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UK higher education pay gap widens

UK higher education pay gap widens

Daniele Palmer reports on new figures for the pay gap in UK Higher Education

A new report from the Office for National Statistics suggests there is a large divide in salaries at the UK’s leading universities. This large separation between those earning the highest salaries from average-paid workers in the sector means UK universities are failing to keep up with other areas of the economy.

Recent earning indicators have shown that, whilst other sectors have seen a homogeneous pay rise, higher education salaries seriously lag behind the rest. The report from the Office for National Statistics claims that the average salary of university workers has grown 0.8 per cent for the year up to April 2014, which is less than half the 1.9 per cent increase awarded to the rest of the workforce.

However, the problem is not solely salary stagnation, but also a disproportionate pay difference between staff members.

A study complied by the TaxPayers’ Alliance, a campaign group that seeks to limit government spending, has shown that the number of academics and university staff earning more than £100,000 has increased by 579 to 5,279 in 2013-14, of which 242 earn more that £200,000.

UCL alone has 604 members of staff who earn more than £100,000 in total ‘compensation’, including pensions.

It seems that the overall economic upturn, which both Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne have labelled a part of their “higher wages, lower tax, lower welfare” economy, may only be benefiting those at the pinnacle of academia, and not those on average pay. As a result of this, some have argued that the prestige and success of British institutions might be compromised.

Lower average wages will be a deterrent against young and skilled academics coming to this country to work. Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of teachers and Lecturers, said “this is not the best way to attract the best lecturers and ensure that students receive high-quality teaching”.

Some have argued that the differences in wages between staff was justified. Administrators at top universities, director-general of the Russell Group Wendy Piatt argues, have to run “extremely complex, highly successful international organisations with average annual turnovers of more than half a billion pounds”.

For many, the pay gap remain a problem, it is seen as a sign of fragmentation within the sector: universities are becoming more individualised workplaces, where some staff only teach, others do pure research, and some combine both aspects. The traditional academic, who both writes and teaches, and is paid accordingly, is depleting.

Featured image credit: Sam Fearnley

Daniele Palmer