Date
28 July 2017
Tertiary teachers and researchers in self-funded projects accounted for 26.5 percent of all positions in the 2014-2015 academic year, up from 4.3 percent in 1995-1996. Photo: Reuters
Tertiary teachers and researchers in self-funded projects accounted for 26.5 percent of all positions in the 2014-2015 academic year, up from 4.3 percent in 1995-1996. Photo: Reuters

How a PhD graduate can end up as cheap labor in our universities

There has been growing concern in recent years over short-term contract teachers in primary and secondary schools.

But unknown to many is that their college and university counterparts also face daunting prospects.

Temporary teachers handle the same workload as their permanent colleagues — sometimes more — but are paid much less.

The inequality is taking its toll on their morale and job performance.

Figures from the University Grants Committee show that tertiary teachers and researchers in self-funded projects accounted for just 4.3 percent of all positions in the 1995-1996 academic year.

In 2014-2015, they made up 26.5 percent.

Ever mindful of their world ranking, Hong Kong universities have been hiring highly paid professors and researchers from abroad.

That means they have to cut costs elsewhere which often leads to cutbacks in tenured teaching staff and increased hiring of part-timers.

Even local PhD graduates end up as cheap labor under contract.

Job security is something temporary or part-time instructors and lecturers can only dream of.

Already deprived of benefits and equal pay, they are constantly haunted by the prospect of unemployment, even though many of them are well qualified and experienced.

The vast majority of short-term contract instructors and lecturers sometimes have no idea if they are going to keep their job until two weeks before a new school term begins.

As a result, many look for jobs between semesters. Underemployment is a very real eventuality.

Yet, they perform a vital service in our tertiary education system. Their situation must not be ignored.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 12

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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RA

Social researcher

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