Letters – 21 December 2017

December 21, 2017

Should outside directors sit on pay panels?

The Committee of University Chairs is now apparently to publish draft guidance on university pay ( “No say on pay panel for you, revised code to tell 
leaders” , News, 14 December). That is not a new venture for the CUC. Its 2015 publication, Governing Body and Remuneration Committee Practice on Senior Staff Remuneration, is online as Illustrative Practice Note 1. That frankly admits that “the reputation of Higher Education (HE) can be significantly damaged by pay packages for senior staff that are perceived as out of kilter with pay and conditions elsewhere”.

Unlike Universities UK, the CUC is rarely in the headlines, but like Universities UK, it is a voluntary association. One body is composed of the chairs of governing bodies of higher education providers, and the other of their chief executives (the vice-chancellors). The business-style relationship of board and chief executive took its present form in the wake of the Cadbury report of 1992, which dictated the expectation – embedded in the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 section 124C – that the governing body of a higher education corporation would have “at least half” independent members. The Lambert Review of Business-University Collaboration in 2003 tried unsuccessfully to insist that the universities of Oxford and Cambridge would comply with this requirement.

Cadbury also recommended that a remuneration committee would have a majority of independent non-executive directors, who, it seems, have thought big when it comes to justifying vice-chancellors’ salary increases. There are murmurings that the influence of such a high proportion of persons on a university council who are required to be external to higher education has been encouraging this lavish thinking in the inflation of “chief executive” salaries.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England has consistently referred providers to the CUC’s Higher Education Code 
of Governance (revised in 2014). It is not yet clear whether the Office for Students will do the same. But if there are going to be governance reforms, it is to be hoped that they will dig deep enough to ask whether the Cadbury principles are really right for higher education providers.

G. R. Evans
Oxford


Latent hostility

The immigration minister Brandon Lewis has declared “EU academics: we want you in the UK and you will not be asked to leave after Brexit” (Opinion, 7 December), however I do not believe that we are welcome. Like other European Union citizens in UK academia, the UK was my destination of choice in part because of its openness, meritocracy and opportunities for obtaining external funds (which will be severely diminished if we can no longer bid for European Research Council funds). I declined a job offer in the US in part because of the difficulties with visas, green cards and my spouse finding a job.

Yet here I see my non-EU colleagues struggle. An American colleague needs to pay for his own visas and such, while some people are denied indefinite leave to remain because they have been out of the UK for too long.

A US academic I know was disturbed after receiving messages saying that his visa renewal case was extraordinarily difficult and would take longer than usual. Even though he had not been out of the country for longer than allowed, had all the paperwork to document his stay, and worked above the minimum income threshold, he still knew that if the Home Office were to screw up he would be powerless and could be deported and forced to argue his case from the US.

Another friend shared a disturbing message with me: “Today lunch with a soon-to-be former non-EU colleague with a PhD: old passport with valid work visum expired, with no option of transferring the still-valid work visum to the new passport. Had to apply again for work visum and was denied, which means that colleague, spouse and children (one of them born here) will have to leave the UK.”

Soon, that could be any of us, and there is nothing that we can do but vote with our feet.

UK academia attracts many EU scholars because there is no hassle with visas, possible deportations and so on. It is certainly not because of the workload and admin, which is higher than in many EU countries. The pay is also modest – equivalent places in the US have higher salaries, for example. So I expect to see a steady trickling-away of talent and a failure to attract new candidates if this hostile environment continues.

HDeCruz
Via timeshighereducation.com

 

The issue of EU academics in the UK after Brexit is not just about those who are already here but also about those who potentially will not come. This boils down to the whole ecosystem, which involves concerns over how people’s children will be treated, the process and costs for EU graduate students who may choose to stay, what other institutions on the Continent could do to take advantage of the unsettled circumstances, and so on.

Simply saying that those who are here will go through a “painless process” to stay says little about how the situation would be for those who might have chosen to come in 2020 but who will now choose to go elsewhere. As a foreigner in the UK, it is clear that the environment is not the most welcoming and that it will be less so in future.

T. Devinney
Via timeshighereducation.com


Soviet swine

I am amazed that according to John Davies and Alexander J. Kent in The Red Atlas: How the Soviet Union Secretly Mapped the World (Books, 7 December), Soviet agents would not have been able to read “Gloucester” on road signs and knew it as “Gloster”.

They could always have consulted the Veliko­britaniia ling­vostranovedcheskii slovar [Great Britain: An Encyclopedic Dictionary] (1978), prepared by Adrian Room with seven Soviet authors. It contains useful entries not only for “Gloucester” but also for “Gloucester cheese” (glosterskii syr) and, to increase their knowledge of pigs, an invaluable one for “Gloucester Old Spot” (poroda svynei miaso-sal’nogo tipa).

R. E. Rawles
Honorary research fellow
Division of Psychology and Language Sciences
University College London


Hope in our hearts

You do football manager David Moyes a disservice in claiming that the chances of any honours from Manchester universities are slim ( “The week in higher education” , News, 14 December). Scousers of every hue (and the blue side of Manchester) have lobbied the senate here long and hard for a gong to reflect the direction of Manchester United’s fortunes since Mr Moyes was in charge. He was highly regarded at the Faculty of Science, and the jury awaits Sam Allardyce.

Peter Fenn
Reader, School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering
University of Manchester


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