We're being skewed

January 4, 2008

It is so easy to expose Universities and Colleges Employers Association misinformation. Jocelyn Prudence (Letters, December 14) repeats her claim of an average or mean salary for full-time teachers of £42,620, based on the office of National Statistics annual survey of hours and earnings.

First, the data excludes the 33,000 part-time higher education teachers - 28 per cent of the workforce.

Second, in its publicity the Office for National Statistics emphasises median, not mean, salaries because "the median is the value below which 50 per cent of employees fall. It is preferred over the mean for earnings data as it is influenced less by extreme values and because of the skewed distribution of earnings data".

And what might skew earnings data for higher education teachers? Why, all of those grossly overpaid senior managers, including the vice-chancellor, pro vice-chancellor, deputy vice-chancellor, deputy pro vice-chancellor, bloke-in-charge-of-RAE, professor-with-no-teaching-and-grade-4-RAE, dean, head of school, or any of the proliferating multitude of senior titles.

There is no separate four-digit standard occupational classification code for this bunch, unlike their properly appointed counterparts elsewhere in the public and indeed private sectors. So we have no idea how many such senior managers there are and how they skew our earnings data.

Richard Hull
Senior lecturer in management
Newcastle University Business School.

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