Arguments of merit

July 9, 1999

To a very large extent, academic staff salaries are already performance related. Over the past 15 or 20 years, probation has become increasingly stringent; staff appraisal, research assessment exercise grades and student satisfaction ratings have been brought in and directly affect academic careers; and promotion has become ever harder to achieve. Time was when what is now required for a senior lectureship would have got one a chair.

In the same period we have seen hefty increases in workloads and a degree of bureaucratisation of the teaching process that is often counterproductive. What is more, while the system has become massified, staff are still expected to treat students as individuals.

And, on top of all this, academic salaries have for many years been far below those of comparable professions. If salaries were truly performance related, they would all be at least 35 per cent higher. As it is, university staff have been, and continue to be, grossly discriminated against. Those who came into the profession with the Robbins expansion of the mid-1960s are coming to the end of careers that have been underpaid by tens of thousands of pounds and are entering retirement with prospects falling far short of what they should be.

It is indeed high time pay was related to performance.

Henry Ettinghausen, Professor of Spanish, University of Southampton

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