Leader: Is 0.6% worth the pain?

June 9, 2006

The overwhelming reaction of academics and students, articulated by Sally Feldman, will be relief that the assessment boycott is over.

Even in the unlikely event of union members rejecting their leaders' advice to accept the latest pay offer, students' marks will have been delivered and qualifications finalised. The action - and in all probability the dispute - is in effect over.

But many inside and outside higher education will be asking whether it was all worth it. The 2008 review aside, the total on offer has risen by 0.6 percentage points over three years while students' futures were being threatened and relationships damaged. More of the increase has been front-loaded, but it was hardly a princely return for the anxiety caused on all sides. Sally Hunt, the University and College Union's joint general secretary, has called for an overhaul of the pay negotiating machinery. Few would disagree with her that the dispute could have been settled more quickly, and a three-year deal leaves plenty of time to come up with a more effective system. A pay review body is not appropriate for a sector composed of autonomous institutions, but this year's debacle has shown the need for greater transparency and flexibility.

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