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The following was written in answer to a 15-year-old girl¡¯s question£¬ ¡°How can I prepare myself for a fulfilling life?¡±

¡¡¡¡I am me.

¡¡¡¡In all the world£¬ there is no one else exactly like me. There are people who have some parts like me but no one adds up exactly like me. Therefore£¬ everything that comes out of me is authentically mine because I alone choose it.

¡¡¡¡I own everything about me -- my body£¬ including everything it does; my mind£¬ including all my thoughts and ideas; my eyes£¬ including the images of all they behold; my feelings£¬ whatever they might be -- anger£¬ joy£¬ frustration£¬ love£¬ disappointment£¬ excitement; my mouth and all the words that come out of it -- polite£¬ sweet and rough£¬ correct or incorrect; my voice£¬ loud and soft; all my actions£¬ whether they be to others or myself.

¡¡¡¡I own my fantasies£¬ my dreams£¬ my hopes£¬ my fears.

¡¡¡¡I own all my triumphs and successes£¬ all my failures and mistakes.

¡¡¡¡Because I own all of me£¬ I can become intimately acquainted with me in all my parts. I can love me and be friendly with me in all my parts. I can then make it possible for all of me to work in my best interests.

¡¡¡¡I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me£¬ and other aspects that I do not know. But as long as I am friendly and loving to myself£¬ I can courageously and hopefully look for the solutions to the puzzles and for ways to find out more about me.

¡¡¡¡However I look and sound£¬ whatever I say and do£¬ and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time is me. This is authentic and represents where I am at that moment in time.

¡¡¡¡When I review later how I looked and sounded£¬ what I said and did£¬ and how I thought and felt£¬ some parts may turn out to be unfitting. I can discard that which is unfitting and keep that which proved fitting£¬ and invent something new for that which I discarded.

¡¡¡¡I can see£¬ hear£¬ feel£¬ think£¬ say and do. I have the tools to survive£¬ to be close to others£¬ to be productive£¬ to make sense and order out of the world of people and things outside of me.

¡¡¡¡I own me and therefore I can engineer me. I am me and I am okay.
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- Significant legal developments during the SME sector with the past 12 months
- trip to Tarragona is unmissable
- Emeryville isn’t alone
- The Observer view on the shambolic way universities are run
- Legend of the King

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  The Observer view on the shambolic way universities are run Alerter l'administrateur Recommander à un ami Lien de l'article 

It is becoming increasingly apparent that there is something amiss in the way our universities are run. Last week, lecturers at 64 universities across the UK embarked on an unprecedented level of strike action over proposed reductions to their pensions. Those scalebacks stand in stark contrast to the overly generous remuneration packages enjoyed by vice-chancellors and the expense accounts that stretch to stays at five-star hotels.

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The strikes will cause huge disruption to students: the University and College Union (UCU) estimates that the 14 days of strikes will result in almost 600,000 teaching hours being lost. The union says it wants a negotiated solution, but that Universities UK (UUK), the body that represents universities, has forced its hand.

In turn, UUK claims that the growing deficit in the university pension scheme means lecturers must accept a shift from defined benefit pensions – where their retirement income relates to their final salary – to a defined contribution scheme, in which it is determined by how their pension funds have performed on the stock market. Estimates of the impact on staff range from a loss of between £60,000 and £200,000 over the course of their retirement. UCU says that UUK has artificially inflated the deficit by making overly cautious assumptions.

Defined benefit pension schemes are now a rarity outside the public sector, but they are part of the contractual benefits that academic staff have factored into pay packages and retirement plans. Lecturers often don't get their first stable job until their early 30s after completing at least two degrees and many have experienced falls in real pay in recent years. Use of casual contracts is rife; more than half of academics in the elite Russell Group of universities are on temporary or insecure contracts.

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Universities should either increase their employer contributions to the pension scheme to cover any deficit or compensate their staff in other ways. They have no excuse: they have not been subject to the austerity that has blighted most of the rest of the public sector. Far from it: average per-undergraduate teaching income has increased by over 50% from its levels during 1997-2005.

According to UCU, universities' spending on staff has fallen from almost 58% of their income a decade ago to 52% today. And now that they can recruit as many students as they wish, many universities are spending increasing amounts on marketing and on risky capital projects that they hope will give them an edge over competitors. Universities have also resisted attempts to make them more financially transparent; the Russell Group has even argued that universities should be exempt from freedom of information legislation.

In the context of the insecure working conditions and pension cutbacks, vice-chancellor pay looks excessively greedy. The highest paid vice-chancellor, of Bath Spa University, received more than £800,000 in remuneration including pension contributions in 2016-17; there were a further seven universities that paid their vice-chancellors in excess of £400,000.

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Universities say these extortionate levels are required by a competitive global market. But the reality is that the market is far from competitive. Instead, pay gets ratcheted up in the same way that it does in corporate boardrooms by vice-chancellors and governing bodies that want to be able to boast that they pay in the top quarter or half of the earnings league table. Incredibly, the majority of vice-chancellors are members of, or entitled to attend, the remuneration committees that set their salaries, an arrangement that would not be allowed to exist in a publicly listed company.

It is a sign of an unhealthy gulf between those who teach students and those who run universities. This is no way to run a sector that gets a huge chunk of funding from taxpayers. It's time for our universities to reform university governance and embrace radical financial transparency, so students can see how much of their fees are spent on aggressive marketing and flashy new buildings and how much on those who actually teach them.

? Sonia Sodha is an Observer columnist


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