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THE HERALD FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 9 2016


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13 News urged to look beyond gimmicks Building works: at Aberystywth University right before students return UCU has confirmed that its branches


declining. Their target is ‘near parity’. Any lack of women in academic jobs overall cannot be explained by a lack of applicants apparently, as the University say 48% of academic applicant for such posts are women. They further report that 55% of successful applicants are female. Moreover, 63% of female applicants for academic promotion have been successful compared to 40% of male applicants.


THE HIGH EARNERS CLUB An elite of 210 staff working in


universities in Wales earn more than £100,000 a year. Justifying such salaries, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (Hefcw) reasoned in a 2016 report for the Welsh government that they were necessary in order that Welsh universities could compete to secure the best staff. Most Herald readers won’t be too surprised to learn that seven of Wales’ eight vice-chancellors were paid more than £200,000 last year, but where are all these other university staff who are raking it in? Cardiff University is the only Welsh member of the elite, self- selected Russell Group of universities. The Russell Group sets itself up as the Premier League of British academia, lobbying politicians in the interests of its members. A spokesperson for Cardiff University said: “To attract and retain the best, Cardiff offers salaries which are competitive with its peers in the Russell Group of research-led universities.” Perhaps it follows that Cardiff


University employs the greatest number of high earners, with 136 staff receiving more than £100,000 per annum. By comparison, Swansea University had 28 people earning £100k or more, Bangor 17, the University of South Wales 10, Cardiff Metropolitan 9, Aberystwyth and University of Wales Trinity Saint David tied at 4 apiece, while Glyndwr University has just two. Or is that two too many? UCU commented: “Our main


concern is the inequality between the average salary of VCs in Wales, compared to the average salary of other


staff in our universities, particularly when taking into account that undergraduates are likely to be taught by a member of staff on an insecure, fixed-term contract. Staff on insecure contracts struggle to deliver the high level of professional service that they strive for, when faced with working conditions that leave them underpaid, vulnerable and constantly facing the prospect of unemployment.’ Aberystwyth’s


former Vice


Chancellor, Professor April McMahon, who had a brief and unpopular reign form August 2011 to July this year, earned a reported £252,000 per annum. During her tenure, Professor McMahon faced widespread criticism from staff and students, as the institution performed badly in league tables and experienced problems recruiting staff. In 2013 UCU complained that Aberystwyth University was being run like a ‘dictatorship’ following the suspension of two senior members of staff. In 2014 a petition calling for Professor McMahon’s resignation attracted over 1,000 signatures. The vacant VC’s position was advertised just last week. Until a new VC is appointed, Professor John Grattan continues as Acting Vice Chancellor. Commenting on the new VC’s likely


salary, a university spokesperson told the Herald: “The remuneration for all Vice Chancellors needs to reflect what it takes to attract and retain the necessary leadership to remain globally competitive whilst ensuring that universities continue to power the economy and transform society. The salary level of the Vice Chancellor at Aberystwyth is below the average paid to university heads across the UK but is in line with competitor countries and comparable to similar- sized public and private organisations. Aberystwyth University uses a Remuneration Committee to set senior staff salaries and the Vice Chancellor is not party to these discussions. All senior staff posts are subject to role analysis and market rates are used to inform starting salaries.’


UNIONS FIGHT FOR FAIR PAY


will be meeting in September to discuss the latest and ‘final’ pay offer from the UCEA. UCU and UCEA have been in dispute since the spring, with strikes at many universities across Britain. As the Herald has reported, the Aberystwyth branch of the UCU voted not to take part in the most recent industrial action, undermining union solidarity. UCEA’s final offer does include plans to tackle the gender pay gap and to deal with the problem of casual contracts and job insecurity for staff. However, it does not increase the 1.1% pay offer made in April. UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, again: ‘The union’s higher education committee will meet in October to reflect on branches’ reaction to this offer and to decide on the union’s next steps. While it is encouraging that UCEA says it wishes to work towards a settlement, it is disappointing it has called on universities to impose its 1.1% offer.’ In an open letter to Vice Chancellors,


Simon Dunn, lead organiser for Higher Education in UNISON Cymru/Wales said: “Support staff can’t help but contrast the terrible double standards which reward vice chancellors with telephone number salaries and cosseted lifestyles whilst their own earnings have not kept pace with living costs. An offer to increase their wages this year by a paltry 1.1% after seven years of below inflation pay raises has left them feeling like second class employees.” UNISON believe that UK universities ‘coffers have swollen by millions’ with reserves of £21bn. By contrast, the amount spent on staff by UK universities has decreased by 3 per cent since 2010. UNISON state that the average salary for a vice chancellor


in Wales is £228,401. The average pay rise for VCs across the UK last year, they say, ‘was a whopping 6.1%’. UNISION compare these figures with their own modest demand that ‘no employee in Higher Education should be paid less than the Foundation Living Wage of £8.25 per hour’. The union also expresses concern over ‘the shameful gender pay gap in universities, prevalence of exploitative zero-hours contracts and out of control spending on agency workers’. UNISON ask the universities to return to the negotiating table to agree reasonable pay increases for all employees.


LIES AND STATISTICS This year’s intake of Aberystwyth


University students, who may at this very moment be packing their bags, and indeed all other Herald readers, will have to make up their own minds whose statistics they believe. While the UCU claims that, on average, Aberystwyth University pays women 12.3% per year less than men and that 40.8% of teaching staff are on casual contracts, the university itself appears to claim that no teaching staff are on casual contracts and women’s pay is, at worst, within a 5% ‘normal’ tolerance. The exception, the university admitted, may be a gendered professorial pay gap. Although we only considered the numbers for a single department, they indicate that Aberystwyth University is right to be aware of aiming for a gender balance of academic staff at all levels. Clearly, this should mean paying attention to getting maternity and paternity leave provision right, offering flexible part-time working and job shares. By our accounts, Aberystwyth University should also be wary of institutionalising


casual sexism, whereby prejudice is rendered invisible. Ironically, or not, the Psychology Department of Aberystwyth University are has quite recently engaged in a research project with the Home Office which aims at breaking down the barriers for women aspiring to the top of the civil service. The Herald suggest that deconstructing the difference between university and union statistics on equal pay and casual contacts could be the subject of at least a PhD. Readers will also have to make


up their minds on whether universities should be paying VCs and some senior staff so highly with the justification of needing to increase their competitiveness. Certainly, the prospective imposed pay rise of 1.1% for ‘lower orders’ of staff appears niggardly when compared to what the fat-cats are barrowing home. This huge gap between top and middle, let along bottom, is a trend in academia that is exacerbated by celebrity academics and the internet. In the near future, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) featuring academic A-listers are likely to exert further downward pressure on the terms and conditions of the ‘ordinary’ academic: If you can pay one teacher to reach a limitless number of students, who you somehow get to pay, why employ other teachers? Again, readers can try to answer that one for themselves. For some of the people whom we spoke with, the problems they perceived with universities stemmed from the more fundamental fact of them having become private businesses who are competing for customers rather than publically funded centres of research and education accessible to all regardless of wealth. Now, what might prospective students make of that?


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