|Teachers’ wages are ‘still too low’
Education secretary joins debate on student fees
TWO men at the centre of an explosive row over student fees that sparked a national strike met at the University of Westminster on Monday to debate the future of higher education.
The university’s vice-chancellor, Dr Geoffrey Copland, and the secretary of state for education, Alan Johnson MP, backed capping lecturers’ salaries.
Academics had called for half of the extra funding from increased top-up fees to boost their wages. They ended up getting one third.
Thousands of lecturers across the country went on strike in March 2006 and many refused to mark work or take part in appriasals during exam time.
Deputy Labour leader contender Mr Johnson and Dr Copland, who chaired The Universities and Colleges Employers Association, defended the decision in a meeting chaired by TUC general secretary Brendan Barber.
The debate was a swansong for Dr Copland, who is retiring after 11 years at the university in Regent Street.
One academic asked why, after 10 years of a Labour government, teachers’ wages were “…still lower than the bog standard GP”.
“In the end the market will determine pay,” said Dr Copland, who this week was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honour’s List.
“You have got to remember that university academics get a rather good pension scheme. Yes, by increasing tuition fees more money became available. But no one would like to see that go just to staff. The money is there to make improvements. If you look at the money that has poured into the National Health Service the jury is still out on whether it has helped improve service. You have to look at affordability. Yes, we want to give the best rewards to our staff. But there is no point in negotiating pay deals that an institution cannot afford.”
Mr Johnson said: “So far there has been a pessimistic view of the fee regime. But the messages have been good. There has been a 6 per cent increase in students from disadvantaged backgrounds and a closing of the social class gap.”
He added: “I really think that if parents aspire for their children to succeed it doesn’t matter about fees. It is about ambition, even if you come from poorer backgrounds. It’s not about fees when you get to 18.”
He added: “New reports show that 40 per cent of all jobs will be filled by graduates. The arguments are clear. We must work to close the social class gap. We need more focus on training and on the use of business in higher education.”
Mr Johnson said Gordon Brown’s arrival as Prime Minister would keep higher education at the top of the political agenda. He said: “There will inevitably be some changes in the machinery of government. And I am sure he will stick to his pledge of making science and innovation his top priority.”
A World of Children's art works
SCHOOLS from across the world came together in Camden Town on Saturday for an international exhibition of children’s art.
Children from as far away as Tanzania and India painted pictures for The Work That Children Do event at the Trinity United Reformed Church in Buck Street, alongside students from local schools including Brecknock, Christchurch and Edith Neville.
Madaraka Nyerere, youngest son of the late Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, was also present to talk about lessons for development, unity and peace.