Dear Christopher Snowden: An Open Letter

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Dear Christopher Snowden.

I must commend you, and fellow co-ordinators of Universities nationwide, on the business you run. What these strikes have proved to me and so many other students is that University has become nothing more than a profiting business, whereby, the importance of staff you employ, and students you accept to attend, are secondary to the needs of your own profit. We, the student-consumer, are paying a lot of money for an education; I was led to believe, by yourselves, that I was investing my money in a high-quality product: a highly acclaimed degree delivered by knowledgeable people who are employed by those who want others to achieve. However, in light of recent events, what I’m coming to realise is that my lecturers are more than likely underpaid or on unstable contracts and not given the required support by you, their employer. I cannot and do not wish to fund an establishment that treats those who assist me to achieve, so poorly and am angry that you feel like you have the right to do so.

I understand in many businesses across the UK, a guaranteed pension scheme is unsustainable but I refuse to believe that The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) is, especially when we see people like yourself, Mr Snowden, getting paid frankly incredible amounts of money. (If you wish to justify this I would be very happy to hear your attempt.) A study commissioned by the UCU showed that the change in pension schemes, of which are proposed, could end up with staff losing up to 40 per cent of their pensions annually, the average loss therefore, around the £10,000 mark. Please tell me how you can justify this when you are accepting a £70,000 pay rise? Where exactly is that money coming from if you are “struggling” so much to pay the pensions of your staff. Or is it coming from the wages of the staff you agreed to cut? The staff we students need and appreciate. The staff that do more for us than you do. This act of unmoral nature has really proven how much higher you must think of yourself in comparison to your employees Mr Snowden, and I dread to think that my money is assisting to fund your ego. I hope, at least, the staff you are cutting are paid off very well, after all, Proffesor Don Nutbeam received a £252,000 payoff as outgoing vice-chancellor.

Of course I cannot pin all blame on you Mr Snowden, you are just the highest paid one of several. In February of 2017, University vice-chancellors received an average salary of £277,834 a year, this already is more than six times the average pay of their employees. The UCU revealed that 23 British universities had increased packages to their vice-chancellors by over 10% in 2015-16. With 66 universities paying their Vice-Chancellors in excess of £300,000- 11 of those paying their Vice Chancellor over £400,000. I was entertained that some Vice Chancellors justify this by stating they have a lot of people to look after when the Prime-Minister, who effectively has to attend to the needs of a whole country, gets paid £150,402 a year (That’s c.£300,000 less than yourself.) in saying that you are not wholly to blame, you do represent our university in this negotiation and I would hope you were wise enough to recognise the need for negotiation and therefore put pressure on other universities to do the same. You are more than welcome to draw upon the points I have made in this letter if you are struggling to find any for yourself, although there are plenty more reasons to negotiate.

Students are aware this strike will be disruptive and cause stress to ourselves however, unlike the qualities you’ve displayed, we are selfless and do not question the fact that our lecturers are equally concerned about the consequences of this strike. We don’t need new buildings, we don’t need really flashy prospectuses with false promises inside. We need a higher place in the league tables and we need the tools to allow students to achieve; our lecturers, motivated and happy. It is the quality of teaching as well as how you wish to treat your staff and students that will encourage people to come. If what you claim is true, in that you do care about your students, you should care equally about your employees too. As Sir Richard Branson states “I have always believed that the way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers, and that people flourish when they are praised.” If you want to see our university thriving, prioritise those who enable it to do so.

“Always put people first, for without them, there is no organization”
― David Sikhosana,

Yours sincerely,

A student.

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