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University Teachers (Morale)

Volume 181: debated on Tuesday 27 November 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has had from university teachers about their current state of morale.

My right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State received from the Association of University Teachers a copy of its autumn 1990 publication, "Goodwill Under Stress". I met a delegation from the AUT on 20 November. We had a friendly and useful discussions about a range of issues. I pay tribute to the staff of the universities for the quality of tutorial and pastoral care that they give students in the United Kingdom.

Does the Minister accept that the AUT document clearly shows that in the past 10 years university teachers have been overworked, undervalued and underpaid? Is not it highly significant that when Sir Edward Parkes, the chairman of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, was asked to comment on the resignation of the Prime Minister, he said that in the past 10 years too much of the energy of academic staff had been devoted to damage limitation? He further said that universities would regard the demise of the Thatcher years without regret.

I know of no one who denigrates university teachers or who holds them in less than full respect. I very much hope that the hon. Gentleman does not disregard them. In the period during which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has held office, there has been an increase of no less than 40 per cent. in the number of young people who have had the opportunity to participate in higher education. That is only one of the remarkable achievements under the inspired leadership of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Would not morale in the teaching profession be greatly improved if we identified weaknesses in teachers so that they could be given more training in that direction? Would not a good appraisal system produce those goods? We need to appraise teachers, weed out bad ones and help the good teachers more.

As my hon. Friend knows, appraisal schemes are under active consideration by local education authorities all over the country and our policy is moving forward in that regard. Equally, higher education institutions are introducing their own appraisal systems. Of course, it is right that those who are performing outstanding work should have their performance recognised and that should be reflected in pay scales.