Fixed-term and temporary: teaching fellows, tactics, and the negotiation of contingent labour in the UK higher education system

Kimberley Peters, Jennifer Elizabeth Turner

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This paper autobiographically considers the role of teaching-only staff as a
contingent labour force in the contemporary higher education system in the UK. The aims are twofold. First, whilst much attention has been paid to the role of the research fellow, there has been less consideration, in the UK context, of the teaching fellow as an alternate form of postdoctoral experience. Accordingly, this paper gives voice to the teaching fellow—a member of academic staff who is not allocated writing and research time as part of their contract—whose views are often marginalised in ongoing debates concerning the plays of power in the neoliberalised academy. Second, the paper raises these voices to bring into consciousness the impacts of the teaching fellow experience for the fellows themselves and the faculties they work in. It is argued that teaching fellows face challenging circumstances with regard to their career trajectories in the academy. Accordingly, this paper considers the ways in which fellows, through tactics of placemaking, presence and visibility, and collaboration, negotiate the challenging structural and institutional conditions that underscore their contracts. It is contended that exploring the teaching-only workforce is vital for critically assessing the workings of the contemporary academy and questioning the unequal power relations that shape work places in a culture where contingent labour is expanding; becoming less of a fixed-term and temporary
feature of the university system but, rather, a stable and enduring one.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2317-2331
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2014


  • contingent labour
  • higher education
  • fixed-term
  • temporary
  • teaching


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