Monday, 7 April 2014

Vice-chancellor salaries and university quality

Oh my goodness, we need more quality and we need it now! We better pay some more people a lot of money at the top of our institutions to make quality happen. Quick, bring in the DVCs. No not that one, a new one.

Also, pay the VC more.

How do we know we have more quality? Oh we have MEASURES, don't you worry.

Oh yes, those lazy academics from whom we will need to squeeze the aforementioned increase in quality will complain about VC salaries, whinge whinge. But how on earth would we have quality universities if we paid vice-chancellors less money?

Check out this study that shows that Australian vice-chancellors earn significantly more than their counterparts in the USA and UK.

Of course VC salaries are an easy target. They are so obviously stupidly inflated that (from an analytical perspective) it is like shooting fish in a barrel (which actually doesn't sound that easy, now that I think about it).

But the brilliant thing about this VC salary study is the question of whether universities actually get what they pay for. And it seems we don't. Universities where VCs earn more are not better than those where VCs earn less.

And as for the quality measures. The wonderfully mathematical thinker in Melbourne, Emeritus Professor Frank Larkins confirms what we all know just by looking: adjustments to ERA rankings are achieved strategically, not by actually improving quality - 'quality' improvements are due "almost entirely to gaming the system rather than changing the quality of the research being produced".

That is why universities will bring in a DVC to address 'quality'. Their job is not to actually to make quality, right? It is NOT about shaping the research conditions at any university so it is the sort of place where quality work can happen; or to ensure teaching loads are not so excessive that academics can do good research; or to offer early career casual scholars a little bit of financial certainty so they concentrate and do the innovative work they are itching to do; or to give PhD students a desk. No, it is to 'game the system'.

That is so worthwhile I think we should pay them a bit more, don't you?

1 comment:

Penny Wheeler said...

Thank you Hannah for pointing your gun at some juicy fat fish. Your quotation marks around 'quality' are most required, since the institutional job descriptions for quality executives are pretty bleak: The PVC (Quality) oversees academic processes and procedures to ensure the university courses are of the highest quality in accordance with all relevant Quality Assurance regulations; The PVC (Quality) oversees the Quality and Standards Framework (and marketing and communications); or, the PVC (Quality) is responsible for operating quality management and business intelligence systems. So they are doing their job ...