Best Bett for more cash

January 8, 1999

In your new year message ("How to attract funders in the new year, THES, January 1) you urge all in education to pitch the merits - not the needs - of their institutions harder. Surely, we must do both or we will be expected (as ever) to do more with less.

University staff have delivered unprecedented productivity and been "rewarded" with, bad pay and conditions. Workloads increase as job security declines and bureaucracy smothers all.

I agree that one of Michael Bett's possible recommendations (a pay-review body) would point out how bad pay and conditions in the sector are. It is also the only recommendation that offers a realistic prospect of bringing more funding into the sector. In addition, a PRB would provide a civilised mechanism for avoiding disputes. Anyone who thinks that local bargaining would generate anything other than bitter disputes is deluding themselves.

You say that since academics are not civil or public servants, there can be no guarantee that PRB recommendations would be funded. First, 'twas ever thus. Our services are not properly funded now and no alternative to PRB can guarantee improvement. No existing PRB in the public sector has guaranteed funding, yet workers with PRBs do better than those without.

Second, your reference to our "political masters" shows how successive governments have managed to achieve power over us. We are, in the best sense, public servants and are now asking for a commensurate degree of government responsibility.

No sensible person wants a rerun of our last dispute. The Bett committee can head us down that road again or chart a new way forward that addresses the needs of the sector on a permanent basis. Once that has been done, we can devote our energies to pitching the merits of higher education. That really would ensure a happy new year.

P. K. Burgess. (Past president, Association of University Teachers), department of psychology, Dundee University

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