The real pay figures

October 5, 2007

Your analysis in the article "Pay spending lags behind" (September 21) does not do justice to the intellectual sophistication of your readership. The oversimplification of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development data is of particular concern.

There are significant variations in definitions and methodologies when calculating international averages. For example, the OECD points out that the UK figures relate the student-to-staff ratio in public institutions only. In other OECD countries, private tertiary institutions are also included.

The trend you seek to portray in the UK is, in fact, the reverse of the truth whereby the Higher Education Statistic Agency's recent statistics reveal that the number of students in higher education has increased by 2.1 per cent from 2004-05 to 2005-06 - with a 2.6 per cent increase in the number of academic staff over the same time period.

In addition, it is important to update pay figures with the most recent Office for National Statistics data when discussing staff spending. Since the setting-up of the Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff in 2001, average earnings of academic staff have increased by 25.1 per cent (up to 2006) more than for the public sector, professional occupations and the economy as a whole.

Furthermore, in the 2006-07 academic year, staff received increases totalling at least 4 per cent, much higher than in other parts of the public sector - without considering the annual increment through the pay spine of 3 per cent for many.

This academic year, staff will see pay increase by 6 per cent (3 per cent in August 2007 and 3 per cent in May 2008), together with a possible annual increment, and then there will be a further rise of 2.5 per cent from October 2008 as a part of the three-year deal reached in 2006.

Through the impact of pay modernisation from the Framework Agreement, staff have received additional increases from assimilation and regradings, adding 3 to 5 per cent to institutional pay bills.

Bill Wakeham
Chair, Universities and Colleges Employers Association

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