By Robyn Banks
This week it was revealed that the senior management team at UEA has been claiming ludicrous expenses whilst on business trips across the world. Some of these claims have included limousine rides through Hong Kong, first class train and plane tickets, five star hotels and meals costing as much as £640. This attitude to spending university money is absurd and distasteful, but it is not surprising. It is a predictable result of the changes that UK higher education has undergone over the past eight years.
By Robyn Banks
Grade inflation is back in the headlines this week, with universities minister Sam Gyimah announcing that it will be incorporated into how universities are ranked under the Teaching Excellence Framework. There is statistical evidence to back up this policy change – according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the number of first class degrees being awarded has grown by 18% between 2012/13 and 2016/17. Whilst it is statistically true that grades are inflating at the university level, there are a number of issues with the current discourse around grade inflation that are not being properly addressed by HE decision makers.
By Max Savage and Ellen Musgrove
“…in the short term I would be happy to reconstruct a social democratic compromise which aimed to decrease inequalities…I recognise that this will not remove the gross injustices inherent within capitalist structures. To reiterate, capitalism is the enemy, but neoliberalism seems to me to be worse than social democracy. Perhaps we should set our sights a little lower than capitalism and attempt to slay the neoliberal beast.”
– Adam Tickell, ‘Reflections on “Activism and the Academy”’ (1995)
Professor Tickell, once apparently an advocate of radical social reorganisation, is now Sussex University Vice Chancellor and one of neoliberalism’s torchbearers in the UK higher education sector. While it is tempting to conclude from this transformation that Tickle is a duplicitous, cowardly and parasitic individual, there is in fact a larger point to be drawn: very often our politics are not forged by our own choosing but by our position. Once you are earning an obscene salary and have turned a blind eye to staff on your campus earning under the living wage, perhaps neoliberalism isn’t so beastly after all.
by Rowan Gavin
As the farce of university bosses’ salaries has finally entered mainstream debate this year, I’ve often found myself wishing that the kind of people who are comfortable taking pay rises six times larger than their average member of staff, and who don’t see a problem in sitting on the committees that decide their salary, would just piss off out of our universities altogether. So when I read the FT’s interview* with Bolton Uni VC Prof George Holmes the other day, I’ll admit I was a little surprised to read his proposal for a method of achieving just that.
by Robyn Banks
Here’s something I never thought I’d say: I agree with Jo Johnson. A couple of weeks ago the Tory Universities Minister told university leaders and Vice Chancellors that they needed to “stop ratcheting up pay”. This was a reaction to the news that the VC at Southampton University has received a £125,000 pay rise in the space of 5 years.