Students protest at vice-chancellor pay rise

Students at Warwick University are fed-up with a sky-high public sector pay increase—and they’re showing their anger by occupying their university’s council chamber.  Struggling under the burden of student loans and fees, the last straw came when they heard that their vice-chancellor had been given a pay rise of £42,000—the equivalent of the debts many students take away with them after leaving university!

Nigel Thrift, Vice-Chancellor of Warwick University, received this eye-watering increase in the academic year of 2011/12, bringing his total  pay packet (significantly funded by taxpayers) to £316,000, that is, 22 times more than the lowest paid worker at his university on £14,202.

‘This is not unusual,’ says a statement by the protesting students. ‘Vice-Chancellors of the country’s most selective universities have received similar pay increases. These come at a time of continuing economic crisis, rising youth unemployment and falling intake of students from less-privileged backgrounds.’

‘Unlike their Vice-Chancellors, university staff members have experienced a real wage pay cut,’ they say. ‘These cuts go hand in hand with longer hours, less money and insecure contracts for postgraduate and junior staff members. The widening gap in pay between senior managers and frontline staff, and the debt forced on students, means that the university now reproduces social inequalities rather than contesting them.’

The students are also concerned about reports that the terms of their student loans may be changed in the future with higher interests rates being charged.

‘While fees climb to £9,000 a year,’ they say, ‘bursaries are either cancelled or transferred to “fee waivers”. Meanwhile, in universities like Warwick, maintenance costs are driven up by the construction of ever-more expensive accommodation. The vast post-university debt—£43,500—now facing less privileged students whose families cannot afford to pay up-front makes university education seem both risky and undesirable for many.’

A university spokesperson claimed that the vice-chancellor’s pay rise had been a awarded after several years of no rise in pay and that legal action would be undertaken to remove the protestors from the council chamber. In the meantime, the students are enjoying deliveries of food from supporters and a ‘teach-in.’

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