Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Letters

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Letters

Article excerpt

Not here to court populism

I am puzzled by the suggestion that the fact that academics are out of step with populist opinion indicates that universities need to "de-polarise" by moving in a more "moderate" direction ("Polls apart", Features, 3 November). Moderation may entail dialogue and a willingness to act in a bipartisan manner, but it could not involve a repudiation of democratic values. Since the populism cited in the article is associated primarily with racist political parties, this is precisely what is being suggested.

Academics should engage with the public, but they must do so in the service of democratic knowledge. Polarisation is the product of the politics of the authoritarian and populist Right and universities should in no way accommodate it. The problem, perhaps, is less the "culture of the university" and more that government policies have maintained that the only public benefits of higher education are investment in human capital and economic growth.

There are fears mentioned in the article that, if universities do not bend towards populism, "they will only intensify the risks to their funding, their culture and their educative mission". In truth, they have already risked their culture and educative mission by their single-minded pursuit of funding, and bending to populism would compromise it further.

John Holmwood

Professor of sociology University of Nottingham

International pay

As last week's issue noted, many UK universities have, or are considering, international partnerships or campuses ("Long-haul destinations", Leader, 3 November).

Managing a not-for-profit consortium of 125 UK university and college HR teams, I was pleased that recruitment and retaining the right team made Dunseath and Hall's top 10 questions that anyone considering setting up abroad should answer ("Checked, set, roger", Features).

Last week our consortium held a development day on pay and labour market issues. Here are some of the more detailed learning points on international pay.

Involve HR at the earliest stage. There are too many horror stories of decisions made early without HR involvement that can cause costly employment problems for years.

Do your homework to understand relative pay and reward issues in home and host countries, including taxation. Invest in credible independent research that tracks and monitors these issues and equips you with evidence if your decisions are challenged.

Set clear policies for remuneration and reward. You want any UK staff member assigned overseas to be no better or worse off, but which living costs are you seeking to "top up"? What will you do about currency fluctuations? What plans do you have for repatriating staff?

Finally, don't reinvent wheels. Get your HR team to use their networks to ask peers how they've tackled these issues. They might not want to share salary details but sector colleagues are often happy to talk informally about what they would do differently next time around.

Nicholas Johnston

Chief executive, ECC

Who needs experts?

On Saturday 29 October, Glyn Davies, Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire, tweeted: "Personally, never thought of academics as 'experts'. No experience of the real world." Under the hashtag #RealWorldAcademics, the academic community responded with the myriad ways in which we inform the "real world" through our research and through the wider social, economic and cultural contributions of our universities, most of which now have turnovers of well over £100 million annually. …

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