Universities keep trying telling us about the importance of cutting costs. We are living in an age of austerity, and a measly £9000 a year in tuition fees per student is apparently not sufficient to maintain the high standards of education these institutions supposedly provide us with. Why is it then, that they find it appropriate to continue to reward their senior staff with extortionately large salaries and performance related bonuses that are dubious at best?
This constant rhetoric about the need to stretch funds and increase revenue streams might be slightly more believable were budgets and finances scrutinized across the board. However, this couldn't be further from the truth. As was revealed by UCU this week, university heads received an average salary of £260,000 per year and 18 received pay rises over 10% last year.
To me, this represents hypocrisy of the highest order. How university chiefs earning over ten times the average UK salary can lecture on the importance of keeping tuition fees at £9,000 a year is quite frankly astonishing. Furthermore, an investigation at my own university into the expenses of senior staff by the student newspaper, Exeposé, was reacted to by the university threatening to sue its own students and student's guild.
This is of course, part of a wider problem in our society. The whole premise that education comes at a price can and should be challenged universally. However, the very fact that my university's very own Vice Chancellor, Sir Steve Smith, can lecture us students on the importance of keeping tuition fees at their current rate whilst sitting on a salary of £400,000 (including £58,000 in 'performance-related remuneration' and reported expenses in excess of £40,000 ) beggars belief. Why should students continue to front the ever-increasing cost of gaining higher education when their money is seemingly going straight into the pockets of senior management, instead of enhancing the quality of their university experience?
It's not just students who are having an increasingly hard time at the expense of the university elite. In the same investigation which attempted to reveal Sir Steve Smith's costs, it was revealed that Exeter's lowest ten paid staff claimed a full 30 times less than the highest ten last year, with nine of these staff members claiming nothing at all in expenses.
Furthermore, the University have also revealed plans to extend the university teaching day next year, meaning lecturers, students and other staff will face the prospect of 8:30am stars and 6:30pm finishes from September. With student numbers continuing to rise as universities continue to chase profits, it is increasingly the students and low-paid staff who suffer as a result.
It's clear that a change in attitude is required in order to reverse this worrying trend of quantity over quality with regards to education in this country. Unfortunately, with selfish and out-of touch chiefs claiming thousands of pounds in expenses on top of extortionate salaries, this change appears unlikely to happen anytime in the future.