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Insights into the working experience of casual academics and their immediate supervisors.


The increasing use of casual university academics has been an issue of concern to researchers and commentators for some time. Research to date has tended to focus on the plight of casuals who aspire to permanent positions, and emphasising issues such as career dissatisfaction, exploitation, and marginalisation. Little evidence has been gathered that quantifies the views of casuals more broadly. Less still has been gathered on the perceptions of the immediate supervisors of casuals. This article seeks to compare the perceptions of a cohort of casuals and their immediate supervisors. Both quantitative and qualitative data are gathered via a survey of academic staff employed in the business faculty of a large metropolitan university. The survey results indicate, among other things, a high level of mutual satisfaction between casuals and their immediate supervisors. Casuals also expressed a high level of general satisfaction with their work as casual staff. These and other findings are discussed in some detail.

1. Introduction

This article reports research on the management and role of casual university teaching staff (henceforth casuals) from their perspective and from the perspective of their immediate supervisors who are responsible for the overall management of the subjects in which casuals are employed to teach. The supervisors of casuals are typically employed on a continuous basis, and they are henceforth referred to as coordinators. Casual lecturers and tutors are temporary employees, not formally employed on a continuous basis. They are also known, somewhat loosely, as part-timers, sessional teachers, contingent academics, and sometimes collectively as the invisible or adjunct faculty (Gappa and Leslie 1993, Ziegler and Reiff 2006, Ryesky 2007, West 2010, Langen 2011).

While there is a considerable literature on the casualisation of academic employment (reviewed in the next section), none of the literature has, to date, systematically examined and compared the views of casuals and coordinators on the basis of survey-generated data; hence, this is the focus of our research for the article. That said, inferences have nevertheless been drawn from the limited data that have hitherto been generated. For example, the work of Lazarsfeld-Jensen and Morgan (2009a; 2009b) raised the following questions: Do coordinators and casuals share common views? Is there direct or indirect evidence of bullying? How do coordinators and casuals get along? Are there tensions, or are relationships relatively harmonious? Is there a perception that the system is anti-collegial? In the foreword to Percy et al. (2008), the issue of the possible exploitation of casuals is raised which, in turn, raises the following additional questions: Do the perceptions of coordinators and those casuals they coordinate indicate a relationship of coordinators exploiting casuals? Do coordinators have negative perceptions a bout the competency of casuals? Similar issues are raised by Brown, Goodman and Yasukawa (2010). On the basis of qualitative data--that is interview responses--they contend among other things that coordinators 'preside over the systemic suppression of casual voices' (p. 179). This begs the question: Are these qualitative findings supported by quantitative findings?

In general, there is a gap in the empirical research literature dealing with differences and similarities in the perceptions of coordinators and casuals about issues of concern to casuals. This article attempts to examine these issues on the basis of evidence drawn from a survey of casuals' views and a separate survey of coordinators affiliated to the business faculty of a major Australian metropolitan university. Both quantitative and qualitative data are generated and discussed. for the purposes of objectively gleaning insights into the mean response to various statements put forward for respondents to consider, the quantitative results are seen in this article to be of central importance. Accordingly, Section 2 gives a background review of the existing literature relevant to the research issues raised in this article. This is followed in Section 3 by an outline of the methodology employed. A comparative analysis is then presented in Section 4 of the separate surveys of (i) casuals and (ii) coordinators. Finally, some concluding thoughts are presented in Section 5 in the form of a discussion of the principal research issues raised.

2. Background

According to the BLASST Project (2013) that seeks to establish a sessional-staff standards framework, 'Up to 50 percent of teaching in Australian universities is provided by sessional staff. At individual departmental levels, this can rise to levels of 80 percent and more'. However, official data on the actual number of people employed as casual academics are not available. Junor (2004), Coates and Goedegebuure (2010), and May (2011), among others, argue that the casualisation of academic employment has been more pronounced than the average experience elsewhere in Australia. Coates and Goedegebuure (2010) suggest that on a simple headcount basis, casual academic employees account for about 40 per cent of all academic employment in Australia. The estimates in May (2011) based on superannuation-fund data suggest a figure a little below 60 per cent for 2010. While headcount estimates may vary, the long-term trend in the best available proxy indicator of the extent of change in casualisation rates has been increasing. Thus for 2011, the proportion of total casual higher-education employment expressed in full-time-equivalent (FTE) units reached its highest value to date of 16.1 per cent, compared to 12.3 per cent in 1996 (DEEWR 2012). The growth in the employment of casual academics has also been increasing elsewhere in the world. Baldwin and Wawrzynski (2011, p. 1486), for exam pie, state that more than half of all instructional staff in higher education in the United States hold temporary contingent appointments. In community colleges in the United States, the proportion is particularly high. Charlier and Williams (2011, p. 161) point out that by 2007 around 68 per cent of US community college faculty members were employed on a part-time basis.

Most sources agree that the growth in casualisation has been driven by employers' cost-cutting and seeking the benefits of labour flexibility (for example Junor 2004, Charlier and Williams 2011, Groen et al. 2011). However, McKay and Brass (2011) seethe rise in casualisation as being not only driven by the desire for labour flexibility, but also for greater educational flexibility in general. Thus, casualisation can be linked to the increasing decentralisation of the delivery of material and the rise of podcasts and other technologies that contribute to the 'massification of higher education' locally and globally. It seems not inconceivable that evolving global technological forces that drive these changes will eventually lead not only to greater degrees of casualised teaching, but to more flexible, automated, and cost-effective systems of delivery in general.

Drawing from Schibik and Harrington (2004), Cowley (2010, p. 34) observes that there are 'many benefits to casualisation'. These include (i) gaining access to industry or professional experts, (ii) providing greater flexibility to universities to respond to cyclical fluctuations in demand, as well as to more permanent, structural, changes in demand, (iii) facilitating 'a more congenial work/life balance for full-time staff where sessional staff teach the evening, early morning, or even weekend classes where they are offered' (p. 34), (iv) generating supplementary income for postgraduate students, and (v) freeing up time for 'full-time, tenured staff to pursue research or other necessary tasks'(p. 34).

With the growth in casualisation, education labour unions and academic commentators have criticised what they consider to be the exploitation of casuals and have called for reforms (Junor 2004, Percy et al. 2008, Gottschalk and McEachern 2010, Brown, Goodman and Yasukawa 2010, Bexley, James and Arkoudis 2011, among others). They cite relatively poor employment conditions for casuals and particularly the lack of opportunities for them to make the transition to a full-time or tenure-track position. Thus, Gottschalk and McEachern (2010, p.37) point out that casuals' frequently, but unsuccessfully use casual work as a career strategy. The result is frustrated careers'. Brown, Goodman and Yasukawa (2010, p. 169) argue that there has emerged 'a class divide among academics [between casuals and non-casuals], which has become institutionally embedded'. It should be noted, however, that casuals have differing motivations for taking up casual academic work, and many may not be interested in obtaining full-time employment (Joiner and Bakalis 2006). West (2010) points out that casuals are a variegated group with differing backgrounds, differing personal situations, and differing expectations of what they want out of a casual academic job. This point seems to be played down in some of the casualisation-reform literature (for example Junor 2004, Percy et al. 2008, Gottschalk and McEachern 2010, Brown, Goodman and Yasukawa 2010, Bexley, James and Arkoudis, 2011).

3. Research Methodology

The research for this article gathered and employed quantitative and qualitative information and can be viewed as an application of a mixed-methods approach (Creswell and Plano Clark 2011). The research data were gathered in two phases. Phase one investigated casual teaching from the perspective of the casuals themselves; Phase two investigated it from the perspective of the casuals' supervisors, that is the coordinators. The overarching purpose of this article is to compare and contrast the perspectives of casuals with the perspectives of their coordinators. Although both quantitative and qualitative data were collected, primacy has been given to the collection of quantifiable data for the purpose of measuring, in an objective fashion, the mean response to various issues raised. Responding to statements qualitatively (that is providing a written narrative) was optional and limited to broad categories of statements.

To contextualise the casual teaching environment, we note that the business faculty surveyed for this study has long drawn on casual academics as a source of professional and teaching expertise. During the survey period, casual academics in the business faculty were supported in a number of ways. At a university level, a Teaching and Learning Unit offered limited training and hosted an annual conference for casual lecturers. The faculty was actively involved in improving support for casuals, and school administrators worked closely with subject coordinators to provide management systems and support for casuals.

Phase one of the survey process investigated casual teaching from the perspective of casuals who were teaching or who had recently taught in the faculty. To construct a questionnaire to survey them, a preliminary review of the literature on casual academic staff was carried out to identify issues of likely relevance to this research. To confirm the relevance of these issues and to identity any additional ones, three focus-group sessions were conducted on consecutive days. Focus groups were conducted according to well-established protocols (Morgan 1998). The focus-group meetings were voice-recorded and summary transcriptions were made to facilitate analysis. From a content analysis of focus-group discussion, in conjunction with the questionnaire methodologies employed in the literature, core issues of concern for casual academic staff were identified and built into the survey questionnaire. With reference to the purposes of this article, casuals were asked to respond to three categories of items (i.e. statements and questions).

The first category comprised 39 core items which were, in turn, grouped into seven themes, each being related to issues of relevance to casual lecturers and that were derived from the literature and the focus groups. These seven themes revolve around issues of (i) the adequacy of recruitment and support systems, (ii) the workload and pay of casuals, (iii) casuals' experience of teaching, (iv) role clarity, (v) casuals' relationships with the subject coordinator, (vi) recognition and involvement of casuals, and (vii) casuals' views on student evaluations. An open-ended question allowing respondents to make comments was included at the end of each section. The second category was just one general question about the degree of satisfaction casuals felt with their teaching job at the university. The third category was composed of demographic items that identified (i) gender, (ii) vocational classification, (iii) those who undertook casual teaching with the intention of securing a full-time academic position, and (iv) various other measures including questions on the duration of employment, time spent teaching, and preparation time.

Thirty-six percent of casuals who completed the questionnaire were females. Casuals, overall, comprised salaried industry professionals (38 per cent), self-employed (21 per cent), postgraduate students (20 per cent), career academics (11 per cent), semi-retired academics (5 per cent), and others (5 per cent). A quarter of casuals indicated that they undertook casual teaching with the intention of securing a full-time academic position. Mean tenure as casuals at the university was five years.

Questionnaires were sent to all addresses on the faculty's casuals' database, so the sampling method was akin to a census. Casuals who participated in the focus groups were included in the questionnaire survey and replies were anonymous. One hundred and six usable returns were received--a 35 per cent response rate--with few missing data.

Phase two of the surveying process was conducted approximately one year later to obtain the coordinators' perspectives on the management of casual academics. Data collection was via a questionnaire survey sent by internal mail to all academics in the faculty who were likely to be involved with casuals in a subject-coordination role.

With reference to the purposes of this article, coordinators were asked to respond to two categories of items. The first category comprised 39 core items that were analogous to the respective 39 core items directed to the casuals. The following example illustrates our approach to the wording of items on the casuals' (Phase one) questionnaire in comparison with the coordinators'(Phase two) questionnaire:

Casuals' statement: I have well-developed skills for managing students in the classroom

Coordinators' statement: Casual teaching staff I have supervised have well-developed ski I Is for managing students in the classroom

The second category of items for the coordinators was composed of two questions related to (i) the coordinators' general satisfaction with the performance of the casuals they supervised, and (ii) the coordinators' satisfaction that teaching load and other adjustments were adequately compensating them for supervising casuals.

Sixty-four coordinators completed the questionnaire. This represented approximately 46 per cent of the continuing and fixed-term academic staff employed in the faculty at the time of the survey. Approximately two-thirds of the 64 coordinator respondents were males. Mean tenure as an academic at the university was 12 years, with a wide spread from one respondent with 2 years tenure to two respondents with 30 years tenure.

With regard to the 39 core questionnaire statements (for casuals and coordinators), respondents were asked to rate their level of disagreement or agreement with the various statements according to a scale that ranged in values from whole numbers, where 1 = strongly disagree and 7 = strongly agree. A 'not sure' response was also available (though rarely chosen). If a respondent chose 4--the midpoint between strongly disagree and strongly agree--they were judged to be responding neutrally to the question; that is, neither agreeing nor disagreeing.

In reference to the various questions about satisfaction directed to both casuals and coordinators, satisfaction was evaluated on a scale from 1 = very dissatisfied to 7 = very satisfied. Again, if a respondent chose 4 they were judged to be responding neutrally to the question.

Qualitative responses--that is written commentary--volunteered by respondents were used selectively to give insights into the prevailing mean quantitative response to the various questions posed. Thus, if the mean response to a statement was, say, positive, and if the authors were of the considered view that a particular comment succinctly reflected a likely important reason for that positive mean response, then that comment could potentially be used to flesh out and assist in explaining the particular mean quantitative result. Comments that were inconsistent with the mean quantitative response were generally not employed. There are two reasons for this. First, mean-inconsistent comments may give a false impression of what the prevailing mean response is. Second, the focus of the article is on the quantitative results; although the qualitative results offer many valuable insights, it goes beyond the scope of this particular article to give a detailed treatment of the qualitative feedback.

Finally, before analysing the results, we now crystallise, in broad terms, the research questions of interest in this article, based on the discussion of issues canvassed in this and the foregoing sections.

1. How do the views of casuals compare to those of their coordinators with regard to issues that casuals regard as important to them in their work as university teachers?

2. How well do coordinators and casuals get along? Are there tensions or are relationships relatively harmonious?

3. Do the perceptions of coordinators and the casuals they supervise indicate a relationship of coordinators exploiting casuals?

The first research question--inspired largely from the focus-group discussions with the casuals--is quite broad-ranging and to some extent may overlap subsequent questions. The other research questions are more specific, and mainly reflect particular issues raised in the literature.

4. Analysis of Results

This section first presents a comparative analysis of the responses of casuals and coordinators to the previously mentioned 39 core statements included in the questionnaires, which are presented in tables 1 to 3; and second, an analysis of the results of the responses of casuals and coordinators to the various questions posed regarding satisfaction.

A statistical comparison of the mean values of the casuals' and the coordinators' responses is used to evaluate the quantitative data. The results are shown in tables 1 to 3. Taking into account the sample sizes, the questionnaire measurement scale, and the distribution of the sample, the t-test statistic was selected to find evidence, or otherwise, of statistically significant differences in responses (Lind, Marchal and Wathen 2011). Asterisks are deployed to summarise the test statistics (p values), so that in essence the smaller the p value and the larger the concomitant number of asterisks, the greater is the confidence we can have that (i) for single-sample tests--in columns 2 and 3--the mean value is significantly different from 4 (the neutral response on the questionnaire scale), and (ii) for two-sample tests--in column 4--the mean values for casuals and coordinators are significantly different from each other.

To illustrate, consider item (statement) 9 in Table 1. The mean response for casuals is 5.13 and the result of the t-test is highly significant at the 0.001 level (indicated by three asterisks in the table). We can conclude with a high level of confidence that the sample represents a casual population which agrees with the statement that casual teaching staff often do more work than that for which they are paid. The mean response for coordinators is 4.25 which is not significant (no asterisks shown), indicating that the coordinators' mean evaluation is not significantly different from a neutral position on this issue, even though the mean value is slightly greater than 4. Column 4 shows that there is a significant difference between mean values for casuals and coordinators for item 9 at the 0.01 level (indicated by two asterisks). We may conclude that casuals agree significantly more strongly (at the 0.01 level) with statement 9 than do coordinators.

From Table 1, items 1 to 8, it is evident that the views of casuals and coordinators are generally quite similar with respect to Theme (i): Issues related to recruitment and support of casuals. There is one exception; item 6 generates significantly different responses (at the p [less than or equal to] 0.05 level) for casuals versus coordinators. Thus, while casuals tend to the view that they 'know where to get information to solve problems they face in teaching', their coordinators tend to be less convinced of this. Nevertheless, the overall perception of casuals and coordinators to the recruitment and support of casuals is reasonably positive (cf. Ryan et al. 2011).

From Table 1, items 9 to 13, it appears that the views of casuals and coordinators are somewhat less aligned with respect to Theme (ii): Workload and pay of casuals. There are two items with significant differences between casuals' and coordinators' evaluations.

First, regarding item 9, casuals have a stronger belief than coordinators do that casuals work more hours than those for which they are paid. We cannot be certain why these different perceptions exist. However, based on an examination of the written qualitative feedback from respondents (both casuals and supervisors), it is seen that many casuals were particularly concerned with the (then) unpaid workload associated with marking assignments and exams. Other unpaid work involving preparation and regular communications with students (for example email) were mentioned by some casuals. The following comment by a casual illustrates their concerns: 'It is a hard slog marking papers and it should be recognised and paid for, otherwise it really is perceived as part of the job the university organised for 'free'[,] using their tutors [ is the main reason I would choose not to work for the university ... I love the teaching, but just can't justify the hundreds of unpaid hours of marking'.

Given that supervisors tend typically to have less direct involvement in marking and soon, it may be that they downplay its significance; hence, the difference in the general responses of casuals and supervisors to item 9. It is interesting to note that shortly after the survey of casuals was conducted, university regulations were changed to allow undergraduate-course marking to be paid work, albeit at a lower rate than for teaching.

Second, regarding item 12, coordinators are more supportive of paid teacher training for casuals than are casuals themselves. At first glance, this seems puzzling. Coordinators favour casuals being paid to attend university sponsored training, whereas casuals appear, on average, to be indifferent to the idea. What would casuals have to lose? Paid-for training would presumably enhance casuals' employability at no apparent cost to them. Would it not, therefore, be in the interest of casuals to support paid-for training?

It is suggested that there are three interrelated reasons for this difference in perceptions. First, many casuals are already experienced instructors. For this particular institution, the average length of casuals' teaching experience is around 5 years. With that level of hands-on experience, the perception may well be, for many casuals, that training is unlikely to be beneficial. Second, many of the instructors may assign a high opportunity cost to being paid to attend a training course. About two-thirds of the casuals identified themselves as being either salaried industry professionals (38 per cent), self-employed (20 per cent), or semi-retired academics (5 per cent). The benefits for this cohort may well be less than the costs of time lost in travel to and attendance at a training course. And third, as discussed below in more detail, there is quite strong evidence that casuals see themselves as being far more capable at managing students than coordinators imagine them to be. Such a high level of self-confidence may be inconsistent with a desire to attend training.

It appears that the views of casuals and coordinators are somewhat similar with respect to Theme (iii): Casuals' experience of teaching (Table 2, items 14 to 21).Table 2 shows general agreement between casuals and coordinators that there is a need to consider offering more training and development opportunities for casual academic staff (item 14). There was strong agreement about the impact of the increasing proportion of international students in the faculty (item 21), particularly the need to adjust teaching styles for them (item 30). The following comment by a casual is illustrative of the sorts of concerns casuals raised: 'I enjoy teaching international students when they can participate and share their thoughts from their home country. This is not possible when their English isn't strong enough. This makes teaching more difficult, because of the different levels for which you must cater'. Similar concerns have been raised by coordinators, such as: '[The] proportion of international students has increased and this does affect the dynamics of the classroom setting. However, in my subjects I would never let students pass without meeting correct standards--all students should be treated and assessed equally, regardless of background or experience'.

Coordinators rated casuals' classroom skills significantly lower than casuals did themselves (item 16). It was earlier suggested, in our discussion of item 12 (paid-for training for casuals), that casuals see themselves as being much more capable at managing students than coordinators imagine them to be, and item 16 seems to substantiates this.

The shared general belief that the quality of students has been progressively declining (item 20) is of some concern to educators. Some questionnaire respondents--casuals and coordinators--suggested that this has been linked, in part, to the rise in the number of international students. One coordinator observed that: 'Teaching staff across the board are placed in a very difficult position, as it is the system that is letting the students down. While there are many advantages to the internationalisation of our classrooms, it is unfair on the students and the lecturer to admit students into courses if they are not adequately prepared'.

From Table 2, items 22 to 25, it is evident that there are significant differences in casuals' and coordinators' views with respect to Theme (iv): Role clarity. The four items--about casuals' understanding of their teaching duties, marking standard, and how to deal with plagiarism--are all rated significantly more highly by casuals than by coordinators. One possible explanation for these differences in perceptions may be related to the previously discussed mix of casuals. Recall that two-thirds of casuals in the particular faculty are either salaried industry professionals, self-employed, or semi-retired academics. It is highly likely that the salaried industry professionals and the self-employed have considerable practical experience in the business world. In this regard, it may be that coordinators, on average, tend not to appreciatefully the broad capabilities of many casuals. That said, it is still the case that coordinators do appreciate, to some extent, the capabilities of casuals. This is not only reflected in the significance measures of the statistics for coordinators, it is also reflected in some of the commentary from coordinators. For example one coordinator observed: 'Most ... [casual] staff a re trained teachers and are already performing at a high standard. Student feedback is very positive'. Another coordinator comments: 'It would be great ... [if] certifications could be arranged for [casual] staff excelling in teaching evaluations. One of mine achieved the top result in the faculty and deserves to be rewarded by more than just [getting] a pat on the back'.

From Table 2, items 26 to 29, it is evident that the views of casuals and coordinators are generally similar with respect to Theme (v): Casuals' relationships with coordinators. Results for the first three items show that both casuals and coordinators rate coordinator support for casuals highly. This suggests that casuals generally have a high level of satisfaction with the management practices of the coordinators who supervise their teaching. The strong positive relationship, to which the statistics attest, can be seen in many of the comments of casuals and coordinators about their working relationships. For example one casual writes: '[The] subject coordinator and senior lecturer are both supportive, encouraging, and approachable. And a pleasure to work with.' Another writes: '[The] subject coordinator is just great--wonderful support always for any kind of issue'. On the other hand, another writes: '[The] ... subject coordinator is generally great, but sometimes there are things I disagree with, but have to let it be. [I] suggest an anonymous academic liaison officer for staff to discuss issues with and to advise if they are worth pursuing or not'.

In Table 3, items 30 to 36 deal with Theme (vi): Recognition and involvement of casuals. The results show that there is generally strong support from coordinators for casuals to have greater recognition (item 30), more opportunities for participation (item 31), more opportunities to meet other casuals (items 32 and 33), and improved communications (item 35). Coordinators are less enthusiastic about casuals having formal representation on key faculty and school committees (item 34). One reason for this may be a perception that such meetings would be difficult for many casuals to attend, especially if they are already employed elsewhere either full-time or casually. Thus one coordinator writes: 'I asked the faculty to invite three of my part-timers to attend the [university] Teaching and Learning Forum ... They were invited, free of charge, but all three were "too busy to attend'". Indeed, one casual writes: 'I believe casual lecturers don't have the time to attend a large number of the functions to which we are invited. That is just a fact of life'. However, that view by one casual does not override the statistically significant result that casuals favour formal representation on key faculty and school decision-making committees. Thus, another casual writes: 'Definitely need more involvement with the school, professional university staff, outside of teaching, and other lecturers. Need forums to meet, discuss teaching issues, and to socialise in general'.

Table 3, items 37 to 39 deals with Theme (vii): Casuals' views on student evaluations. The results show that casuals collectively are neutral about the usefulness of student feedback (item 37). One reason for this may be that sometimes student-survey results have been slow to materialise for some casuals. Thus one casual writes: 'I have never received any feed back from these surveys'. Other casuals commented similarly. It is worth noting that soon after this questionnaire was administered, the faculty introduced a computer-based student-survey system that effectively guarantees all casual and permanent staff access to their own results shortly after the release of students' final exam results for the semester. Casuals and coordinators appear to be neutral about the effect that the grades they award students have on their students' evaluations of them (item 38). Coordinators are more positive about the usefulness of student evaluations (item 37). Perhaps one reason for this is that student feed back is generally an important determinant of the employability of casuals in the long run. As one coordinator writes: '[One] re-employ[s] on [the] basis of evidence of good teaching (that is student-feedback survey plus qualitative feedback)'. And another writes: 'To be honest I prefer not to re-employ underperforming staff. It is unfair on students. I have a quality subject to run and at the end of the day I have to deal with the consequences of poorly performing part-time staff'.

We turn to satisfaction measures for casuals and coordinators. To facilitate the presentation, we initially discuss the coordinators' results, followed by the results for casuals. Recall from the previous section that satisfaction was evaluated on a scale from 1 = very dissatisfied to 7 = very satisfied.

The first result, measuring coordinators' satisfaction with casuals, generated a mean response of 5.7, with a standard deviation (SD) of 1.1. This result is indicative of a high general level of coordinator satisfaction with casual academic staff.

The second result, measuring coordinators' satisfaction with compensation for time spent managing casuals generated a mean of 5.7 (SD = 1.8). This is not indicative of a high level of satisfaction with teaching load and other adjustments. The overall response was neutral verging on negative (although the mean is not statistically significantly different from a neutral response).

The third result measures how satisfied casuals are with their teaching job at the university. The mean response was 5.8 (SD = 1.0). This result is indicative of a high general level of casual academics' satisfaction with their work at the university. Indeed, the great majority (90 per cent) indicated some positive sense of satisfaction.

The measure of casuals' general satisfaction was further explored through reference to three separate demographic factors: (i) gender, (ii) vocational classification, and (iii) the split between those who undertake casual teaching with the intention of securing a full-time academic position and those who do not. No statistically significant difference was found in the mean satisfaction of groups split according to any of these criteria.

Regarding those who undertake casual teaching with the intention of securing a full-time academic position, although no statistically significant differences were found here, the spread of responses was significantly smaller (p = 0.001) for those who sought full-time employment (SD = 0.6) than for those who did not (SD = 1.2).

5. Concluding Discussion

Our first research question was: How do the views of casuals compare to those of their coordinators with regard to issues that casuals view as being important to them in their work as university teachers? What do the results indicate?

Overall, there was a reasonably high level of agreement and (or) consistency between the casuals' and coordinators' evaluations; evaluations show no significant difference for approximately 65 per cent of relevant items in tables 1 to 3. Quite often, differences between casuals and coordinators are related to the degree of a common positive perception or a common negative perception about an issue, rather than there being opposing perspectives on issues, or one group having a positive view, while the other has a neutral view. When we allow for the degree of agreement, for around 81 per cent of relevant items casuals and coordinators share the same direction or focus in their views. In fact there are no items for which casuals and coordinators had significantly opposing views.

Nevertheless, a number of the items were evaluated as significantly different by coordinators and casuals, and it is of interest to explore what may be behind these different perspectives. One example is related to classroom skills (item 16). Coordinators rated casuals significantly lower than casuals rated themselves. One explanation for this may be that two-thirds of casuals are either salaried industry professionals, self-employed, or semi-retired academics and it is highly likely that they, collectively, have considerable practical experience in the business world. Coordinators, perhaps, do not fully appreciate these valuable capabilities. Similarly, all four items related to role clarity (items 22 to 25) indicated that casuals rated their own understanding of procedures significantly more highly than coordinators evaluated them. Again, it may be the case that the capacities of casuals are underappreciated.

Evaluations of items on recognition and involvement (items 30 to 36) show that casuals and coordinators agree that the faculty culture could be more inclusive of casuals, and that more could be done to provide them with opportunities for involvement. In particular, coordinators strongly supported better communication with casuals and more recognition for the contributions they make. Coordinators strongly supported casuals being paid to attend teaching-related training courses at the university (item 12). Given the general support of coordinators for casuals to be more involved in the faculty, it is noteworthy that coordinators were less supportive of casuals having formal representation on key faculty and school committees (item 34). Some coordinators commented on casuals' lack of availability due to other commitments being an impediment to this type of involvement.

Workload and remuneration are issues of some concern to casuals. Results suggest (Table 1) that the casual pay rates in the faculty were comparable to other institutions. However, casuals were strongly of the opinion that they did more work than that for which they were paid. This view received significantly less support from coordinators. Given the perception of many casuals that 'they teach for love not money' (item 18), perhaps the non-pecuniary returns from teaching compensate, in part, for unpaid work.

Our second research question was: How well do coordinators and casuals get along? Are there tensions, or are relationships relatively harmonious?

Relationships between casuals and coordinators generally appear to be good according to this survey. Coordinators are generally satisfied with the performance of the casual teaching staff they supervise. Only 3.5 per cent expressed dissatisfaction, while 87 per cent of respondents expressed some positive degree of satisfaction. These results appear to be consistent with observations elsewhere in the literature (for example Ryan et al. 2011) that, although there may be dissatisfaction on the part of casuals with a system that some believe marginalises them, the actual working relationship between casuals and coordinators may well be good.

Other results in this study suggest that this state of general mutual satisfaction has resulted at least partly from the way coordinators manage underperforming casuals. Although our data show that coordinators do employ a number of strategies to help underperforming casuals to improve, there appears to be frequent recourse to 'if they don't improve let them go'. This strategy--together with a mean tenure of casuals in this particular study of five years, and the long tradition in the faculty of using significant numbers of casual lecturers--suggests that a selection process, mostly driven by coordinators, has taken place.

Our third research question was: Do the perceptions of coordinators and the casuals they supervise indicate a relationship of coordinators exploiting casuals?

In a foreword to the so-called RED report (Percy et al. 2008, p. iii), Castle made the following observation:
   To maintain for permanent staff the ideal of being teaching and
   research academics, we have had to rely on sessional staff [that is
   casuals] ... In many ways the lifestyle of the traditional teaching
   research academic is totally dependent on the contribution of
   sessional staff, in the way that Victorian middle-class lifestyles
   were dependent on the domestic servant They slept in the attic, ate
   in the kitchen and you grumbled constantly that what they did was
   actually not quite what you wanted. But nonetheless, they were
   absolutely essential to your being and to your lifestyle. I think
   this applies equally to many sessional staff today.

He goes on to point out that it is a real challenge to ensure that casuals 'are not exploited'.

The proposition that casuals have been exploited and that non-casuals, including coordinators of course, are the beneficiaries of this exploitation is a common view, as was noted earlier. But the evidence for this appears unconvincing, at least insofar as this particular cohort of casuals is concerned.

First, nearly two-thirds of casuals were either salaried professionals, self employed, or semi-retired academics. It is unlikely that these casuals are either a part of an underclass or are being exploited. These casuals are, arguably, best viewed as being people who willingly choose to set aside a part of their time for teaching. The university and its students benefit from the professional expertise and experience they bring to the classroom, and the casuals benefit from their respective remuneration packages, as well as their interaction with students (and other staff).

Second, the balance of casuals is made up predominantly of postgraduate students (21 per cent), followed by career academics (10 percent) and others (5 per cent). It is a long-established practice for postgraduate students to do some casual work to finance their higher education. It would seem presumptuous to claim that they are being unduly exploited. Their joint status as postgraduate students and casuals is typically a temporary one until they settle on a career path, either in or out of academia. Career academics, on the other hand, would probably include some who have been unable to find a full-time position. Thus, some members of this group may indeed feel frustrated with their casual positions if they believe that they could, and should, be employed on a non-casual basis. As it turns out, in this survey, 73 per cent of this group indicated they did not undertake casual teaching with the intention of securing a full-time academic position. This suggests that the number in this group who could be described as casuals with frustrated ambitions of being full-time academics is relatively small. However, caution needs to exercised here because of the very small sample size (11), and it may also be the case that career academics include some full-time academics from other universities who have not, for one reason or another, classified themselves as salaried professionals.

We cannot be sure of the status of the 'others' group. The sample size is five. Three of them indicated that they undertake casual teaching with the intention of securing a full-time academic position. However, ignoring the sample-size problem, the proportion of the total number of casuals who might consider that they are the contemporary analogue of Castle's oppressed Victorian domestic servants would necessarily be a very small fraction (less than 3 percent).

Third, if casual teachers are exploited and marginalised to the extent that Castle and others contend, we might expect their level of satisfaction with the whole teaching experience to reflect this. However, the evidence from this survey indicates that such satisfaction is high; and it is just as high for those casuals who undertake casual teaching with the intention of securing a full-time academic position. These results seem inconsistent with the exploitation hypothesis. It is true that the process of selecting casuals is likely to favour the continued employment of casuals who can comfortably work within the system, and will exclude those who cannot; this may in some way bias the sample selected. But such survey biases are inescapable and they do not invalidate the responses of those who continue to be employed.

Finally, attention is drawn to some important limitations of this article. The results apply to a particular business faculty, in a particular university, for a particular period of time. Thus it would be unwise to generalise all of these survey results to the broader academic workplace. Nevertheless, this study does, arguably, offer insights into workplace relationships in universities and faculties that have similar workplace practices and traditions to the one surveyed here--of employing a sizeable contingent of casual academic staff from diverse vocational backgrounds, including, most notably, a sizeable proportion of salaried industry professionals and self-employed people.


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D. Davis, B. Perrott, and L. J. Perry, UTS Business School, University of Technology, Sydney
Table 1: Recruitment, Support, Workload, and Pay

Theme/Items                    Mean      Mean           Significant
                               Casuals   Coordinators   difference?

Theme (i): Adequacy of casuals' recruitment and support systems

1. Recruitment and selection   5.16      4.76           ns
are carried out                ***       **

2. Induction process           3.92      3.67           ns
provided sufficient
understanding of the
teaching and administrative

3. Casual teaching staff       4.83      4.43           ns
receive adequate notice that   ***
they are required for
teaching each semester

4. Employment contract         4.7       4.46           ns
usually prepared on time       ***       *

5. Casual teaching staff       4.75      4.34           ns
receive adequate support       ***
from administrative staff

6. Casual teaching staff       4.87      4.30           0.037
know whereto get information   ***                      *
to solve problems they face
in teaching

7. The classrooms in which     4.72      4.81           ns
casuals teach are generally    ***       ***

8. Audiovisual services        5.06      5.13           ns
available for casual
teaching staff are adequate

Theme (ii): Workload and pay of casuals

9. Casual teaching staff       5.13      4.25           0.002
often do more work than they   ***                      **
are paid for

10. Pay rates for casual       4.01      3.73           ns
teaching staff are low
compared to what other
universities pay

11. Casual teaching staff      4.69      4.95           ns
usually receive their pay      **        ***
with in a reasonable time

12. Casual teaching staff      3.89      5.21           0.000
should be paid to attend                 ***            ***
teacher training courses

13. There are serious          4.35      4.43           ns
discrepancies in marking
loads between casual
teaching staff

* indicates p [less than or equal to] 0.05; ** indicates p [less
than or equal to] 0.01; *** indicates p [less than or equal to]
0.001 and ns indicates not significant

Table 2: Teaching, Role Clarity, and Relationships with the
Subject Coordinator

Theme/Items                    Mean       Mean           Significant
                               Casuals    Coordinators   difference?

Theme (iii): Casuals' experience of teaching

14. The university provides    2.99 ***   3.12 ***       ns
adequate training and
development opportunities
for casual teaching staff

15. Casual teaching staff      4.02       3.43           0.020
enjoy teaching classes which
have a high proportion of
international students

16. Casual teaching staff      5.53 ***   4.51 **        0.000 ***
have well-developed skills
for managing students in the

17. Class sizes taught by      4.29       4.13           ns
casuals are too large for
effective teaching

18. Casual lecturing           4.81       3.8            0.001
staff teach for love not       ***                       ***
for money

19. Too often, international   4.46 *     4.31           ns
students are allowed to pass
subjects despite not meeting
correct tertiary standards

20. The quality of students    4.6 **     4.88 **        ns
studying business in the
faculty has been
progressively declining

21. Casual lecturing staff     5.21       5.11           ns
have to adjust their           ***        ***
teaching style to take
account of the high
proportion of international

Theme (iv): Role clarity

22. Casual teaching staff      5.33 ***   4.69 **        0.012 *
have a clear understanding
of the range of duties for
which they are paid

23. The expectations of the
Business Faculty regarding     4.63 ***   3.84           0.005
teaching and assessment                                  **
standards are made explicit
to casual teaching staff

24. Casual lecturing staff     5.47 ***   4.73 **        0.002 **
have a good understanding of
assignment-marking standards

25. Casual teaching staff
have a good understanding of   5.47       4.73           0.002
how to handle problems         ***        **             **
associated with student

Theme (v): Casuals' relationships with the subject coordinators

26. Subject coordinator        5.53 ***   5.43 ***       ns
encourages casual teaching
staff to contribute to the
development of subjects

27. Overall, coordinators      5.93 ***   5.8 ***        ns
provide appropriate
support for the casual
teaching staff they

28. It is easy for casual      5.94 ***   6.13 ***       ns
teaching staff to contact
their coordinator when they
need advice

29. Sometimes there are
things which casual teaching   2.69       3.4            0.031
staff will not reveal to                  *              *
their coordinator for fear
of not being invited to
teach again

See the Table 1 notes for explanations of numbers and asterisks

Table 3: Recognition, Involvement, and Student Evaluations

Theme/Items                    Mean       Mean           Significant
                               Casuals    Coordinators   difference?

Theme (vi): Recognition and involvement of casuals

30. Like to seethe Business    4.7 ***    5.33 ***       0.015 *
Faculty do more to recognise
the contribution of casual
teaching staff

31. Casual teaching staff      4.62 ***   5.13 ***       ns
should be given more
opportunities to participate
in the activities of the
Business Faculty

32. The Business Faculty       4.9 ***    5.06 ***       ns
does not have an inclusive
culture as far as casual
teaching staff are concerned

33. The faculty should do      4.83 ***   5 ***          ns
more to help casual teaching
staff meet each other to
discuss common teaching

34. Casual teaching staff      4.87       3.95           0.002
should have formal             ***                       **
representation on key
faculty and school
decision-making committees

35. The Business Faculty       4.89 ***   5.21 ***       ns
needs to improve its
communication with casual
teaching staff

36. The faculty encourages     3.74       5.32 ***       0.000 ***
casual teaching staff to be
more innovative in the way
they teach (a)

Theme (vii): Casuals' view on student evaluations

37. The student-evaluation     4.1        4.58 *         ns
system gives casual teaching
staff useful feedback on
teaching performance 38.

38. Student evaluations of     4.31       4.35           ns
casual teaching staff are
influenced by the marks they

39. Casual staff 1 have        NA         2.97           NA
supervised usually approach
me to discuss their student
teaching evaluations(b)

See the Table 1 notes for explanations of numbers and asterisks.
NA means not applicable

(a) The coordinator item was worded: '1 encourage ...'.
(b) Coordinator-only evaluation.
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Title Annotation:Contributed Article
Author:Davis, D.; Perrott, B.; Perry, L.J.
Publication:Australian Bulletin of Labour
Article Type:Report
Date:Mar 1, 2014
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