How to fix Brexit.

It’s obvious to all but a small minority of hardcore Brexiteers that Brexit is going badly. The UK has made lots of concessions, whereas the only concession the EU has made is over the length of time the ECJ can protect EU citizens’ rights in the UK for. Discussions about trade haven’t started yet, and won’t start until March at the earliest. The Irish border issue has been fudged; the government has yet to demonstrate how Britain can leave the Single Market and Customs Union while not having a hard border. It has become obvious there will be close regulatory alignment between the EU and the UK after Brexit, defeating the notion of ‘taking back control.’ Meanwhile, the UK’s economy has gone from the fastest growing of the major developed countries to the slowest. Inflation has increased, driving down living standards. This is in the context of a high-performing global economy and relatively strong growth in the Eurozone contrary to the Brexiteers’ predictions.

The fact is, the UK cannot make a true success of the Article 50 process, which is designed by the EU to favour it above any country that decides to leave. The UK has a severely short period of time in which to negotiate a good deal; it will probably make more concessions due to time pressure. To make matters worse, the Conservative Party and the country are divided as to what they want out of Brexit, if it should even be happening at all. The EU are united as to what they want- Brexit did even feature in a lengthy debate between Angela Merkel and Martin Schultz in the most recent German election. There was no need for it to feature, both of them agreed.

The solution is to cancel the Article 50 process and apply for EEA membership, otherwise known as the Norway model. This has the advantage of respecting the referendum result, while not getting an unfavourable deal that hurts the economy. If the UK economy crashes as a result of a bad deal or no deal at all, it is the Brexiteers who will be blamed, and we may end up back inside the EU but without the financial rebate. In contrast, EEA membership would be alright- much of the damage from a soft Brexit has already happened in the form of lower growth and a devalued pound. More importantly, it would buy the country the time it needs to find out what it wants and then negotiate it. If we wanted to leave the Single Market and Customs Union, we could negotiate a free trade deal better than the one negotiated under Article 50, since there would be no time limit. If we wanted to stay in the Single Market and Customs Union, we would simply stick with the status quo rather than be ravaged by the uncertainty facing the country right now. And crucially, if Britain decided it wanted to stay in the EU after all, it could rejoin far more easily.

The problem is that the Conservative Party won’t do this, because Conservative Brexiteers see the EEA as equivalent to EU membership, and so won’t consider it, even as a temporary measure. They think being outside the EU will make Britain better off, regardless of the unlikelihood of a good deal. To me, that view is absolutely deranged. The Conservative Brexiteers are consumed by delusional paranoia, accusing anyone wanting parliamentary sovereignty over the Brexit process or a softer Brexit of treachery, betrayal and disloyalty. However, their views may come back to haunt them. If Britain gets a bad deal or no deal at all, and the economy tanks, the Conservatives will probably lose the next election. The most right wing people in the country will have been responsible for veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister. I’m very critical of a lot of what Corbyn believes, but I can’t deny the hilarious irony of that situation.

Trying to fix American education

Two dozen state lawmakers and legislative staffers spent 18-months studying some of the world’s top-performing school systems, including those in Finland, Hong Kong, Japan, Ontario, Poland, Shanghai, Singapore and Taiwan. They concluded as follows:

1: More help is needed for the youngest learners!
In the U.S, poverty is a powerful drag on the youngest learners, with too many children showing up to kindergarten both hungry and lacking important cognitive and noncognitive skills. Research suggests that preschool, when done well, can have a profound impact on children’s lives, but too often in the U.S. it’s done badly or not at all. Of the top performers the group studied, all of them invest in early education. Ontario, for example, offers free, full-day kindergarten not only to 5-year-olds but to 4-year-olds too.

The differences continue once America’s disadvantaged students reach first grade. There, they’re often in poorer schools with low-performing teachers. Not so elsewhere. In many of the world’s top school systems, according to the report, “providing additional resources to schools serving disadvantaged, struggling students is a priority. More teachers are typically allocated to such schools, with the best teachers serving in the most challenged ones.”

2: Teachers need to be better
America’s patchwork of teacher-training programs is famously broad and threadbare. The U.S. simply has too many institutions that claim to train teachers, but pay no attention to what a school district wants or needs in the classroom. In many top-performing countries, educators are often trained at a handful of the best, most selective universities. Once these top-flight teachers enter the classroom, they also enter a very different professional reality — one that involves as much training as teaching. In some places, the report says, just “30 percent to 35 percent of a teacher’s time is spent teaching students, while the rest is spent on activities such as working in teams with other teachers to develop and improve lessons, observing and critiquing classes, and working with struggling students.”

What makes good teaching?
Too often in the U.S., teachers work in isolation, cut off from their fellow teachers. In contrast, many high-performing countries have embraced a team-teaching model, where newer teachers are constantly observing veteran teachers and being observed, fine-tuning their skills in real time. Overseas, observation is about improvement — not just accountability.
And then there’s pay. Yes, other nations have higher standards for their teachers, but with those standards come increased respect and pay, on par with engineers and accountants.

3: Fix Career And Technical Education
For the less academic CTE — auto repair, welding, carpentry, etc. is important, but schools have failed to adapt their CTE offerings to fit the needs of the modern economy. CTE also has the same perception problem ss it does in the UK It is considered a second tier for low-performing students. Actually, many schools ignore practical skills and too often students need college in order to be career ready. In top-performing countries like Singapore, the report says, “CTE is not perceived as a route for students lacking strong academic skills, but as another approach to education, skills development and good jobs. CTE is well-funded, academically challenging and aligned with real workforce needs.”

My comment: you will see that arts subjects get not a mention. Otherwise, the issues are rather similar in both the US and the UK. Teacher pay is a crucial matter. If you pay peanuts for doing a truly exhausting and stressful job then you get …you know what. But better pay infers higher taxes, and while true love and care are mainly lavished on the rich, change will never happen.

Swearing and bullying

“Giles Coren fails to understand that the principal purpose of swearing is as a means of bullying and control. This explains its use by drill sergeants, celebrity chefs, university lecturers and drunken louts on trains.
“Swearing is the lexical equivalent of the shaken fist, used by the more powerful as a means of intimidation against the less powerful. Some journalists condone it under the mistaken impression that it gives force to their views.”
(From Clive Ashwin, Aylsham, Norfolk to The Times)

There is also a mistaken impression among playwrights in particular, but also TV producers, novelists and so on, that swearing, cussing amd foul language is creative, that it adds verisimilitude to a production, and that somehow the old miseries who like clever, well constructed and amusing dialogue are living in some Elizabethan past and ought to get with the scene.

Well, no! Bad language is not clever on the public stage; it simply illustrates how uninspired writers fill out their work with mindless dross. It shows what a poor command of the language they have that, thinking to shock the elderly theatre audience in particular, they drive that audience away and make themselves look small and lacking in talent. We can hear the “f” word for free ten times a day on the street. We don’t need to pay to hear it.

Ten top quotations from Epicurus

1. The art of living well and the art of dying well are one.

2. Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.

3. A free life cannot acquire many possessions, because this is not easy to do without servility to mobs or monarchs.

4. Not what we have but what we enjoy constitutes our abundance.

5. Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.

6. Of all the things which wisdom provides to make us entirely happy, much the greatest is the possession of friendship.

7. It is folly for a man to pray to the gods for that which he has the power to obtain by himself.

8. I have never wished to cater to the crowd; for what I know they do not approve, and what they approve I do not know.

9. Misfortune seldom intrudes upon the wise man; his greatest and highest interests are directed by reason throughout the course of life.

10. The misfortune of the wise is better than the prosperity of the fool.

Hope for the day

So Doug Jones won the Alabama Senatorial seat with 49.9% of votes against Moore’s 48.4%. In his victory speech, Jones declared the campaign had been about “dignity, respect and the rule of law”.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! As a follower of the thoughts of Epicurus I try to avoid in-your-face party politics. You can get those in a thousand venues. But all decent, civilised people who find bare-faced lying and bullying distasteful must be relieved to see a candidate as measured, polite and courteous as Jones. In his victory speech no point scoring, put-downs or sexist or racist. Just when we were despairing of the crudeness and verbal violence that pervades the American public space, at least some faith has been restored. One hopes the present unpleasantness is a passing nightmare and that we will awaken to a return to the more civil and bipartisan behaviour of half a century ago.

The existence of God

To the Editor:
Are all religions equally valid or equally invalid? I suppose that it depends on one’s perspective. But here’s the thing: In normal human discourse, the individual who proposes an assertion such as “God exists” has the burden of coming forward with evidence that can be evaluated, analyzed and challenged. But the community of believers has never met its burden; not in thousands of years have they come up with anything more than “This is my faith,” or “This is what is written,” or “This is what has been taught for generations.” None of that is evidence.
Atheists have never had the burden of disproving a negative, and unless and until someone provides some evidence for the existence of God, I shall remain a happy and secure atheist.
JASON S. SHAPIRO,  Santa Fe, N.M.

God, to the religious, is the all-seeing creator of us all. It can be assumed that He created us for a purpose and does not mean us ill. Indeed, one could expect that he would want to protect, defend and succour all those He created and from time to time reassure His flock by showing His power to put a stop to hatred, violence and multiple other anti-social misbehaviours.

To those who harbour doubts about the existence of God would reply that, to the contrary, God, if he exists, has in fact stood by while his creatures kill each other in wars, contract horrible diseases, die too young, starve to death in some parts of the world, steal, murder, cheat, tell lies, exploit their power over others – and other selfish and greedy things I can’t momentarily call to mind.

Epicurus proposed that there was a group of gods who avoided getting involved in the ordinary lives of humans, caring not a jot about disease, early death, warfare, unhappiness and misery, but tolerant nonetheless. What their role on Earth actually was is a mystery. They mirrored human depravity, not condemned or sought to change it, but it seemed important to most men and women at the time that they were around to be adored. Reassuring, maybe.

That’s fine, and I for one respect their belief in God and the good works they do for communities and the poor, then and now. But to anathematize those who have doubts and bring religion into party politics (Roy Moore in his incoherence last night is an example) is unacceptable.

Why is pay between men and women so different?

Female high school graduates, aged 21 to 24, earn an average of 92 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. Curiously, in America and contrary to expectations, the salaries of female graduates, in general, are 79% of those of their male peers of the same age group. Only a year ago the figure was 84%. At 21-24 most women have yet to have to make choices about having a family and scaling their working hours back.

This growing disparity can only be accounted for for the big demand for young male graduates in technology and finance, regarded as male jobs. Women who majored in business studies, for example, earned an average of $38,000, compared with $45,000 for men. Across all fields, including the more feminine fields, and controlling for major, occupation,and grade-point average, women still earned 7% less than men. (Economic Policy Institute report co-author: Teresa Kroeger)

I have been a “feminist” since I was 17, in so far as I have always been convinced that the ability to do a job well trumps gender. If the employee is smart, hard-working, efficient and pleasant to work with, what difference does gender make? I think Epicurus believed this as well, and was known for welcoming women into his garden on equal terms with the men. But for some reason some men feel uncomfortable with clever women in a company if they perform well, and also feel uncomfortable with them in the office if they don’t. We really should be past this by now. I think it has a lot to do with self-confidence and amour propre, and the fear of being outshone or being ordered about.

Another take on the same subject, from The Times. Interesting! :

Is the gender pay gap just a myth?

Why do women in Britain still get paid less (by an average of 18%) than men? If you believe the “shock-horror headlines”, says Professor Alison Wolf, it’s proof of “pervasive discrimination”. Yet “study after study” has looked for evidence of significant gender bias in the modern workplace, and “there just isn’t any to be found”. If you compare like with like – employees of the same age, education and rank who put in equal hours at the office in the same occupation – the “gender pay gap” doesn’t exist. The real story here is of a much bigger social divide, between “the elite and the rest”. The vast majority of women in Britain work in low-paid jobs, often doing chores outsourced by richer families: cleaning, childcare, looking after old people, preparing takeaway meals. On top of that, low-paid women are far more likely than professionals to work part-time when they have children; they don’t worry about derailing their careers, because they know another low-paid job will be waiting for them. It is the inferiority of the female labour market itself that drags down average wages – and that is a much harder problem to tackle than misogyny.
(Professor Alison Wolf, The Times)

Which of the two points of view above do you subscribe to?

Epicurus and politics

Epicurus was a strong advocate for the idea that people should reach and carry out agreements and promote fellowship and common sense cooperation. This implied a contractual form of government. Epicurus and his followers disapproved of agitation for social change because they saw political struggle as creating unnecessary stress. On the contrary, they advocated civic tranquillity, living unnoticed, abstaining from public life and the avoidance of anything that made enemies. This approach to politics suited those living under authoritarian (Alexander, the Roman Emperors) rule.

But is it appropriate for us today? We do not (yet)live under a totalitarian regime, although more and more people throughout the world are doing just that, or are threatened by dictatorial regimes. Our security and freedoms are being whittled away, both in the US and in Europe, and we are threatened by an unprecedented storm of bogus “news” and denigration of anyone seeking truth. Now unrestrained corporations and unscrupulous rich are endangering our health, safety and peace of mind. We no longer have thoughtful statesmen debating how to make life more happy and pleasant for the greatest number, but ideologues whose interest are power, money, keeping their jobs and drawing handsome pensions while kow-towing to their vulgar election funders. It’s scary.

I am personally worried that one party, controlling the Presidency and Congress and is busy berrymandering the constituencies and packing the Courts with lifetime political hacks calling themselves judges. This could presage a de facto end to democracy and the primacy of the Constitution. Gone are the wise men of honor. Perhaps we can survive a “Chinese Century” of hegemony, but can we survive a Mussolini style nationalism in America, the purge of liberals and progressives from public life? The world has seen turmoil before, but the last time (1939-45) a decent, democratic country was in the wings and came to the rescue of a Europe dominated by monsters. Now both the US and Europe are threatened, and possible help there is none.

How far can we be true Epicurians and ignore these threatening politics, and at what point do we get involved and resist? I wish I had the health and energy of youth, because there is only one responsible answer to this question.

Israel and Palestine. Enough is enough

Just over a hundred years ago, Britain’s foreign secretary Arthur Balfour signed a 67 word long statement that committed Britain for the first time to backing “the establishment in Palestine of a national homeland for the Jewish people”.

Israel and its supporters duly celebrated “the anniversary of a foundational moment” in their nation’s history. Palestinian representatives, meanwhile, called on Britain to apologise for the declaration – because it set in train a process that eventually led to much of the Palestinian population being “uprooted from their homes and condemned to life in squalid refugee camps”.

It is true that at the time of its creation, in 1948, Israel served as a haven for a people who had so recently faced mass extermination at the hands of the Nazis. They deserved resettlement after what they had gone through. But Palestine? Had the pious words within the Declaration been honoured, i.e. “without prejudicing the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”, then the situation would not be fraught. But they were not honoured, and the British could not keep the peace.

Balfour wrote the Declaration to raise money for the prosecution of WWI, but he gave inadequate weight to the fact that the land offered was already occupied. Some people believe that the present day Palestinians are descended from Jews left behind when their neighbours evacuated the area after the Roman invasion, and were converted to Islam at the time of the Prophet. (e.g they are historically Jewish). Correct or incorrect, it has all gone very wrong, and has been made very much worse by the advent of the Russian Jews, who have helped create a very right-wing and uncompromising (and corrupt) system (not me saying it – the President of Israel!)

Why mention this 100 year anniversary that has already passed by? This is the Epicurus blog, and Epicurus believed in moderation, discussion and compromise. Both sides in this dispute are stubborn and certain of their own rectitude. It is impossible even for people who are neither Jewish or Palestinian to have a civilized discussion on the subject, such are the passions aroused, especially among committed evangelical Christians. There has to be give and take. Trump’s intervention  changes nothing, except to announce his partisanship., unhelpful as usual.  The fact remains that the division of Jerusalem is perfectly possible, since both sides prize different bits of it.  The problem is Temple Mount, squabbled over for centuries.  The Palestinians have to accept the reality of the Israeli State, and share access to Temple Mount.  And the Israelis have to stop taking more and more Palestinian land, give the Palestinians an idependent state of their own – and share Temple Mount.  The rest of us are fed up with religion as manifested in that whole region.  Yes, it’s tribal, but we have had enough of it.

Is Israel ceasing to be a democracy?

This a bit long but important to know:

Israel is in the news again these days. President Trump is proposing to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, contrary to international policy. Is Israel the country that many Americans, particularly evangelicals. imagine it to be? Read on:

Arabs, peace activists and Israel’s left wing have long challenged as undemocratic the right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But now that criticism is being leveled by former security officials and members of the right-wing establishment itself, including veterans of Mr. Netanyahu’s own political party and his Justice Department.
They say that the government’s efforts to control the news media, curtail the authority of the Supreme Court and undermine the military threaten the future of Israeli democracy.

Netanyahu and his colleagues are accused of corruption. A former chief of Shin Bet, the Israeli domestic security service, publically stated that if “the ethical and moral rot that leads us ontinues, this incredible Zionist enterprise will expire.” The attorney general has criticized efforts to thwart corruption investigations against Netanyahu, and the Israeli President, Reuven Rivlin, a member of Netanyahu’s party, has warned that “statesmanship has come to an end” and that Israel was “witnessing the winds of a second revolution or coup.” Rivlin accused those in power of working to delegitimize and weaken “the gatekeepers of Israel’s democracy,” and, crucially for a country that lacks a constitution, erode the justice system and the influence of the courts. The government, he said, was championing the will of the majority while weakening the institutions that protect the rights of the minority.

The internal politics of Israel has reached an unprecedented level of toxicity and partisanship. Netanyahu is responsible for attacks on the news media, efforts to impose sanctions on human rights organizations deemed to act against Israel abroad, and attempts to advance legislation in Parliament to override decisions of the Supreme Court. Politicians from Likud have maligned Shin Bet as cowardly and delusional, and branded former security chiefs critical of government policy as “leftists,” now almost a synonym for traitors in some right-wing circles. Netanyahu himself, under investigation in two graft cases, personally attacked the police in a Facebook post, accusing them of leaking details to the press. And Likud politicians are trying to prohibit the corruption investigations of a sitting prime minister.

“There is a clash not between left and right but between the values of the founding generation of leaders who put the common good and the interests of the state first and a newer, more populist and partisan politics epitomized by Mr. Netanyahu’s government.
Mr. Rivlin, 78, and Mr. Netanyahu, 68, though only a decade apart, reflect these two Israels. Mr. Rivlin champions the old-school nationalist but liberal democracy envisioned by the right-wing Zionist Revisionist movement of Zeev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin, who pushed for a greater Israel territorially but were sticklers for defending minority rights and the rule of law. Netanyahu, who has been elected four times, reflects the ethos of the digital age, leading what many describe as the most nationalist and illiberal government in Israel’s history. Meanwhile the opposition is divided, weak, and has no influence.

Daniel Gordis, an author and senior vice president of Jerusalem’s Shalem College for the liberal arts, says he views much of what is happening in Israel “in the shadow of the Trump administration.” With all the differences in personality, Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Trump have resorted to similar tactics, such as decrying the mainstream news media as purveyors of “fake news.”. Mr. Rivlin probably felt he had an obligation to speak up, Mr. Gordis said, because Israel was “inching ominously toward a watershed moment.” But unlike the United States, he added, “Israel is a 70-year-old democracy, not 250 years old.”

(An edited, shortened version of an article called “Is the End of Israeli Democracy Nigh? Israelis Debate Its Future” by Isabel Kershner in the New York Times, 31 October 2017)

Death on American roads

The United  States has the “most dangerous roads in the industrialised world”. The fatality rate in the US (per miles driven) is more than twice as high as in Britain or Sweden, and about 40% higher than in Canada or Australia. This isn’t one of those situations in which the US has long been an outlier – as is the case with, say, guns or the death penalty. As recently as 1990, America had a lower vehicle fatality rate than other affluent countries. So what happened?

The answer is that other nations decided that their road death tolls were unacceptable, and launched successful “evidence-based campaigns” to reduce them. America, where people are instinctively resistant to any perceived state infringement on their “freedom”, hasn’t taken this sort of concerted action. It is more lax about safety belts – and thus has more deaths – and needs more speed cameras and lower speed restrictions. Roll on, then, the days of the self-driving car. This technology promises to slash road fatalities across the industrialised world, but it will be a particular boon for America. (based on an article by David Leonhardt, The New York Times)

Good point. I live in the middle of a big city, but walk everywhere I can. Our car, bought four years ago has all of 12,000 on the clock. But walking here is a dangerous business. In Europe there are well- marked “zebra crossings” – fail to stop at one and you are in dead trouble with the police, heavily fined at the very least, and banned driving in some dangerous circumstances. In American cities  you take your life in your hands crossing the road. Getting eye contact with drivers is essential, because they believe they have the right of way at all times and that the speed limit is for the birds.  Add to that literally dismal or non-existent road lighting in the evenings, and drivers watching their cellphones more ardently that the road ahead, and you have the conditions for carnage.  I  have managed to stay alive for over 20 years, but it only takes a moment of inattention…… Rules of the road an infringement of personal freedom? Pah!

More on language ( re: grab it)

An online petition calling on Italians to stop using English words for which there are equivalents in their own language gathered nearly 70,000 signatures before it was closed. The petition was called Dillo in Italiano or “Say it in Italian”, and was backed by the Accademia della Crusca, a language institute founded in Florence in 1583. Italians should not squander the “history, culture and beauty of our language”, said the campaigners, who highlighted the growing use of clumsy hybrid terms such as “footing” (jogging), “baby parking” (crèche) and “mister” (football coach). The issue seems to be one of mounting concern: the Italian navy recently caused outrage by using the English slogan “Be cool and join the navy” on a recruitment poster, while the government ran into trouble for referring to a piece of legislation as “the jobs act” rather than “la legge sul lavoro”. (The Week)

Italian is a beautiful language. English is, too, but why further undermine your own wonderful and ancient culture by using these silly expressions. The British use the word “creche” (which is French); now the Italians use “baby parking”. Kiddies produced by Toyota?

English has always adopted foreign words since the days of the Romans; it is expected. But the Italians have done this less. Their way of life is already under seige by a huge influx of people. Were I Italian I would protest these pseudo-English importations, too.

Grab it!

Over the centuries I’m sure that what is acceptable and unacceptable to say has changed numerous times, and new modes of speech have been frowned upon or excoriated by older generation after older generation. So I am willing to accept that I sound a fuddy-duddy, or even an elitist (ouch!).

But one expression makes me cringe: “Grab it”. This phrase crops up all over the place, especially in advertisements: “Great pizza – grab it! (and enjoy greater sex,presumably).
I suppose “grab it” is intended to get impulsive people motivated to scamper off and buy pizza, or whatever, before anyone else can buy it. But to me it is vulgar. What it actually means is to snatch the product out of the hands of shop assistants, servers etc, without so much as a “thank you” or an “if you please”. This discourtesy is a further sign of the decline in manners. Many people couldn’t care less about the feelings of others; but so much the worse for them. Epicurus never used the word “courtesy”, but had he spoken English he would have agreed with me. “Buy it now” or “Order now!” has served us well enough for a Century. Dump “grabbit!”

Trickle up!

Republicans, unbelievably, are once again forcing trickle-down economics on the United States, despite the idea being almost unanimously derided by reputable economists and financiers. It’s almost as if Republicans are unaware that the latest experiment in trickle-down has practically bankrupted the state of Kansas and has done little or nothing for North Carolina. They can’t leave this bogus ideology alone.

What does work economically is to put cash into the hands of the poor and not-so-poor, because they immediately go out and spend it, either on better health insurance, a real holiday, new clothes or something better than fast food. The bouncy resulting profits still eventually accrue to the donors Republican Congressmen adore so much in the form of dividends – it just takes a little more time to filter through. In the meantime poorer people have bigger incomes and, very importantly, feel better about the world, are not so resentful or prone to extremes, and even more tolerant of immigrants. But somehow the Republican politicians have an ideological aversion to the poor and middle class. They yatter on about the latter, but seem to secretly despise them as “losers”.

What is wanted now is not trickle down policies but the quickest and best way of fixing the country economically and helping the less fortunate at the same time: TRICKLE-UP economics.
Will we get it? Not until the issue of money in politics is corrected.

Is running a university worth such huge salaries?

To The Times

From Louise Richardson’s complaint that her salary as Vice Chancellor of Oxford (£350,000 a year) is not in the same league as footballers and bankers, to the yacht-owning George Holmes at Bolton (£222,120 a year and a £1m loan to buy a house) saying he is underpaid compared with top US institutions, our university leaders have continually embarrassed the education sector with the arrangements for their pay. In the past five years, Vice Chancellors have enjoyed an average pay increase of 22%, despite pleading poverty every time it came to staff pay. More than two-thirds of VCs either sit on the committee that sets their pay or can attend its meetings. It is time to lift the lid on these secretive university remuneration committees, irrespective of how much charity work VCs may do. (An edited version of a letter from Sally Hunt, general secretary, University and College Union).

Young people are incurring sizeable debt in order to go to university, only to be taught, in many cases, by graduate lecturers who are paid a pittance. Some don’t encounter a proper professor face to face in the three (or four) years they are at the institution. The increase in the number of people going into further education has happened at a time when government has adopted a hands-off policy to funding, and the administrators have taken advantage of it all to pad their salaries, getting up to little tricks like accepting full-paying Chinese students at the expense of British citizens, or so it seems.

Justified criticism or no it is time to reform university administration and restore more realistic incomes and better teaching and services for those who pay – that is, the students. After all, universities and colleges are non-profit organizations, not tax-payimg corporations. If they have the cash to pay six figure salaries they should be paying tax. And I will refrain from commenting on the tired old cliche along the lines “my salary doesn’t match American pay”. I had this all the time at business school, where one was told that high top management salaries reflected the need to recruit the best people world-wide. Self-serving nonsense.