Analysis: More staff earn £50K-plus

September 27, 2002

Growing numbers of academics are earning six-figure salaries, a THES survey has revealed. But what about those lower down the scale? Alison Goddard reports.

More and more university staff are earning big bucks, according to the first survey of highly paid staff.

The number earning more than £50,000 - the level at which it becomes compulsory to declare it in financial accounts - leapt to more than 9,000 from 7,500 last year - up 20 per cent - according to the survey by The THES .

The THES examined the accounts relating to the financial year that ended July 31 2001. Vice-chancellors were excluded from the analysis as far as possible. The cost to the institution of pension contributions was also excluded wherever possible.

A dozen academics earned more than £150,000 - up from nine the previous year. They were based at nine institutions: the universities of Birmingham, Cranfield, Leeds and Warwick; the London Business School; and the University of London's Imperial College, King's College, University College and Queen Mary College.

At the other end of the scale, there were six institutions out of 164 surveyed where no one was paid more than £50,000.

Stephen Court, senior research officer at the Association of University Teachers, said: "This information shows that institutions, contrary to their behaviour in national pay negotiations, can find extra money for staff pay when they want to.

"We appreciate that to recruit and retain top-flight staff, institutions have to be prepared to offer a market rate.

"But our concern is that, at the other end of the pay spectrum, all too few higher education employers are prepared to pay sufficient to attract graduates of the highest calibre into an academic career. Entry-level pay needs to be addressed now before the sector has a recruitment and retention crisis."

Tom Wilson, head of the universities department at lecturers' union Natfhe, said: "These figures show that higher education institutions are being forced to pay the market rate for senior staff. Nobody should begrudge staff - and that includes managers - being paid properly.

"But without transparent pay systems, how do we know that these salaries do not owe more to cronyism or over-managerialism than to market rates? Why don't all staff receive the proper market rate? A pay system skewed so much towards top salaries is neither fair nor justifiable."

The London Business School topped the table. It has more than 100 staff earning more than £50,000, including almost 50 staff who are each paid more than £100,000. The school has 93 research and teaching faculty and 385 administrative staff.

Michael Hay, deputy dean of the London Business School, said: "The school is competing in the global market not only for students but also for faculty. We must therefore apply worldwide conditions of service and remuneration in trying to attract the best students and the best faculty."

Institutions are listed according to the number of staff paid more than £150,000 and then in £10,000 bands between £50,000 and £150,000.

The surprise entry was the Southampton Institute, where more people were paid over £100,000 than at any former polytechnic. It was ahead of the London School of Economics and the universities of Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham and Southampton. Two staff appeared to earn more than £130,000 at the Southampton Institute, while only one person earned this much at the universities listed above.

But a spokeswoman for the institute said that the figures included severance payments and top-ups to pension funds that were needed to trigger pension payments.

She said: "The person who appears to earn more than £120,000 was actually on a salary of £30,000 but the lump sum came to £21,000 and there was £72,000 towards his pension."

Three months ago, the Higher Education Funding Council for England ordered that payoffs for poorly performing staff be abolished, along with generous pension enhancements for those taking early retirement. The ruling will come into effect in the financial year ending July 31 2003.

Excluding the payoffs at the Southampton Institute, nine people earned more than £50,000, another three earned more than £60,000 and a further two earned more than £70,000.

The first new university in the list is Glasgow Caledonian, where two people earned more than £100,000.

In general, old universities paid most, followed by new universities and then higher education colleges.

Some institutions were far more egalitarian than others. At Cardiff University, 150 people were paid more than £50,000, with a further 53 getting more than £60,000 and 22 getting more than that. No one was paid more than £100,000.

The University of Ulster has 106 staff who are paid more than £50,000, with 26 getting more than £60,000, 11 more than £70,000 and six more than £80,000. No one was paid any higher.

The University of Cambridge once again beat the University of Oxford, with four staff paid more than £140,000 to Oxford's one. But both were trounced by rivals Imperial and University College London plus relative newcomer Warwick.

A spokesman for Warwick said: "Warwick pays what it can - the market rate to get people to do the job. It reflects our links with industry and it certainly pays research dividends for us. We rank fifth for research in every newspaper league table and, if we are ninth in this one, then we are getting value for money."

From outside London, only Leeds made the top five. Cranfield was the only institution without a medical school in the top ten.

* Sir Howard Newby, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England earns £132,000, according to accounts published this week. The figure is the same as his old income and £2,000 less than his predecessor, Sir Brian Fender.

Saul Estrin, 50, is deputy dean for faculty and academic planning at the London Business School. He earns more than £50,000 per annum, but would not be drawn on an exact amount.

He said: "Even in our school, you don't become an academic for the money.

"The London Business School competes directly for people who would otherwise work in the City at a high level. It's quite hard to manage the situation where a professor at this institution earns less than someone finishing a PhD. For example, the starting salary for someone with a PhD in accountancy is £83,000, in statistics it is £69,900 and in economics it is £54,900.

"We are much stricter on requirements: we pay people money and expect them to deliver."

Ian Brookes, 26, is just completing his first year as a postdoc at Imperial College, London. He is paid £20,600 including a London allowance.

He said: "I cannot afford to buy a flat and I have to live a limited lifestyle. People doing postdoctoral work are used to living a student lifestyle but, if you want to make a career out of it, it involves having an independent income because it is almost impossible otherwise.

"The thing that really bothers me is wanting to have a more diverse role. To do that, I need to have proper training but then I hit a brick wall because there is no interest in paying for any staff training or development.

Deborah Middlehurst, 50, is a lecturer at the University of Kent. She is paid £24,500 a year.

She said: "The pay is absolutely appalling. Being down here in Canterbury, we receive no London weighting but the cost of living is as high as it is in London. I don't think I will buy a house. The bank will lend me £75,000, but I cannot get a house for that. Maybe I will move to the North.

"I love the research and the relative independence of the job - that's what keeps me going. Except for teaching commitments, the rest of the time can be spent on research. Most weeks I work for 55 hours."

Last two names have been changed.

Click Senior university staff pay 2002 to view the table in the statistics section.

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