Universities risk their reputations by failing to value teaching staff

Margaret Heffernan:

Across the UK, university lecture halls and seminar rooms have been silent as academic staff continue a wave of strikes. Taken at face value, the industrial action is a textbook case of bad industrial relations.

Lecturers have accepted relatively low pay and pretty poor working conditions in exchange for significant autonomy and relatively secure jobs and pensions. But, over the past decade, without negotiation, every aspect of that deal has been eroded. Autonomy has given way to increased teaching responsibilities, larger classes, more time spent grading and heavier management duties. Job security has been reduced by eliminating departments and cutting research funding. Pensions are failing to deliver on their promise.

While university leaders have awarded themselves huge pay increases, they allowed academic pay and standards of living to decline steadily. Nobody should be surprised that trust has broken down.