Leader: Let's have right reward whatever the subject

July 26, 2002

For researchers, the good news of last week's spending review continues with a new science strategy that provides a better structure for their work and a new clarity about who is paying for it. And for the first time since 1965 (barring a few gentle reorganisations), there will even be a new research council. Its foundation promises the arts and humanities community new money and a new voice for their concerns on a par with the status already achieved by other subject areas.

But this recognition is already being eroded by government support for plans to allow far wider pay differentials than exist between different areas of academic life. In part, this acknowledges differences that are widespread already. Few top medical academics would get out of bed for the money classicists have to live on. It is better that these distinctions are acknowledged and that British universities are able to attract top staff with the cash and conditions that they need.

But it would be wrong for areas of academic life that do not involve direct economic spin-off to turn into no-go areas for anyone without private means. Autumn's higher education white paper should acknowledge that trained people are the main output of universities and that society needs as many of them as it can get. The teachers who produce them deserve proper professional rewards, whatever their subject.

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