Obviously the University and Colleges Employers' Association's most recent offer of a 2.9 per cent pay increase over each of two years to academic staff unions (THES, January 17) is a considerable advance over the original 1.5 per cent. It results from industrial action (unprecedented for Association of University and College Lecturers), some increase in government funding and the untenability of the original offer.
However, for lecturers in the 1992 (new) universities and colleges of higher education key comparators are an average earnings increase of 4 per cent (September 1996) and last year's pay increase of 3.75 per cent to school teachers. The offer, if accepted, would also set salaries until August 1998 - unless the Dearing report were to make recommendations on pay effective before that date - and so would fail to take account of the imminent recommendations of pay review bodies for teachers, doctors, nurses, etc.
While the UCEA proposal for employers and unions jointly to commission an independent study of pay and other employment matters for submission to the Dearing Inquiry is to be welcomed, there is nothing to commit the employers to supporting an independent pay review body for lecturers and related staff - a key policy for both the AUCL and the Association of University Teachers. This union's verdict on the UCEA's offer is "tried hard, but could do better".
Neil Macfarlane Chairman, Association of University and College Lecturers