The recognised trade union for academic and related staff

The recognised trade union for academic and related staff

This week’s update

A SUCU Win! A new Graduate Teaching Contract (24th May 2024)

We are thrilled to announce that SUCU and the University have agreed a new Graduate Teaching Contract.


The contract will replace the previous Sheffield Graduate Training Contract, and will apply to Graduate Teaching Assistants and Graduate Teaching Associates across the University. We believe the new contract will generate tangible improvements in the conditions of work of GTAs, provide more contract security, provide a framework for the correct allocation of all required duties and hours worked, and for GTAs to be better rewarded.

The full new version of the contract is available to read here, and a comparison of the new contract with the old is available here.


Summary of changes

  • The new contract is a fixed-term, hourly-paid contract that lasts for the period of an academic year and includes a minimum of 20 hours of work.
    • The previous contract was an effective zero-hours contract.
  • GTAs will be provided with continuity of service, where they work consecutive contracts, allowing them to access employment rights linked to periods of continuous employment.
    • The previous contract did not provide continuity of service.
  • Departments must allocate work hours based on their departmental teaching workload allocation principles. Time will be allocated for teaching, preparation, meeting attendance, marking and assessment, and student support, including emails, training, and development.
    • The previous contract didn’t contain this detail, and there was a high degree of variation in which activities were paid between departments.
  • GTAs have access to 2 hours of paid induction, and up to 4 hours per academic year to complete paid training and development. 2 hours are available to prepare for and attend a Staff Review and Development Scheme (SRDS) meeting with the relevant line manager.
    • The previous contract did not stipulate that any training should be paid.
  • Graduate Teaching Assistants will continue to be paid at Grade 6.1, and Graduate Teaching Associates will continue to be paid at 7.3. For all GTAs who complete more than 150 hours of work in an academic year they will be eligible to receive an incremental pay increase the following year.
  • GTAs will have access to some aspects of The Deal and Recognition Awards.



We have worked in close collaboration with HR to devise a plan for the implementation of the new contract. As part of this, we have had extensive input into detailed HR Guidance for Schools in recruiting, allocating work to, managing and supporting GTAs. This includes seeking more transparent recruitment processes, ensuring that work is allocated in a timely fashion, that clear line management channels exist to support GTA’s professional development, and that schools are provided with adequate support from HR to implement these commitments without major disruption to either academic or PS teams. It also stresses clarity regarding the grading differences between Graduate Teaching Assistant and Graduate Teaching Associate roles. Many discussions have been had with SUCU members and other colleagues who are involved in recruiting, coordinating and managing GTAs to inform this guidance.

This guidance is still being finalised. This means that while most changes arising for GTAs from this new contract will be put into operation for the academic year 24/25, some aspects around workload allocation in line with School/Department planning rounds (which tend to take place in April and May), will not be fully implemented until next academic year. The University has agreed to undertake a joint review of the new contract’s implementation in Spring 2025. 



The new contract has come about as the result of a lengthy local process of bargaining and campaigning. In May 2023, we formally submitted our Anti-Casualisation Claim to HR. This followed an agreement that the branch achieved to enter into negotiations here, as a result of the 2022 Marking and Assessment Boycott. The claim contains many demands relating to the use of casual work at the University of Sheffield. These demands were informed by a bargaining survey where members shared their experience, areas of concern and priorities for fighting casualisation. These experiences were pivotal to the development of the claim, which was workshopped and discussed with SUCU’s Anti-Casualisation Network over a  number of months. 

The Network was also crucial to the Postcard Campaign that invited members across the University to express their support for the Claim. Negotiations began in Summer 2023, and we have met on average once every 4-6 weeks.

We are grateful to the many members that have contributed to reaching this agreement. A huge thanks also for the tireless work of our negotiators, Remi Edwards, Alex Kirby-Reynolds, Maria Alexandrescu, and Robyn Orfitelli.


Next steps

Currently we are in negotiations over the second part of the claim, and hope to soon agree a joint position on other work that PGRs typically perform at the University, particularly research assistance. The latter portions of the claim relate to the university’s use of fixed-term contracts, and we are currently deciding with HR and other campus unions how best to take this forward.

Regarding the GTA contract, we will continue to work with HR to finalise the guidance for Schools/Departments, and will continue to engage with members when the contract comes into force in September to monitor its implementation and offer support to departments. If you’re a PGR or member of staff who works with PGRs and are interested in being involved in monitoring implementation in your own Department, please get in touch!

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Sheffield University and College Union is the only body recognised by the University to represent, and negotiate on behalf of academic, academic-related and research staff. The SUCU Committee consists of volunteer members of staff whose work (on the membership’s behalf) includes: negotiating terms and conditions with the University, advising and assisting members regarding work related issues, campaigning, and providing information on issues relevant to trades unions.

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