Students 'should quiz unis on pay'

Would-be students are being asked by a union to quiz universities on issues such as staff pay and tuition fee increases.

Prospective students have been given a list of questions to ask universities
Prospective students have been given a list of questions to ask universities

The University and College Union (UCU) said it wants prospective students to ask tough questions during university open days as part of its campaign for greater openness in higher education.

It has drawn up a list of 10 questions that cover areas such as how much teaching is done by staff on zero-hours or temporary contracts, whether the institution pays all employees the living wage, the ratio between the salary of the vice-chancellor and the lowest paid and if the university wants tuition fees to rise above the current £9,000 maximum.

This type of information will help students to make an informed choice about where to study, the UCU argued.

The union's general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: "Students have a right to know what universities would really like to charge them in fees and whether or not they can expect a fair wage if they end up working in the campus shop during their time there.

"Students should find out whether or not their lecturers are on decent contracts or being held back by zero-hours deals. Students are bombarded by information these days, but so much of it is just advertising bumf it is difficult to see the wood for the trees.

"We are encouraging students to ask the questions that universities would rather they didn't. We need far greater transparency in the higher education sector and prospective students should exercise their critical capacities even before they join a university."

UCU said it will be handing out leaflets with the questions during open days.

The 10 questions are: 1. How much of my teaching will be given by staff employed on zero-hours and temporary contracts?

2. What is the student:staff ratio at the university?

3. Does the university pay the living wage to all staff it employs, including staff on casual contracts?

4. If I take a job working at the university while I am a student will I be paid the living wage?

5. Are the open day guides who show me around paid the living wage?

6. What is the ratio of the vice-chancellor's salary to the pay of the lowest paid member of staff?

7. What will the university do if proposed cuts to Disabled Students' Allowance are implemented in 2015?

8. Does the university want to see tuition fees rise above their current maximum of £9,000 a year?

9. Does the university believe that student loans should be sold to a private company?

10. What would this university do if the terms of their students' loans changed for the worse after they had started their course?