Our editor writes:
Over the decades, The Poppletonian has kept its readers up to date with all the major happenings within our own university and within the wider world of higher education.
Although we are proud of this record, we have come to recognise that a certain negativity has occasionally crept into our reporting.
All that will change in 2014. From now on, everyone on The Poppletonian, from the highest executive down to our lowly reporter Keith Ponting (30), will be encouraged to look on the bright side of higher education, to replace cynicism with optimism, to temper criticism with positive thought. Welcome to a brave new 2014.
Happy New Year, UUK!
Over the years there have been some professional troublemakers who have complained that Universities UK hardly deserves to describe itself as “the voice of UK universities” when it has not uttered a single word about the increasing marketisation of higher education, the absurdities of the ever-escalating research excellence framework or the madness of universities being required to compete against each other through the promotion of their distinctive “brand values”.
But look what happens when UUK does speak out. No sooner has its chief executive, Nicola Dandridge, passed on the perfectly reasonable legal advice that it is fine to segregate student audiences on the basis of gender than along come noisy critics denouncing her organisation as a waste of money.
Why, asks Hilary Baxter, Director of The Student Relaunch Programme in a letter to Times Higher Education, does the UUK need to employ 78 staff and gobble up £5.2 million a year in subscriptions from universities? Dear, oh dear, Hilary. Surely you know that UUK needs at least 78 staff to keep the peace between its members, between the Russell Group Athenaeum toffs and the Rose and Crown vulgarians Million+. Surely, you know that many of these 78 staff are also heavily involved in teaching individual vice-chancellors how to bend over backwards when required to do so by the minister of state for universities and science.
The Poppletonian says: Hats off to the UUK. Who else would pick up the expenses for so many inconsequential executive trips to London?
They deserve every penny!
Why all the grumbling about the fat pay rises recently handed out to many vice-chancellors? Agreed, some of the pay packages – such as the £466,000 paid to the incoming director of the London School of Economics in 2012-13 – will strike some cynical academics on a salary of £36,000 per annum as marginally excessive. But how many of those cynical bolshies have ever asked themselves how their own university could have gone on retaining its almost identical place in every university league table year after year without the essential leadership provided by their vice-chancellor?
Of course, it’s not all about staying in the same place.
Down at the University of Southampton, which saw a 13 per cent drop in undergraduate acceptances in 2013, they showed what they thought of that old and tired shibboleth “payment by results” by handing their esteemed vice-chancellor, Don Nutbeam, a £19,015 rise in emoluments in 2012-13, taking his overall pay package up to a well-deserved £333,615.
The Poppletonian says: “Hats off to Don and your fellow v‑cs. You deserve every penny.”