Academic salaries have grown only half as fast as the public-sector average over the past ten years, a new survey has revealed.
The figures, compiled by the Association of University Teachers, show that in the decade to April 2003, average public-sector pay increased by 12.6 per cent in real terms while academic pay increased by just 6.6 per cent.
This means that average public-sector earnings grew almost twice as fast as academic earnings over the period.
Internationally, UK academics are also slipping behind, coming near the bottom of Commonwealth league tables and far behind US colleagues.
Teachers saw their pay increase in real terms by 12.3 per cent over the period, medics by 26.6 per cent and accountants by 12.1 per cent. Managers saw their pay increase by 31.6 per cent.
Academic pay rose slightly more than that of factory packers (5.6 per cent) but rather less than that of cleaners and domestics (9.5 per cent).
The AUT's analysis is based on figures from the Government's New Earnings Survey.
Stephen Court, senior researcher at the AUT, said: "Five years ago, the Bett report into higher education pay said there was a need for increased spending on people in the sector, but the sector still lags behind.
"The big question now is whether the new framework for university pay can close the gap. If this year's pay rise of 3 per cent is anything to go by, the answer is a 'not likely'."
Jocelyn Prudence, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, said: "These figures pre-date the framework agreement and the two-year pay deal. They are also a fairly crude average."
Internationally, when set against comparable Commonwealth countries - notably, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa - UK academic pay came near the bottom of the scale.
In 2001-02, out of the above countries:
- Only lecturers in Malaysia earned less than UK lecturers
- Senior lecturers in the UK came bottom of the earnings table
- UK earnings at associate lecturer level were third from bottom, marginally above Canada and some way ahead of Malaysia
- At professorial level, UK earnings were below those of Singapore, Australia and New Zealand but above those of Canada, South Africa and Malaysia.
The calculations were made by converting salaries into dollars and taking the relative cost of living into account. The salaries are averages for the bottom of the scale for each academic grade.
When compared with the US the picture is even worse. At the grades of assistant professor, associate professor and professor, US salaries are approximately double those of comparable grades in the UK. Even allowing for the fact that US salaries are overall averages, as opposed to bottom-of-scale averages for the UK, the gap is still wide.
In the Republic of Ireland, the nearest international comparator to the UK, academic salaries were again ahead of those in the UK.
In some cases, notably at the lower professorial grades, the comparisons are stark, with Irish professors at University College Dublin, for example, earning approximately 80 per cent more than their UK equivalents.
"The contrast is particularly acute for academics in Belfast, where the starting salary for professors, for example, is about £20,000 lower than the equivalent salary 100 miles away in Dublin," said Mr Court.