Here's hoping for a fairer share

July 21, 2000

My words at one of our degree ceremonies last week were not "bitter" (Leader, THES, July 14), even less did they reflect the "death of hope".

Rather, they were a clarion call to seek to ensure that the substantial increase in funding for research infrastructure, which I warmly welcomed, is paralleled by equivalent investment in facilities for teaching and learning and in the pay levels of university staff. The prime minister spoke last week of "chronic underinvestment in public services". Quite so.

As one who would much prefer a university system that is adequately publicly funded to the alternatives being discussed, it was and remains my purpose to indicate that those who teach and those who learn in our universities should also receive a fair share of the additional funds available.

I recognise how much more than the projected spending levels envisaged by the previous administration is reaching universities from the government and from student fees - but I also know what is still needed in respect of infrastructure and pay. At first sight, what the chancellor announced on Tuesday appears to make a start in addressing these issues.

As my degree-day speech made clear, I am by nature an optimist and, for that reason, I very much hope that we are at the beginning of a sustained improvement in the fortunes of our universities.

Martin Harris


University of Manchester

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