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Pay frozen and job losses loom as UAE universities feel the pinch

Staff at the country's three main higher education institutions face no salary increases and the prospect of redundancies as the economic downturn takes its toll.

Staff at the country's three main higher education institutions face pay freezes and the prospect of job losses as the economic downturn takes its toll on the sector. At two institutions salaries have been frozen, regular rises halved and merit rises scrapped. The third has said that as many as 200 jobs may be cut, which could increase class sizes and workloads. Dan Johnson, the provost of Zayed University, said: "Zayed University has a salary freeze in force that applies to annual increases, merit increases and salary increases for promotions. We understand that our salary status is aligned with those of other national institutions of higher education and national ministries.

"We are not sure of the duration of the salary freeze. That remains to be determined. Our hope is that it will be lifted in the near future." Staff at the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) were told last week that this year's merit rises, usually two per cent, would not happen and annual four per cent pay rises had been halved. At Abu Dhabi Men's College, which is part of HCT, staff were informed by an e-mail from the director, Simon Jones, which said: "Dear all, I have been informed that we will not run a merit pay process this year. Best Regards, Simon."

One foundation-year teacher at the men's college, who did not want to be named, said: "There was no consultation or warning on this at all, and there is no apparent reason for this to have changed after all these years." A British teacher at HCT said: "We teachers and lecturers at HCT are responsible for running the only vocational courses in the UAE, as well as bachelor's and master's degrees. Many of us have several master's degrees ourselves, and several have PhDs.

"We are almost entirely foreign faculty, as Emiratis will not work for the low salaries offered by HCT, and we bring our families with us to live, to work here, helping to build the infrastructure of a new education system, on the promise of a good salary and conditions." In addition, the colleges will not raise the allowance they give for children's schooling, which has been capped at Dh80,000 (US$22,000) a year, for two children combined, since the late 1990s.

Officials from HCT and the men's college declined to comment. No pay freezes have been put in place at UAE University, which does not have a merit system or annual increment. Staff have continued to receive rises upon promotion, as in previous years. But the university announced in February that it might shed up to 200 of its total 2,800 staff as more resources were allocated to research. @Email:mswan@thenational.ae

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