CAIRO: University professors have roundly rejected a performance-related pay scheme which the Supreme Council of Universities (SCU) plans to introduce next month.
The SCU is a governmental body composed of university presidents and the Minister of Higher Education Hany Hilal.
University professors have previously called for the abolition of the council, objecting to its interference and saying that autonomous universities are capable of directing their own affairs.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the Egyptian University Faculty Club – which represents the interests of teaching staff in the absence of a union – said that the scheme, presented to them in the form of a draft on June 21, does not reflect their demands.
“This draft does not respond to the majority of professors’ demands, even after the amendments made to the first draft of the scheme, the statement says.
“It does not accurately reflect the discussions held and detailed opinions set forth during the Egyptian University Faculty Club’s annual conference and the conference of Egyptian University Clubs held on June 5, 2008.
“While the draft gives the impression that it embodies the responses of universities, teaching staff clubs, the university community and a large number of faculty members, this is absolutely false, the statement continues.
The draft states that the “vision guiding the project is “improving the quality, and development of, higher government education.
Its “mission is the “provision of a suitable income to faculty members in order for them to be able to devote themselves exclusively to work in their universities, and its “aim is “the implementation of standards of excellence in higher education institutions.
Under the scheme, professors receive LE 2,000 per month, assistant professors LE 1,600 and lecturers LE 1,000 per month.
“The [Egyptian University Faculty Club’s administrative board] is of the opinion that the proposed increases cannot be considered a ‘suitable income’ since they are both greatly removed from the demands made by the teaching staff during their November 2007 annual conference, and make no reference to our primary demand for an adjustment of pay scales rather than a performance-related pay increase, the club’s statement reads.
University professors have long campaigned for an improvement of pay and employment conditions.
They say that poor wages – pay scales have not changed since 1972 – under funding, and low morale among university teaching staff have contributed to the deterioration of standards in Egypt’s public universities.
On March 23, professors launched a historic one-day strike with members of the University Autonomy Group, reporting high turnout throughout Egyptian universities.
Popularly known as the March 9 Movement, the group of Cairo University professors originally came together in March 2003 to protest the US invasion of Iraq, and now they are pressing for university autonomy and academic freedom.
The strike came just days after Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif rejected teaching staff’s demands for across-the-board pay rises. He instead offered them wage increases in the form of allowances, and encouraged them to apply for the performance-related pay scheme.
Dr Amr El-Darrag, vice-chairman of the club, told Daily News Egypt in March that professors rejected this proposal.
“The criteria according to which select professors would be chosen for this superior grade were mostly unclear but seemed to be related to performance and academic record, El-Darrag said.
“Professors rejected this and so the government subsequently proposed that professors volunteer themselves for the superior grade rather than be selected, which we also reject. How can some professors be superior and others not? It’s an illogical and divisive proposal and we want wage increases across the board, he continued.
Under the elective scheme detailed in a nine-page document issued by the SCU, teaching staff applications for the scheme are approved by the relevant department and faculty dean.
The club criticizes the logic of an elective scheme.
“Making participation in this scheme voluntary is fundamentally at odds with the principle of excellence the project seeks to realize because of the entirely incomprehensible existence of two administrative systems in one workplace, the statement says.
Professors hoping to take part in the scheme choose the activities they wish to be evaluated on in a five-page application form.
Teaching staff who teach for more than two days a week outside the university are excluded from applying for the scheme, as are those who have incurred internal disciplinary punishment.
The club states that the exclusion from the scheme of those who have received disciplinary punishment may be misused by certain university administrations to “pressurize professors.
Assistant professors who have been in this position for more than seven years without promotion are also barred from applying unless and until they are promoted.
The club points out that the exclusion of these large numbers of teaching staff from the scheme because they have not been promoted ignores the fact that they may not have been promoted because “of an absence of opportunity to carry out the research necessary for their promotion.
Those taking part in the scheme must be present in the faculty at least 28 hours per week. The club suggests that performance evaluation on the basis of a professor’s physical presence in the university is flawed.
“There is not enough suitable space in university faculties for teaching staff to work to the best of their abilities. In addition, many of their tasks are by their nature carried out outside the university and take up half of these 28 hours.
Failure to fulfill the scheme’s conditions results in teaching staff forfeiting payments for a semester. Where this re-occurs the scheme is suspended for no less than a year before the individual concerned may take part in the scheme again.
The terms in which this is expressed are criticized by the club, which says in its statement that “it is formulated like a threat, and gives the impression that this system will be a sword constantly hanging over professors, which puts their income under constant risk.
El-Darrag told Daily News Egypt that meetings are planned between government officials and representatives of the club next week in order to discuss professors’ objections to the scheme.
While the scheme is supposed to be operative from July, El-Darrag points out that this is impractical.
“Each department has to put in place executive rules for the implementation of this system and there is no time to do this before the summer break, he explained.
El-Darrag says that he will not participate in the scheme as it stands now.
“It’s better to wait for a satisfactory scheme than just accept anything. The principle behind this scheme is not clear at all: If there are two systems in place does it mean that if I don’t sign up for the scheme I don’t have to give lectures and don’t have to perform my duties adequately? he asked.