Black academics ‘paid thousands of pounds less’ than white peers

Major Ucea study finds ethnic minority staff suffer ‘significant pay penalties’ relative to white male staff with equivalent academic backgrounds

November 22, 2018
Black female scientist
Source: Alamy

The UK’s black and ethnic minority academics earn thousands of pounds a year less on average than white scholars with the same levels of education and experience, new analysis has revealed.

In a groundbreaking study of pay inequality in UK academia, researchers from the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (Ucea) found that black male academics are paid 13.3 per cent less on average than white male academics of a similar age, experience and institutional background. Black female academics are paid 11.9 per cent less on average than their equivalent white male peers.

Given that the average annual salary of a white UK academic stands at £51,626, black men and women would earn £6,869 and £6,157 a year less respectively, the study suggests.

The finding by Ucea, which represents universities in national pay negotiations, breaks from previous studies that have largely attributed the “ethnicity pay gap” to a lack of senior ethnic minority staff at the upper end of the pay scale.

However, the latest study, which examines salaries of about 346,000 full-time staff, suggests that minority staff suffer what the report calls a “pay penalty” when doing the same jobs as equally qualified white peers. At professorial level, that pay deficit would be about £11,011 and £9,855 for black male and female staff respectively on average.

White female academics also suffer a “pay penalty” of 6.5 per cent compared with white male academics – which widens to 9.6 per cent for Asian female academics, says the report, titled Caught at the crossroads: an intersectional approach to gender and ethnicity, which was published on 22 November. That would equate to being paid £3,346 and £4,960 a year less respectively than an average white male academic.

As such, the “pay penalty experienced by ethnic minority women…is much more likely to be due to factors associated with their ethnicity than their gender”, the study concludes.

However, the report also cautioned that “pay penalties are not equivalent to discrimination” and may be influenced by household-level variables – such as marital status or number of dependants – that it was unable to consider.

Viola Salvestrini, a Ucea researcher who co-authored the study with Ucea’s head of policy Laurence Hopkins, said that the findings demonstrated “clear differences in labour market outcomes for different ethnic groups…with men and women from black ethnicities showing significant pay penalties relative to white men [which] remain even when accounting for level of education and demographic variables”.

Mr Hopkins added that “with the likelihood of ethnicity pay gap reporting on the horizon”, a simple calculation of a broad BME pay gap on its own “will hide significant differences between different ethnic minority groups”.

Using the same regressional analysis, the report also found that non-UK staff have “lower earnings than their UK counterparts irrespective of gender and ethnicity”.

But these factors appear to exacerbate the difference. While white non-UK male academics have only slightly lower pay, the pay penalty for Asian non-UK male academics rose to 9.6 per cent and about 14 per cent for black male international scholars. Similar effects were evident for non-UK female academics.

These pay inequalities may be explained by differences in the “years of UK work experience or language proficiency”, but were important to consider further as “more than 60 per cent of black and Asian staff are not UK nationals”, the report recommends.

jack.grove@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (1)

How has this been allowed to develop without any corrective action being taken, by UCEA and others? What about the 2004 Framework Agreement on the Modernisation of Pay Structures ("Pay Modernisation") which in large part was developed to address issues of pay equality. Has it been consigned to history? Is it now time for it to be revisited? Brian Martin, one-time Convener of the University of Edinburgh's Joint Unions and Co-Convener of that University's Task Force on Pay Modernisation.

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