Bett backs 20% rise - for a few

May 21, 1999

Minimum pay levels for some grades of academic staff should soar in real terms by up to 20 per cent over the next three years, the Bett report will recommend.

The report, due to be published next month, will suggest a new pay structure. Taking into account inflation, this would introduce academic starting salaries of about Pounds 20,000 by 2002, rather than the 1998-99 minimum of around Pounds 15,000.

A new Pounds 46,500 minimum for the most senior academics would also replace the present professorial minimum of just over Pounds 35,000. Members of the new Institute of Learning and Teaching would get at least another Pounds 1,000.

Pay would be negotiated in separate national councils for academic staff - defined as teachers, researchers and others whose primary function is to contribute directly to student learning - and non-academic staff.

A final draft of the report, seen by The THES, calls for higher starting salaries to attract more postdoctorals to an academic career, salary boosts for professors and senior academic managers and other rewards for those taking on extra responsibilities in mid-level academic posts.

It also suggests minimum "safety net" provisions on working time for academics across the sector and wants regular part-time staff entitled to the same common core conditions as others. Use of fixed-term contracts should also be reduced.

But it suggests little or no real increase in salary for some posts, except to ensure equal pay - a key problem across the sector.

The committee estimates that addressing equal pay will add between 2 and 5 per cent to institutions' spending on salaries and suggests that each institution should have to show an equal pay strategy before receiving extra grants from the funding councils.

It also recommends "substantial real increases" for support staff on the lowest salaries. For them, minimum salaries would rise from around Pounds 8,000 in 1998-99 to Pounds 11,000 in 2002.

If the new structures recommended by the committee for all non-academic staff are adopted, higher grades would receive the same minimum salaries as academics, up to Pounds 46,500.

But the report stresses that changes in salary levels depend on both major reforms of the pay structure and the government's willingness to pay for them.

It estimates a real-terms increase in the pay bill of about 9 per cent for academic and 8 per cent for non-academic staff, including an increase of about 3.6 per cent in the pay bill for manual staff from proposals to shorten their working week.

Cash would also be needed to extend some benefits to part-time staff, as well as cover the costs of expanding student numbers and increasing the proportion of "non-traditional" students. In all, the committee estimates its recommendations would add 6 per cent to the sector's total costs.

This would tip the balance of spending on people - now 58 per cent of the overall higher education budget - back towards the 66 per cent level of the mid-1980s.

It warns that if the government fails to find the extra cash, few of these recommendations can be put in force. What is more, it predicts that without more money to meet their statutory obligations on equal pay, institutions will struggle to maintain the present quality of teaching and research, and could flounder over plans to widen access.

The committee will hold a further meeting at the end of this month to address last-minute concerns from members. This will delay publication until mid-June.

Leader, page 18

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