Abrams is expecting to start back teaching the course, including Harry Potter star Emma Watson, next week.

The Tab has contacted The University of Oxford for comment. 

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Featured image via Bremec/NurPhoto/Shutterstock and Tim Wildsmith on Unsplash.