Customers come first on campus

May 10, 1996

If Ross Brennan (THES, May 3) wanted to set the adrenalin in motion on a bitterly cold Friday morning, he succeeded. What is more, he was right in what he said about teachers, nurses, the police and the fire service. They are not and never have been paid enough - apart from a brief spell following the Houghton report.

But Mr Brennan, in kicking his colleagues, has forgotten the customers - a strange spell of amnesia for one who teaches in a business school. Students, without whose presence Mr Brennan and everyone else at the daffodil-carpeted Trent Park would be out of a job, have been sadly neglected by a Government which claims to be "caring".

Even your grouchy contributor admitted that "efficiency gains" had "probably gone far enough". Probably? What kind of business school senior lecturer is this? Does he not know that surveys, conducted both independently and by the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals, have shown that at least Pounds 1.25 billion is needed simply to deal with repairs to buildings (how long before some are condemned?); and that an estimated 250,000 additional lecture places, 14,000 laboratory places and 28,000 library spaces are required to meet current needs? As Diana Warwick told a recent conference of the Higher Education External Relations Association: "That little lot comes to another Pounds 840 million that we cannot afford to spend."

As for Mr Brennan's claim that the public believe "university lecturers spend a third of the year on holiday", I cannot answer for Middlesex University's academics but I do not believe them to be that different from those at the University of North London. Our lecturers get 35 days' leave a year (plus Christmas). How does that compare with the well-paid executive career Mr Brennan chose to abandon?

What is remarkable is that universities, on the whole, are continuing to perform to so high a standard despite the many hurdles and potholes across their campus paths.

John Izbicki, Dulwich, London

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