Pay misconceptions 2

January 12, 2007

I am not an economist, so perhaps that is why I am perplexed at the ubiquity of the phrase "market forces" in higher education, invariably used to justify the inflated salaries of senior academic managers.

I do not understand the logic that says that academics who a few years ago were teaching Plato or Puff Daddy to rooms of students strikingly less crowded than they are today are now "worth" £60,000 a year once given a title such as "pro vice-dean (excellence)".

This is nonsense so absolute that Plato could have used it. So could the rock group Queen; after all, it's a kind of magic.

Surely the phrase "market forces" has little relevance within the university's cloistered walls - certainly, every university in the UK would be awarded a starred first for spending money; sadly, the market does rather insist that earning money is an essential prerequisite for spending it.

The vast bulk of a univer-sity's revenue, however, is snatched from the taxpayer's pocket. It is ludicrous to argue that a university must bend to market forces and pay the newly appointed sub pro vice-director (research assessment exercise) £73,000 a year. Where is the market for this job, and hundreds like it, outside higher education?

When universities want to cut their spending (always), they simply cut the number of teaching staff. What would be much more useful, to everybody but the overpaid senior management themselves, is to readjust these salaries and use the windfall to support teaching and research.

Kevin McCarron
London

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