Azara Blog: Simon Hughes has no clue what he is talking about

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Date published: 2011/06/14

The BBC says:

Universities should cut costs not "cry foul" that the rise in tuition fees to £9,000 will not be enough, Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes has said.

The government's access to education advocate told the BBC they should look to cut the wages of vice-chancellors.
He told the BBC's Politics Show: "A lot of them [universities] are going to cry foul at the moment, whereas in fact what they need to do is make sure they give good value for money.

"Lots of universities have highly paid vice-chancellors, highly paid lecturers - actually not lecturing for many hours a week.

"So the universities need to do a bit of cost-saving themselves so that they are delivering a good product for the students but not spending money on things that are not for the product."

Simon Hughes is a bit of a mystery. Half the time he sounds like a reasonable person. The other half of the time he sounds like a complete idiot. Unfortunately here the latter has come to the fore.

It is particularly unfortunate, for someone who is the government's "access to education advocate", that Hughes so completely misunderstands the situation with universities.

The one thing he points out that is correct is that university vice-chancellors are paid too much. But all the people at the top end of society are paid too much. The last couple of decades these people have expropriated more and more wealth for themselves, at the expense of the rest of society. Government after government has encouraged this situation.

Unfortunately, after making this trite observation, it is all downhill from there for Hughes. While professors are also highly paid (so more than MPs), lecturers are not highly paid (so less than MPs). If Hughes wants to complain about high pay in the public sector then he should not be patronising people who typically earn half of what an MP earns. Indeed, the logical conclusion is that the pay of MPs should be cut (something almost the entire country would support). After all, MPs need to "make sure they give good value for money" and it is pretty clear they do not (exhibition number one: Simon Hughes).

Hughes also completely misunderstands what lecturers do. So he quibbles that they are "actually not lecturing for many hours a week". That is like complaining that MPs do not hold surgeries for many hours a week. Lecturing is only one small part of the job of being a lecturer. Indeed, in Cambridge, nobody gets hired as a lecturer for their ability to lecture. Far more important is their research, and that takes most of the time they have that is not spent on lecturing or bureaucracy. A typical lecturer works as many hours in the week as a typical MP, i.e. lots.

Hughes also completely misunderstands what the problem is with university costs. It is not that the staff who actually do the work earn too much. It is that there is far too much money spent on administration, and in particular on politically correct activities, the latter just to please the cretins in parliament, like Hughes, who harp on about "access to education".

Needless to say, the real problem with English education does not lie with universities, the real problem lies with state schools. Government after government has completely failed to educate a large section of the population. Not surprisingly, instead of accepting responsibility for this failure, MPs want to blame the universities for not passing a magic wand over the situation, and in particular for not being able to turn an undereducated poor person into a top rate student with three taps of the wand.

Cambridge University could save a fortune in its budget if it could just drop all the politically correct activities that the government has forced upon it. None of these activities is "for the product". They are all foisted on the university by the government. Hughes and his ilk are part of the problem, they are not part of the solution.

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