A survey found that 66.1% of polled supervisors spend at least two hours preparing for one hour supervisionsLouis Ashworth

Students have been called on to support their supervisors as part of an open letter organised by the campaign group, Cambridge Defend Education.

Addressed to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Graham Virgo, and the heads of 31 colleges, it criticises the undergraduate supervision system, claiming that it “exploits” and “severely” underpays “casualised” workers — in particular, postgraduate students, freelancers and postdocs.

The petition urges students to support the Cambridge branch of the Universities and College Union’s (UCU) campaign, “Justice4CollegeSupervisors”, which demands paid training, employment contracts and “fair” pay rates that account for the hours supervisors spend on prepping supervisions.

The UCU’s campaign was launched earlier this year following concerns that the University was exploiting “gig economy” workers, and has since garnered roughly 500 signatures. It has also received backing from the General Secretary of the UCU, Jo Grady, and Cambridge MP, Daniel Zeichner.

Zeichner commented: “The system for paying supervisors needs to be overhauled. We all agree supervisors are doing a highly specialised job [...] Cambridge’s supervisions are what makes the University stand out, but everyone doing the job should be treated properly.”


Mountain View

UCU and SU launch ‘Justice4CollegeSupervisors’ campaign to improve supervisor working conditions

In 2018, a Cambridge UCU survey found that 66.1% of polled supervisors spend at least two hours preparing for one hour supervisions.

In October, the University issued a statement in response to the campaign: “A majority of supervisors are self-employed, choose which colleges they prefer to work with, the hours they work and often work with multiple colleges.

“The colleges are separate legal and financial employers, so cannot be covered by a single agreement. Supervisor training is provided for free and the average pay for supervision, including preparation, is well above the Living Wage.”