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Death of Lecturers

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This article follows a previous one named Death of Academia. I did discuss some of these points before, but this article will be more focussed on lecturers rather than the institution.

The motivation for discussing this is not to just highlight these issues, but also open up an avenue for discussing them. I genuinely think that the death of our academic institutions will be a bad thing. That said, in their current form they have no future.

In this article we will discuss the current state of academia from the perspective of lecturers in the UK.


One thing that lecturers battle is online materials. There are more and more of related material online, through the likes of these websites or the likes of Youtube. For students, they think this is great. It supports their learning process greatly. Actually, they started to wonder: “why not record all lectures and have them available online?”. Actually, why have an in-person lecture at all?

The institutions themselves have pushed more heavily for material to be recorded. Slides are available online, lectures are recorded, tutorials are recorded. There is now zero need for a student to attend on-campus. This poses a few issues:

  1. Why would a student pay for an on-campus course, when they can essentially get the same experience online?
  2. Why would they bother to attend at all1?
  3. Why would you pay the same member of staff to record the same materials year after year? After recording your knowledge, you’ve made yourself redundant for exactly this job next year 2.
  4. As a student or an academic institution without much of a reputation, why wouldn’t you clone this content and re-use it? If I was some low-budget University in the middle-of-nowhere in China or India, you could bet I would clone the entirety of these materials and re-sell them.
  5. Academic institutions in the UK cannot compete with those with next to zero overhead.


Assessment is a massive part of lecturing, and it’s incredibly boring. From assessment creation, all the way to marking, there is no part of it that is engaging or fun. Many lecturers look to automate this process as much as possible, but of course this is becoming less and less effective.

A few of the reasons assessments are about to change drastically:

On the point of chatGPT, there is currently no response to this. Some people have claimed to be able to detect paragraphs generated using this tool, but actually they have high false-positive or false-negative rates (neither of which is any good).

No doubt, whatever answer does eventually get put forward to answer this, it will for sure put more pressure on lecturers during the assessment process. The burden of proof will now be even more difficult.


In the following we will discuss the current situation with recruitment.

Low Pay

The pay is not great3. The same expert working less hard (no expectation to work for free) and having more benefits (healthcare, expenses, etc) will get double the pay in industry.

Of course, I can put some hard numbers to this. Using the website, at the time of writing we can see the following wage comparisons:

  • £34,628 annually for an Educator4
  • £57,604 annually for a Professor5
  • £32,500 annually for a Programmer6
  • £50,000 annually for a Back-end Developer7
  • £50,000 annually for a Full-stack Developer8

Currently I would personally be looking at entry-pay for an Educator, but could easily get a Programmer role, and with a little time get a Back-end Developer or Full-stack Developer role. When you consider the base living costs, the amount of disposable income you have doubles.

I think the options are as follows:

  • Keep the same pay, reduce the responsibilities (and hours)
  • Increase the pay to meet the expectations
  • Increase the benefits, such as research freedoms

That all said, currently the unions are negotiating and lecturers are striking. The previous offer for base-rate pay was a 7% increase (inflation is at least 15%). Let’s see what happens in the next few months.

PhD Hire

A complete failure to hire the PhD students they produce to replace their ageing staff. You would think the high-value PhD students that you have trained, tested and groomed for three or more years are absolutely prime for the picking. Despite this, students are picking to work elsewhere. There are a few possibilities for this:

  1. They produce terrible PhD students, and they don’t want them. I hope they don’t believe this, because I have interacted with those in my field and they show great promise.
  2. The PhD students are getting better offers elsewhere. After speaking to some people, this appears to be the case.
  3. The PhD students are somewhat frightened of the bureaucratic nightmare that Academia is becoming. Again, this appears to also be true. I was speaking to somebody at the time of writing, that just to buy a £1 pen an entire process of procurement and forms need to be filled out9.
  4. They do not want to offer the PhD students full-time positions which would grant them the security and stability they need and require. I happen to know this is also true. They rely heavily (and dangerously) on cheaper part-time staff to make up their ranks. The same protections they fail to offer their staff, also means they themselves have little protection.

The point is, the academic institutions must look inwardly regarding their failure to hire their own highly trained PhD students. Something is going very wrong when there is a staff shortage and PhD students are opting to work elsewhere.


There is supposed to be a lot of benefits to working in academia over industry, we will discuss these:

  • Research time - Lecturers are supposed to have time to do research, but with the staff shortage (that there doesn’t appear to be any real incentive to fix) they are often over-worked on teaching, content creation and marking. This leaves no time for research within the legal framework. So either the research happens in their own time, or they are pressured my management to help them fix the staff shortages created the policies they have no control over.
  • Research funding - One of the benefits of the position is research funding. Whilst it exists and is generally pretty good, they are unwilling to spend it in wages, so they end up buying assets and people have no time to work with them. I have seen ultra cool equipment dying a silent death quietly because nobody has the time to work on it.
  • Summer break - You are supposed to get the entirety of the Summer off to either have a break or work on some projects. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Firstly, administration carries over from one Semester into the next, with retakes/resits happening in the next Semester10. Secondly, any work that needs to be done to keep courses up and running has to happen in this time. Thirdly, due to running online courses and having such packed programmes, there is a third Semester anyway (that they are of course short-staffed for).
  • Ability to publish - Whilst you have the ability to publish, there is not enough funding for submitting papers. Some research groups have a tiny budget that is fixed and not based on output or the number of people.
  • Attend conferences - Having zero time availability means no conferences, even if you could get funding for them and magically have the time to do research.

Regarding the point abut time, the short-staffing problem is so bad that there is no contingency plan for illness or holiday. This isn’t just that there is no plan, there isn’t even a system in place for it. If a member of staff doesn’t turn up for work, students simply don’t get their session. This was highlighted very clearly during the recent strikes.

Another massive issue is that there is also no ability to book overtime. If something takes longer than the allocated time arbitrarily chosen by somebody who has no idea about the exact situation you have, then it happens in your own time. It’s not uncommon to occasionally have discussions/meetings past midnight, or be phoned in the weekend to be told that there is some work that needs to be done before 9am Monday.

The benefits that are supposedly there to counteract less pay are simply not there.


Something I thought about recently is the statement “people are tired of experts”. I think we can extend this to experts in academia more generally, which would be lecturers and researchers.

Essentially the word “expert” has been conflated with some idea of being “unchallengeable”. During the COVID-19 (Wuhan coronavirus) pandemic, it became an unforgivable sin to challenge these people. So much so, you could get yourself ostracised from social media, which became the only way to socialise.

When speaking with students, they make comments like “why would you teach when you could be paid more doing X?”. It seems clear to me that students themselves no longer consider teaching a favourable career, even after interacting with staff and having some respect for the knowledge they have.

Future Focus

I make the following recommendations:

Pay staff what they are worth in industry, or lost them. Academic institutions are valuable because they are gatekeepers of knowledge and the certification of an individuals ability to demonstrate a grasp of it. If you lose your skilled staff, your standards will slip very quickly.

Stop trying to compete on efficiency or cost. If you join the race to the bottom on either cost or efficiency, you will lose. The competition in these spaces have server overhead only. You will never win when some people are very happy to give content out for free.

Focus immediately on improving the assessment processes. Almost the only value an academic institution has is in setting and evaluating standards. This is the single greatest value they have. Currently they are not up to the challenge of the likes of chatGPT and general methods for cheating.

Invest heavily on courses that require on-campus presence. Essentially you are looking at courses where Computer Science and hardware interact, and is specialised and cannot be easily replicated/simulated. You are looking at things like a microcontroller, robot, networking equipment, computing resources, etc. These are all things that need to be invested in heavily if on-campus presence is to remain a requirement. Of course you will need the investment and expertise for these.

  1. We have some answer to this, but yet again there is a failure to invest in the staff that can make it possible.↩︎

  2. Maybe some argument is made for renewing materials, but this means dramatically reduced hours.↩︎

  3. Worth mentioning is the fact that the pay in the entire of the UK is currently really bad.↩︎






  9. The process is so terrible that they struggle to even order in board markers. Many staff just buy them from their own budget instead.↩︎

  10. Personally, students who fail to pass should not be given another chance till next year. Maybe they will take it more seriously next time.↩︎