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Monday, 9 April, 2001, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Academics march for more money
academics demonstrate over pay
Lecturers say they want "meaningful talks"
By BBC News Online's Angela Harrison

University academics have held a rally in central London to demand better pay and working conditions.

They presented a petition signed by 25,000 people to university vice-chancellors.

Last autumn the universities announced a 3% pay increase for staff.

Salaries are appalling. Lecturers spend years living in poverty as students to earn 15,000 a year when they begin teaching

Mary Davis, University of North London
The unions say they need a much bigger rise to make their pay comparable with other professions.

They also say they want their employers to tackle the imbalance between pay for men and women.

The Association of University Teachers took part in the rally, together with the university and college lecturers' union Natfhe, five other higher education unions and the National Union of Students.

The general secretary of the AUT, David Triesman, said: "University staff have continued to deliver high quality education to an increasing number of students while suffering from cutbacks in funding and declining pay."

Now that David Blunkett has started to provide extra funding to higher education, it is time for vice-chancellors to recognise the legitimate need for lecturers to receive a fair pay settlement

David Triesman, AUT

To chants of "overloaded, underpaid" the lecturers marched to the headquarters of Universities UK, the body which represents university vice-chancellors.

Union representatives said the vice-chancellors accepted the petiton amicably but made no guarantees about pay.

The two sides are to meet for talks already tabled for 6 February.

After the rally, the university and college employers' association, known as UCEA, confirmed the talks would go ahead.

A spokesman said: "In the meantime, we are consulting all higher education institutions on a remit for open, intensive discussions with the unions on all the issues they've raised with us."

We would expect that entering into intensive talks will involve the suspension of industrial action

Spokesman for UCEA

Many lecturers at the rally said they were demoralised by their pay and their workload, which they said had increased dramatically as more students opted for higher education.

Sheila Maddock of the University of Westminster said: "I'm unhappy about both pay and staffing. We are teaching more and more students.

"I'm now lecturing to 300 students which was unheard of years ago. Our productivity has gone up but our money hasn't."

School teachers are pulling ahead of university lecturers in pay, as are most other professions. This makes it very hard to attract lecturers

Nigel Gates, University of Hertfordshire

For Alan John, from the University of Ripon and York St John, the important thing was to get talks underway: "After 18 months, they've been debating whether to talk to us. This is essential.

"We want meaningful talks to protect our conditions of service and improve our pay."

In November last year, the government announced 330m over three years to help support increases in academic and non-academic pay in England.

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