1 December 2023

This column appears in “Le Monde de l’éducation”. If you are subscribed to Worldyou can subscribe to this weekly newsletter by following this link.

Over the past few decades, French universities have made savings by increasingly calling on qualified and inexpensive labor to provide their course hours: we, the temporary teachers. Few people realize the extraordinary operating conditions we are experiencing. We ask you today to put in place an inexpensive measure, which would show your humanity and your concern for the staff who make the university live.

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We are one of the main pillars of the French university. There are 130,000 temporary teachers in public higher education in France. It is more than 60% of the teaching staff in this sector, it is double the number of tenured teachers. We provide 4 million hours of lessons per year, that’s almost a quarter of the hours of university lessons. Not to mention the unquantified and most often unpaid tasks entrusted to us: correction of additional papers, supervision of exams… Without us, the universities would be at a standstill in the second semester: each year takes place, from January, a “day of university overrun”, from which the courses would stop if one had to rely only on the hours provided for in the contracts of the tenured teachers.

We are dust in the university budget. If we count the course preparations and the corrections, we work for a remuneration lower than the hourly minimum wage. We most often receive less than 500 euros per month, over a few months a year. At this price, we represent only 0.6% of expenditure for higher education (about 200 million euros out of 34 billion). In view of the share of lessons we provide, we only receive 2% to 3% of the value of our courses!

Most often in precarious situations, we don’t have a contract at the time of work, we are paid by the hour of class… often months, sometimes years after the work done. We have been fighting for years to obtain things normally obvious in the world of work: a salary at the end of the month, a partial reimbursement of transport costs…

Collective improvement

We are asking for double pay. If our hourly rate had been indexed to the minimum wage since the 1980s, today it would be twice as high. And that is precisely what we ask of universities. We don’t dream, we don’t rely on a law. We are counting on each university to apply a simple and inexpensive measure now: for one hour of classes in vacation, declare an additional hour of preparation at the same rate. This doubling would cost less than 1% of their budget. It is an essential budgetary choice. We trust universities to remember that paying their teachers with dignity is a priority.

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