Lord Adonis, a Labour peer, seems to be the leading voice in a campaign to sort out this scandalous situation but the government seems powerless to intervene. Most commentators agree that universities’ independence from government is a good thing. They are not public services in the way that the police and health services are. Supporters of the status quo say that market forces have to dictate the high salaries of university chief executives but most universities in the UK are not businesses. So what are they? In actual fact, they are constituted as charities.
From our perspective in HertsCam, this is puzzling. We are also a charity and we provide a masters degree programme for teachers (www.hertscammed.com). We have to live up to our stated objectives which commit us to working to improve education in schools. We are obliged to demonstrate that any surplus that might accumulate is spent on furthering our stated objectives. We keep the fees for our MEd programme to the absolute minimum being keenly aware that in schools, money is scarce. We can only keep the fees low – just over £3000 a year – because members of our teaching team are happy to be paid very modestly for their labour. And, we don’t have a chief executive. We have an MEd Programme Leader who is paid at the same rate as the rest of the team. As a founding member of the Board of Trustees, I offer support and guidance to the team but I do not receive payment at all. The point is that we take our charitable status seriously. We do not do provide these services in order to enrich ourselves. We do it because of a strong sense of moral purpose and commitment to serving teachers and schools.