Why We Strike

My colleagues and I all received a sombre message from our Vice-Chancellor yesterday, informing us all that the position of the academic’s union, the UCU, on the future of the nation-wide pension scheme, around which quite drastic industrial action is taking place from today, is actually based on us not really understanding the complexity of pension financing. Because news travels slowly to Devon, of course, our VC seems to assume that no-one down these parts has noticed that a significant number of his VC peers from other Universities (Warwick for example, or Essex, to pick just a couple) around the country have very publicly dissented from the UUK-party line on the un-sustainability of the current system. Perhaps unintentionally – or perhaps it’s just a lack of shame, because there is certainly a patronising tone of tut-tutting about how senior University managers pretend to know better than everyone else about complex finance questions (that’s why they HAVE to be on those remunerations committees, I guess) – the University of Exeter’s line, repeated in this VC message but already circulated to students over the last week, manages to say out loud what is at the heart of the dispute – a fundamental commitment by a powerful fraction of UUK to disinvest in uniformly high quality pay and conditions across the sector: Exeter’s VC claims that the “additional cost” to the University that would be involved in committing to sustain a version of the current pensions system “would inevitably result in a reduction to our resources, and would limit our ability to deliver our key missions around research and education as well as our ability to invest in, and improve, the facilities we provide.” Or, to put it another way, investment in quality provision for all academic staff is no longer considered a worthy cost contributing to delivering the “key missions around research and education” of a University like Exeter, and especially not if it interferes with the scope for somewhat unaccountable senior University management groups to invest in “facilities”, otherwise known as speculative vanity projects. Because everyone knows that the quality of the education provided by a University is a direct function of the shininess of its buildings, not the degree of investment or respect extended to academic staff.

One thought on “Why We Strike

  1. Pingback: Anthropologists on the Strike | Culture and Capitalism

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