Blimey, somebody’s managed to miff off Alice Thompson, one of the Times’ most seasoned commentators, and recognised spokeswoman for the middles classes!

Here she is in yesterday’s paper (£) ripping in to University Vice-Chancellors:

Few vice-chancellors have to prove their worth. Often their pay increases are decided over a glass of sherry with the chairman of the governing body (“I’d rather like another £20,000. You know I am running a £300 million business here. I could get far more if I forsook these dusty corridors for the City”).
It would be excusable if the universities were awash with money. Yet, at the same time, they refused to give their academics more than a 1 per cent pay increase and kept many of their researchers on temporary, low-paid contracts. Most students have no idea who their vice-chancellor is, and they don’t care as long as their university is run efficiently. They want inspirational lecturers and tutors to engage them.

Ouch. Of course, I can confidently assert that our Vice-Chancellor at Exeter did not accept a pay rise or any of his bonus this year, so stick that in your pipe and smoke it!

But, she doesn’t stop there, she aims her real fire at the bureaucrats:

In Britain, it’s the administrative staff who are often being paid most. . . if we continue to reward form-filling administrators above inspirational teachers, innovative researchers and great thinkers we will become a nation of accountants.

As the form filler in chief at the University of Exeter, I must take exception. I won’t enter the argument about pay scales. But the suggestion that administrators are paid more, and are more highly regarded than staff doing the teaching and research is palpably absurd! As Universities have grown, they have taken on additional responsibilities for providing support such as accommodation and employability advice to students; they have grown family support and sports centres for staff and student (interestingly Alice Thompson is a determined advocate of family friendly and wellbeing policies in the workplace, but doesn’t give any credit for this!). All this obviously means that the non-academic staff population grows too, but it doesn’t have to mean that it is to the detriment of teaching and research, in fact it is all put in place to ensure that academic staff are able to get on with their teaching and research unimpeded.

This last nugget is a good one though:

At universities such as Cambridge, teaching staff devote only 22 per cent of their time, on average, to teaching; at Oxford it is 25 per cent, according to information supplied by the universities to the Higher Education Funding Council.

. I’m not sure what her point is here? But it is asserted as though it is a killer fact in need of no further explanation. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, this is not really anything new. In 1966, Professors reported that they spent 26% of their time teaching!! Plus ca change!


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