Treasury must stump up for Bett

July 2, 1999

Your editorial is entirely right to say that it is essential to find ways of implementing Bett's "modest and eminently justifiable recommendations" in respect of university pay (Opinion, THES, June 25).

That the quality and standards of our higher education system have so far been maintained is, as you point out, a remarkable tribute to university staff, but this can only continue to be true if talented women and men are willing to become and remain university teachers.

There is increasingly disturbing evidence - in economics and engineering, in accounting and computing, in medicine and in law - that this is less and less the case. And a principal cause of this is that many of our staff are under-rewarded, in some cases substantially so, a fact now independently validated.

All of us must now make every effort to persuade education ministers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to present the strongest possible case to the Treasury. Given that government has chosen to block increased charges, thus limiting the source of revenue, but is committed, as we are, to the maintenance of quality, for British students and for the increased numbers of international students of whom the prime minister spoke in his recent extremely welcome initiative, then the onus of responsibility is clear.

Institutions simply cannot meet Bett's recommendations from existing resources. The third year of funding for higher education from the comprehensive spending review must take account of Bett to enable us to begin to address the pay erosion of recent years. The need for enhanced salaries for many in our sector is now beyond dispute. We must all work together to convince the Treasury of the inescapable consequences of these facts, because otherwise morale and the quality of our provision will certainly be increasingly rapidly undermined, an outcome that is acceptable to no one.

Martin Harris

Chairman, Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals

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