The UK Lecturers Union, the UCU is threatening the largest disruption to student education in recent times. The on-going dispute over pay rises is interesting as although children and teenagers can’t miss a single day without their parents being fined, Lecturers are able to completely disrupt student education without any backlash. Although they are two different areas of education it does seem slightly odd and perhaps hypocritical. Surely student attendance is just as necessary in University as in second level education. The question of course is whether this move is motivated because the lecturers are being greedy, genuinely badly paid or are just apathetic to their students.
The first bout of protests will take the form of walkouts from lectures and tutorials are set to start next week. These walkouts are almost a certainty as the pay dispute will never be solved by then. The pay dispute focuses on the vice chancellors refusal to budge on a 1% pay increase on pay. With the cost of living increasing it is easy to understand why lecturers are asking for a higher rise more in line with inflation. This has only been compounded by many Vice-Chancellors getting pay rises of £22,000; this can mean that some Vice chancellors are getting a pay and perks package worth roughly £400,000 or more. The Unions have quite rightly hit out against the "hypocrisy of those at the top enjoying huge pay increases but pleading poverty when it comes to paying staff". It does leave many Lecturers feeling like cashiers at banks compared to the CEO’s at the top.
The second round of protests are threatened for the summer and will have lecturers refusing to mark student exams. This will lead to many students being unable to graduate and as a result, an inability to use their degrees effectively in their job hunt. While this may be a great thing for many current graduates, because it will reduce further saturation of the graduate job market, it is a scary proposition for current students who have invested £9,000 per year in tuition fees. To them it would seem a very “cynical move to cause, in the union’s own terms,” with the “industrial action is designed to damage the student experience.” The students obviously aren’t very happy.
So are the Lecturers being Greedy, badly paid, or do they just not give a crap about their students and are using the UCU as a bullying device. Well it would seem a complicated matter, the lecturers are actually receiving a 13% incremental pay increase as they progress up the ranks. So strictly speaking they are not stuck at 1% it just depends on whether they progress up the ranks. This would sound as if they are being a bit greedy and just want everything to return to the pre-recession days when being a lecturer was a pretty cushy job with a great pension. Of course a 1% pay rise for the vast majority of lecturers is a pretty low pay rise and they only achieved that offer after previous protests.
However, so many people in the UK are getting absolutely no pay rise; it could be argued that even a 1% pay rise is nothing to turn your nose up at. Especially given the relatively cushy nature of their job. But the vice-chancellors giving themselves such generous pay rises has left so many wondering why are we stuck at 1%.It is hard to argue that lecturers are impoverished though.
A big issue is whether or not the lecturers are just completely apathetic to the needs of their students. While lecturers usually seem to care about their students does this willingness to risk their students future for a raise put this idea into doubt. When their best interests are in question are the lecturers just like every other person and look after number one. Is it all about the money after all?
It is a difficult question to answer and I think that it is probably a mixture of the three. People are naturally greedy and in these economic times even lecturers should be happy with any pay rise they get. After all they are far from impoverished, but the vice-chancellors have managed to piss them off a lot. However, when it comes down to it I think it is all about the money just like everyone else they look after number one. Can they be condemned for this? Perhaps they can; when it threatens the well-being of future graduates it is not ok for then to use the Unions as their bully boy.