Students celebrate “Vice-Chancellors Day” in protest against “grossly unjust” University salaries

By Hugo Harris 

Students protested against the University on Wednesday by celebrating so-called “Vice-Chancellors Day,” the point in the year when Professor Stuart Corbridge has earned more than the average paid university staff member will earn in the entire year.

Durham University’s financial statements for the year ended July 2016 revealed that the Vice-Chancellor earned £268,000 that year. In contrast, according to the Times Higher Educational Pay Survey, the average annual salaries for academic and non-academic staff respectively were £48,278 and £29,008.

Around 30 students dressed in party gear attended the protest hosted by Durham Young Greens. After gathering at Palace Green, the demonstrators marched to the Palatinate Centre where a celebratory card was handed over to university officials.

Signatures were also collected for a petition urging the University to pay all staff a living wage and enforce a rule where there is a maximum 1:10 pay ratio between the lowest and highest-paid in the University. At the time of writing 154 supporters have signed the petition.

Organiser of the march Sarah Thin spoke to Palatinate about the reasons for the protest: “We as students should be proud of the University we go to. How can I be proud of an institution that values prestige so much and people so little? The whole idea that the VC is worth 30x as much as an academic employee who is a dedicated and passionate teacher who cares for their students and puts in loads of unpaid hours is grossly unjust.”

She added: “These are our teachers, our lecturers, our tutors; the people that help us through the ups and downs of our degrees, help us navigate the vagaries of contract law and medieval history and particle physics; they are the people that keep the spaces we live, eat, drink, study, work in clean; they fix the stuff we break; they keep everything going. And they rarely get a thank you, and certainly very little in the way of status or prestige. They are worth more than zero-hours contracts”.

At the end of the march a large Unite the Union banner, with the hashtag “End Zero Hours”, was unfurled and speeches were made. An anonymous staff testimonial commenting on how zero hours contracts allow no real avenue for career progression was frequently cited.

Thin, commenting on future campaigns, said: “Durham Young Greens would like to develop the relationships we already have with other groups – we’ll be taking part in Go Green Week with People and Planet next week and Refugee Action week with P&P, Amnesty and Durham for Refugees”.

Photograph: Hugo Harris

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