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Unwaged posts in UK Universities: Controversies and campaigns

Forkert, Kirsten; Lopes, Ana

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Kirsten Forkert

Ana Lopes


The article examines unwaged posts at UK universities, using recent examples of advertised posts. While unpaid work is common in the UK higher education system, unwaged posts are not. The posts under scrutiny in this article differed from traditional honorary titles as their target was early career academics, unlikely to have a paid position elsewhere, rather than established scholars. The article contextualises the appearance of these posts in a climate of increasing marketisation of Higher Education, entrenching managerialism in Higher Education institutions and casualisation of academic work. We discuss the resistance that ensued to the advertisement of such posts. We argue that the current controversy surrounding unpaid internships in the creative industries created a receptive environment for resisting these unwaged posts in academia. It is in this context that we analyse the campaigns that were fought against the advertisement of the posts, mostly through social media and the University and Colleges Union (UCU). We explore the tactics used and discuss the advantages and limitations of the use of social media, as well as the role of trade unions in the campaigns against these posts and we reflect on what future campaigns can learn from these experiences. We do so by thematically analysing social media, activist communications, blogs and media articles, as well as personal communications with key players in the campaigns. We conclude that the utilisation of social media is useful for sparking interest, creating momentum and allow activists to capitalise on public outrage and respond swiftly. However, social media as a key campaign strategy can be of limited use in the long term.


Forkert, K., & Lopes, A. (2015). Unwaged posts in UK Universities: Controversies and campaigns. tripleC: Communication, Capitalism and Critique, 13(2), 533-553

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2015
Deposit Date Mar 23, 2015
Publicly Available Date Feb 12, 2016
Journal tripleC: Communication, Capitalism and Critique
Publisher TripleC
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 13
Issue 2
Pages 533-553
Keywords universities, internships, academic labour, academia, precarity, unwaged work, social media, unions, casualisation, activism, inequality
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