Statement #1

 In the academic year of 2011/12 the Vice-Chancellor of Warwick University, Nigel Thrift, was awarded a pay increase of £42,000. He now receives a pay packet of £316,000 – earning over twenty-two times more than the lowest paid worker at this university (£14,202).

This is not unusual. Vice-Chancellors of the country’s most selective universities have received similar pay increases. These come at a time of continuing economic crisis, rising youth unemployment and falling intake of students from less-privileged backgrounds. This is symptomatic of widening social inequality and a mass transfer of wealth from poor to rich, public to private.

Widening inequality within higher education is driven by the marketization and privatization of universities. Institutions that were once for the public good are now being turned over to private, profit-driven interests. This is deliberately advanced by government policy on higher education. Our university system was once acknowledged as one of the best in the world. This is now being dismantled.

Unlike their Vice-Chancellors, university staff members have experienced a real wage pay cut. Made in the name of ‘growth’ and ‘efficiency’, these cuts go hand in hand with longer hours, less money and insecure contracts for postgraduate and junior staff members. This puts enormous pressure on staff and visibly reduces teaching standards, forcing us to ask: efficient at what?

At the same time, students are forced to take on the burden of financing higher education. While fees climb to £9,000 a year, bursaries are either cancelled or transferred to ‘fee waivers’; meanwhile, in universities like Warwick, maintenance costs are driven up by the construction of ever-more expensive accommodation. The vast post-university debt (£43,500) now facing less privileged students whose families cannot afford to pay up-front makes university education seem both risky and undesirable for many. This process is changing the perception of higher education from a public good to a private investment, from a communal right to an individual privilege, accessible only by the few, as demonstrated by falling applications from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The widening gap in pay between senior managers and frontline staff, and the debt forced on students, means that the university now reproduces social inequalities rather than contesting them. This undermines the university’s democratic function as a space in which free thought, debate and critical inquiry is fostered in order to give people the tools to challenge social hierarchies and play an active role in the public sphere.

Our opposition to the rising salary of the Vice-Chancellor speaks to a deeper opposition to the continuing marketization and privatization of higher education. The problems at Warwick University are problems for the entire university system under market logic. The management of this university is failing to make the case for the protection and promotion of the public university, so we must do it. The government’s radical restructuring of higher education has crept up on us, and we must act now if we are to resist – before it’s too late.

We contest these reforms to our university, however the voice of the student body has been reduced to customer feedback and merely tokenistic representation in the governance of this university. There is currently no space for dialogue over the future of our own university. We are occupying this council chamber in order to open that space, to start that dialogue and to make our voices heard. If we are to halt this government’s assault on the university we must make ourselves heard TOGETHER and begin to work towards an alternative.

Join us.


4 Responses to Statement #1

  1. Pingback: Letter to the Vice-Chancellor | PROTECT THE PUBLIC UNIVERSITY – WARWICK

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  4. Ian says:

    Congratualtions on your protest, which I wholly agree with.

    However, I think that while you have spotted the obvious target, you have missed the key motivation in why VC Nigel Thrift was awarded this pay rise.

    Thirft according to his own Bio and that on Wikipedia was born 12 October 1949, making him 64 this year. Thrift like all academics of his years of standing is nominally enrolled in the final salary pension scheme run by the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), run on behalf of all Universities and Higher Education istitutes in the United Kingdom. This nominally means that, with benefits based on 80ths, Thrift just increased his final salary by some £21k to £26kpa, when he would be nominally scheduled to first retire. Let us assume that Thrift lives to the current average age of 85, and that he retires at the age of 65; this would mean that the actual cost of the £42k pay rise is circa £420k over the next 20 years.

    This “just a year before retirement salary boost” is a common trick amongst numerous senior civil servants, to enable them to further feather their well paid retirement. However, as Mark Serwotka would no doubt raise, most civil servants are paid less than the average UK salary, and often work part-time, which further caps their pensions – unlike those like Thrift who take a pre-retirement boost.

    Good Luck with your protest!

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