Flexible friend?

December 10, 2004

Sandra Burslem prattles on about how much she "values" her students, mature ones especially, and that universities should do more to encourage flexible working ("Do more for older students, v-c says", November 19).

Last year, a student at Manchester Metropolitan University sent Dame Sandra a letter protesting against the exploitation of a part-time lecturer. This man began his academic career as a mature student at MMU, did a degree and PhD there, then worked as an hourly paid tutor for 11 years.

He put himself out for the students again and again, much like the lecturer Dame Sandra describes who helped her get to where she is today. He did more teaching hours than most full-time staff and earned roughly £10,000 a year - not enough to pay his rent.

Fourteen other students added their names to the letter. Dame Sandra did not respond. The lecturer has since returned to working for the Post Office because it pays better. If Dame Sandra believes universities should "do more" for students, perhaps she could set an example by responding to the letter. If she values flexible teaching, perhaps her institution should not have been so callous and inflexible towards a tutor who did everything she calls for in terms of supporting students and only wanted in exchange to earn a wage comparable to that of other lecturers.

Simon Lavery

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