HUNDREDS of people have signed a petition calling for student jobs to be protected at Essex University.

Fears have been raised about the future of Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) and Graduate Lab Assistant (GLA) roles in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The jobs are usually relatively low paying roles performed by doctorate students so they can earn while finishing their own courses and gain valuable teaching experience.

The university have said they can make no guarantees about work for them in the next academic year.

More than 500 people are thought to be either GTAs or GLAs at the university.

Amelia Horgan who is a PhD candidate in the philosophy department, said: "As a third year PhD student, I was relying on these roles existing next year, when my funding runs out.

"I’m now left contemplating whether to abandon my research.

"Things are even worse for international students and students with caring responsibilities. If cuts do have to be made, why must they start at the bottom?”

Greta Kaluzeviciute, who is a GTA in the department of psychosocial and psychoanalytic studies, said: "These roles are vital to university teaching and learning experiences. It's GTAs and GLAs - not lecturers or course directors - who are the first point of contact for the majority of undergraduate students.

"We are talking about students in need, students who have learning disabilities, students who are undergoing emotional turmoil and students who are considering dropping out.

"They are often the only source of constructive and genuine response for such students."

The group have called for high earners at the university to take pay cuts to offset the financial impact of Covid-19.


Vice chancellor Anthony Forster and other senior leadership team members have taken a 20 per cent pay cut. Last year, prof Forster earned close to £300k with another £93k in additional benefits and pension payments.

The university have confirmed staff put on furlough will have their wages supplemented so there income does not drop. They are also determined to avoid redundancies if at all possible.

A spokesman for Essex University said: “We’ve not taken a decision that there will be no work for GTA or GLAs next year – only that right now we cannot make any promises about teaching opportunities for the academic year 2020-21.

“We will make a decision once we have a revised academic programme for next year – which we are developing right now – and the student recruitment picture and financial position for next academic year are clearer.

“Some 40 per cent of our PhDs are paid GTAs or GLAs at any given time and GTAs and GLAs will be paid for any commitments for the remainder of this academic year.”

To sign the petition visit