Two proposals to coax snouts out of troughs

March 31, 2011

We should be grateful to Times Higher Education for so thoroughly researching the remuneration of university vice-chancellors ("Identity check", 24 March). It is indefensible that the highest levels of management in the academy are merely mimicking the worst snouts-in-trough excesses of the rampant neoliberal market system. This also makes a mockery of the rhetoric we routinely hear from many of them about "defending the values of the academy" from that very same marketisation process. Perhaps they need to start with the mote in their own eyes.

Here are two creative responses to this malaise. First, let some of our more morally minded vice-chancellors (there are undoubtedly some) volunteer to have their annual salaries reduced to a ceiling of, say, £100,000 or £120,000; hopefully the rest of them might be shamed into following suit. Such a change would mean that at every university, at least two full-time members of staff would not have to be made redundant - with well over 300 academic careers thus being saved.

Even more radically, let every university hold a staff referendum on whether they would like the institution to be run on a collegiate, cooperative basis by the academics themselves. With vice-chancellor salaries alone costing between £30 million and £40 million a year, stripping out other levels of higher management (for example, deputy and pro vice-chancellors) would probably save more than £100 million a year, cash that could be spent on teaching, research and scholarship.

Let's hear from anyone in senior management who can make any sort of rational, non-self-interested case against either of these suggestions; if we don't hear anything, the silence will be truly deafening.

Name supplied, Senior academic at a new London university

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