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Lord Winston: Although I completely understand and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, on his sentiments, I cannot but agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, in this respect. This does not seem to be the right place for the amendment, nor do I believe that it would provide the clout to change matters at all within the universities. Moreover, the composition of this board would not seem to be adequate for its purposes. While that may seem to be special pleadingand I raised the issue at Second Readingat present there is a major problem within the medical schools whereby there is no parity and an increasing gap between National Health Service salaries and academic salaries.
If one is to have representation, one would need to include representation from the Academy of Medical Sciences. I would argue that, as an important funder of research in Britain, the Wellcome Trust should also be involved, as well as representation from the nursing and other caring professions, which should have a
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major influence on the salary structure related to the academic aspects of caring in universities. Sadly, therefore, I do not believe that this is the place for this amendment, though I understand the reason for its introduction at this stage.
Baroness Lockwood: I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, on his ingenuity in tabling this amendment. I am sure that my noble friend the Minister does not need any arguments from the Back Benches as to why she will not be able to accept the amendment. It is unfortunate that we have a Higher Education Bill that deals with the funding of higher education but does not contain any provisions for improving academic and related salaries. It has been said today, and was said at Second Reading, that it is a disgrace. It is only because of the dedication of the staff in the universities that they continue to produce the excellent, first class work that they do.
When the Minister responds to the amendment, will she indicate whether there are any plans in her department to deal with this particular problem? The noble Lord, Lord Dearing, referred to his report. At that time we had a comprehensive review of university salaries, but very little has happened since. It is time that some real action was taken to bring universities into line with other professions.
Lord Sutherland of Houndwood: I, too, appreciate the intention behind this amendment. I declare a former interest as someone who used to teach philosophy and discovered that philosophy was not very well rated in the marketplace but tended to be at the very lowest end of the salary scale in the university system. Nevertheless, I believe that this amendment is misplaced, for two reasons. First, we have here not even a baby Arts and Humanities Research Council, but an embryonic one. The prospect of it being redirected from its main objectives and effectively becoming the salaries review body, with a sub-committee that is the Arts and Humanities Research Council, is considerable, because that is what would get all the attention and publicity, and that distraction would annul the main point of this part of the Bill.
Nevertheless, will the Minister reassure us that if such a research council took the view, I believe quite properly, that the salary levels in this area of the academic world were so low that they imperilled the contribution made in Britain to this kind of research, it would be perfectly proper for such a research council to constitute a panel to review them and to make a public report, and that there would be no risk of it being told that it was ultra vires or that the Minister did not like it? Such an indication would reassure me immensely that the intention here, which is perfectly proper, can perhaps be realised within the existing proposals.
Lord Tugendhat: I support my noble friend Lord Renfrew in respect of both the spirit in which he has tabled his amendment and the flexibility that he
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has shown in raising the issue. Unlike the noble Lord, who has had a distinguished career as an academic over many decades, I am very new to the world of academe. As a chancellor of a university rather than someone who works in one, I am in some respects perhaps somewhat semi-detached. I am proud to be the chancellor of the University of Bath.
For anyone who has earned his or her living in other fields of endeavour, the level of salaries in the universities is perfectly shocking; there is no other word for it. When I consider the quality of people whom I meet at the University of Bath or at Cambridge, to which I am also attached as chairman of the development committee of my old college, Caius, and compare it with the quality of people whom I meet in the financial sector or in other areas in which I have earned a living, it seems to me that the discrepancy between the quality of such people on the one hand and their remuneration on the other is blatant to a degree that one would not have believed possible.
As some Members of the Committee have said, it may be that this is not the ideal place in which to deal with the point raised by my noble friend Lord Renfrew, as he himself recognised. However, it seems to me to be symptomatic of the problem with which we are confronted that we can have a Higher Education Bill of this importance, including, in my view, a number of desirable and quite radical propositions, which makes no reference whatever to the question of remuneration. If in any other walk of life one tried to undertake serious and far-reaching reforms designed to improve the performance of the operation, the issue of remuneration would invariably be considered. That one can have a Bill of this kind, which makes no reference to academic salaries, seems to me to indicate the way in which they have fallen not only so far below the level at which they should be fixed but also so far outwith serious consideration.
I hope, therefore, that the amendment tabled by my noble friend will lever out of the Government a counter proposition. I hope that the Minister will feel able to express a view about where academic salaries will fit into the Government's overall approach to improving the status and performance of the universities. In response to what my noble friend has said about the amendment and what other Members of the Committee have said in opposition to it, perhaps the Minister will also indicate how she will confront the issues about which concern has been expressed. In that spirit, I very much hope that the Government will give serious consideration to my noble friend's amendment.
Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe: Noble Lords may know that as a former General Secretary of the Association of University Teachers as well as the chief executive of Universities UK, I feel passionately about academic salaries. Indeed, I feel passionately about salaries for academic-related and support staff as well.
There is no doubt that as the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, said, along with just about every other noble Lord who has spoken, salaries for academic and support staff have fallen woefully behind those for
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their comparators elsewhere. A university's key resource is its staff. Staff pay accounts for 58 per cent of universities' expenditure, and if they cannot pay their staff adequately, all our universities will struggle to recruit and retain the best and the brightest.
Universities have worked hard to make the initial academic careers of newly qualified researchers more secure. Noble Lords will know that the Universities and Colleges Employers' Associationthe employers' association for the higher education sectorhas just agreed a new pay framework for higher education with the seven trade unions, which will result in pay increases totalling at least 7.7 per cent by August 2004. However, calculations show that a total of £602 million of additional investment will be needed over the next spending review for human resources in England and Northern Ireland.
That said, the amendment, as others have said, is not really the answer to the problem. The Bill is an important step in the right direction, addressing the overall funding needs of universities. If there is also adequate public investment so that the fee income which the Bill will guarantee is indeed additional, as we have been assured is the case by the Secretary of State, then universities will be in a position to begin to reverse the relative decline of university salaries. I hope that the Minister might take the opportunity to confirm this in her reply.
Research staff in humanities departments will continue to be supported by funds other than those applied by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which will fund research on a project basis. Researchers will be financed through the university's general resources from the Further Education Funding Council's funds and fees, not from research council grants. UCEA already provides a single employers' association for the higher education sector and a framework mechanism through which universities can negotiate pay for all their academic and support staff, taking account of the overall resources that can be made available for salaries.
Since, as other noble Lords have said, the amendment would radically extend the functions of the AHRC, giving it a role far greater than its funding responsibilities, I do not believe that it would be helpful to the research council's functioning, and consequently I cannot support it. However, like other noble Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, for providing the opportunity to debate this issue.
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