Canny operators

February 19, 2015

Two recent stories in Times Higher Education made for interesting reading if considered side by side. “Labour calls its v-c critics ‘unbelievably stupid’”, but the former vice-chancellor of London Metropolitan University is being paid £450,000 for his final year of office (News, 12 February). One suspects that most vice-chancellors would consider that pretty smart of him.

When I obtained my PhD more than 40 years ago, vice-chancellors were paid about 30 per cent more than the professors on whom their universities depended for their reputations. Now even universities that do not have London Met’s reputation pay their vice-chancellors three times what they pay their professors.

Another news story in the same issue reported that the 2014 research excellence framework was estimated to have cost up to £1.2 billion, which suggests that actual research (and presumably also teaching) has been marginalised for the benefit of a very questionable administrative framework. It rather looks as if vice-chancellors are the only traditional features of universities that have not been marginalised. And of course it is pointless to say that they are sawing through the branch they are sitting on: the present crop of vice-chancellors will have retired on huge index-linked pensions by the time the institutions they now preside over fall apart.

A. D. Harvey
London

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