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Annual “UK Vice Chancellors Earn Money” Shock

15/03/2010

Don’t shoot the V-Cs, sort out the lower echelons.

It is becoming an event of channelled hatred and incontrovertible horror in broadsheets and red tops alike – the annual release of VC salaries. Whilst the numbers involved are extraordinary, Slakademika see the numbers as indicative of a more general problem in UKHE rather than demanding universal ire and tub-thumping in and of itself.

UKHE institutionally has become increasingly Kafkaesque in recent years, supporting massive cohorts of administrative staff (whose role is inevitably somewhat opaque) as well as a massive number of Professorial staff whose primary qualification seems to be 4 papers and a self–published book on identifying pollen. Rather than shooting the VCs down, we suggest that more attention should be paid to the Professor-Lecturer ratios in academic Schools and Departments. We find it extraordinary and fallacious that in departments with 39 members of full-time staff, 21 of them can be ‘leaders in their field’. A former colleague has compared this to partner-associate gearings in leading law firms which are usually between 5 or 8 juniors to a partner.

This top heavy structure, the proliferation of Chiefs over Indians, is limiting opportunities at the bottom end of the academic job market preventing enthusiastic and highly effective youngsters from gaining any toe-hold in the job market. Whilst the Professors at the top gain acclaim for producing world leading research, the individuals on hyper short-term contracts at the bottom end receive bugger all credit for actually ‘doing’ the research for their ‘prestigious’ institutions.

We at Slakademika are in favour of a Germanic model in UKHE, where research groups actually have a function and staff have readily demarcated roles within a defined structure. The current system in the UK favours those at the ‘top’ of the profession and discriminates against those at the bottom who do the majority of the donkey work in either research or teaching capacity.

So will a revolution be forthcoming? Unlikely. The most revolutionary thing Peter Mandelson has achieved was shaving off his moustache.

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