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University Teachers (Pay)

Volume 889: debated on Tuesday 8 April 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress there has been in the negotiations on university teachers' pay; and whether he will make a statement.

The negotiating committee met at the end of February and will be resuming its discussions later this month.

I accept that the Secretary of State is personally sympathetic, but does he accept that university teachers are upset not only by the delay but by the fact that the universities may soon become the poor relations of the polytechnics? Will the right hon. Gentleman exert all his personal influence to get a speedy and generous settlement and then to maintain a fair relationship between university and polytechnic salaries?

I accept the general principle which was outlined in the Houghton Report, namely, that there should be parity in pay between teachers in universities and teachers undertaking comparable work in other institutions of higher education. I would not wish to comment in any more detail than that while the negotiations are continuing.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the bitterness felt by university teachers since the Government have treated schoolteachers and polytechnic teachers as special cases? Is he aware that university teachers feel that they have not been given the same priority? Will he explain why the Department of Education and Science has been so unwilling to bring in an arbitrator in this case? Is he aware that that provision is laid down in the social contract?

I can understand the feelings of university teachers. However, for many years polytechnic teachers were at a disadvantage compared with university teachers. During that period they had reason to feel discontented with the arrangements. The Houghton Report's general proposition for broad parity is the right answer. I do not think that we are at the point of arbitration and I hope that we shall not reach it. I hope that the negotiations now taking place will result in an agreement.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that quite apart from the basis of comparison with the polytechnic teachers, which is causing increasing concern among many teachers at universities, there is a feeling that university teachers are falling behind generally in relation to those with comparable salaries and that they are particularly concerned that there should be greater speed in reaching an agreement? Will my right hon. Friend bear those points in mind?

I think that all these points will be borne in mind by the negotiating committee which is considering these problems.