A higher pay bill will put strain on university funds, writes Phil Baty
The growing left-wing campaign against the 13.1 per cent higher education pay offer could cost more academic jobs in a sector already struggling to meet the cost of the deal, vice-chancellors warned this week.
Concerns among university heads grew as the campaign to persuade lecturers to reject the three-year pay offer was this week bolstered by a rally of more than 200 union activists in London.
The first meeting of the University and College Union's left-wing activists, UCU Left, was held at London Metropolitan University at the weekend. Activists reported that some 28 local UCU branches had indicated that they would vote to reject the offer of 13.1 per cent over three years, in the current ballot of 70,000 UCU members in higher education.
Liz Lawrence, of Sheffield Hallam University and one of the leading members of the group, said UCU Left had collected more than 400 signatures on a petition to reject the deal, which the group believes falls short of what employers can afford.
But her comments came as vice-chancellors outlined concerns about the financial consequences of paying the 13.1 per cent.
Kel Fidler, vice-chancellor of Northumbria University, said that "without doubt" the offer would plunge some less well-off universities into "real trouble".
Professor Fidler said that, while Northumbria was in a "very healthy"
position with an 8 per cent surplus last year on a £140 million turnover, the offer would require "careful management". He revealed that he had already implemented tighter controls over the approval of appointments.
Professor Fidler said that the deal would cost 82 per cent of the university's additional fee income, but added that 40 per cent of this had already been earmarked for scholarships for students from low-income backgrounds.
"We either increase income or cut down costs... without doubt some universities are going to be in real trouble," he said.
Deian Hopkin, vice-chancellor of London South Bank University, sent a memo to staff this month explaining that by 2008-09 the university's pay bill would be £8 million, compared with the £5.9 million brought in by top-up fees after bursaries costs.
Professor Hopkin said that each 1 per cent added to the pay deal would cost the university £630,000 a year in pay, national insurance contributions and pension contributions.
Phil Jones, deputy vice-chancellor of Durham University, said that there was concern that union members might not accept the deal. Every 1 per cent on the pay deal increases his university's wage bill by £1 million.
"So if another 1 per cent were added to the deal, it would cost 30 to 40 jobs," he said.