Sunday, 6 July 2014

Setting the boss's pay

The decision by Goldsmiths, University of London, to include a student member on its Remuneration Committee points, I think, to a new way of looking at universities' responses to student demands in the post-Browne era.

The increase in fees for home/EU undergraduates in English and Welsh universities has had much written about it, some by me. What is unarguable is that it has had an effect on universities. Some have seen increases in income, notwithstanding the reduction in HEFCE/HEFCW T funding. Some have seen falls in demand and in enrolment numbers, with a sliggish recoverey so far to pre-2012 levels.

All universities have sought to respond. Some have opted to invest in learning and student experience facilities  - new libraries, sports pitches, and the like. All things which can be addressed by capital spend.  Goldsmiths, we see, has also opted for increased transparency in relation to salaries of senior managerial staff. This is a move which many universities have tried to avoid: it will be interesting to see if other universities now follow suit. It's a cheap (although potentially very disruptive) student demand to concede.

These responses - investment in facilities; greater transparency - are no doubt commendable. But many student demands relate to class sizes and access to tutors. This is recurrent spending which is not so straightforward for universities to commit. I'll be keeping an eye on HESA data over the next few years to see whether student:staff ratios also fall.

Sorry for the absence of links. I'll put some in next week when I'm back in the office.

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