University vice-chancellors are a race apart

Readers' letters | Published:

ST Vaughan (letter Dec 2) makes interesting points about the extravagant pay of university vice-chancellors.

Glynis Breakwell

While student fees are not directly linked to vice-chancellors’ remuneration, young people paying huge fees are understandably brassed off at the enormous sums grabbed by some bosses, and students at Bath were as keen as lecturers to see the back of Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell, who couldn’t afford to buy her own custard creams out of her near half million pounds salary. (Yep, she claimed biscuits on expenses.)

Half a century ago, when I was reading for my first degree among a rather small proportion of young people who went to university and when there was a tiny grain of truth in the ‘ivory towers’ myth, the vice-chancellor was the first among equals, doing his (very rarely her) stint and often returning after a few years to research.

Now, the vice-chancellor is a race apart from even professors, let alone ordinary lecturers. Academia has become a hotbed of temporary and part-time work, with lecturers not gaining the doctorate necessary to enter the job until they are approaching thirty, and then spending years in insecure, sometimes hourly paid work. For those, like me, who joined as mature students after other experience, a permanent contract may never arrive.

What has happened? Vice-chancellors have grabbed ever-increasing rewards and have enthusiastically adopted managerialist ideologies since universities’ governing bodies have been stuffed with businessmen, who have lapped up the ‘chief executive’ pretensions of vice-chancellors. Education has become a commodity, run by those who ‘know the price of everything and the value of nothing’.

Alan T Harrison



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