All is not rosy

Alastair Sim (Friends of The Scotsman, 25 March) argues that everything is fine in the Scottish higher education sector.

He says that staff are entirely content, no-one is employed on exploitative zero-hour contracts and staff are welcome at the top table when the big decisions being taken. If only this were the case.

The University and College Union (UCU), as the largest trade union in the higher education sector, wrote last week to the majority of Scottish institutions asking them to outlaw 
controversial zero-hours contracts that Alastair Sim seems to think do not exist.

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The letters are a follow-up to a call made back in October 2013 for universities to commit to ending the use of the exploitative contracts, which only the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow have made substantial progress on.

UCU also regularly conducts a stress survey amongst our members. The 2014 results showed that 79 per cent of members defined their job as stressful and that the figure had increased on previous years.

We’ve also seen some university principals take up to 13 per cent pay rises without any justification this year and others run up expense accounts larger than the annual pay of many of their staff. Our universities are not the rose gardens painted in the article.

Only in his final paragraph did Alastair Sim even contemplate that there might be some rumblings of discontent in our institutions.

There is still much to do before Scotland’s universities can be considered properly transparent or even democratic.

UCU is committed to working with everyone in the sector to make it the best it can be. However, that means taking an honest appraisal. Pretending that everything is perfect as it stands simply isn’t good enough.

Mary Senior

UCU Scotland Official

University and College Union Scotland