Clarke sales pitch defies reality

May 2, 2003

Education secretary Charles Clarke has been accused of resorting to the ancient art of the snake-oil salesman to lure the brightest graduates into academe. This comes a week after widespread condemnation of his plans to pay £9,000 golden hellos to lecturers in shortage subjects.

In an attempt to ease the university recruitment crisis, Mr Clarke has penned a colourful composition extolling the virtues of a career in higher education. But lecturers' union leaders have dismissed the idyllic depiction of academic life as unrecognisable.

In a foreword to a careers guide by the Careers Service Unit, he skirts round fears about the 40 per cent shortfall in pay, crippling bureaucracy and expanding workloads, and skips over the sector's record of job insecurity and casualisation.

Mr Clarke claims that "even a major multinational company would be hard pressed to offer the career opportunities found within a university". He says: "Colleges are thriving places of work, and I'd encourage you to look again at your university or college."

Tom Wilson, head of universities at lecturers' union Natfhe, said: "The places of work he's talking about are not something we'd recognise."

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, added: "Mr Clarke's upbeat assessment of what a career in higher education is like is the antithesis of the view held by workers in the sector."

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