An official report shows that barely a penny of an £880 million programme to "reward and develop" staff in English universities went into academic salaries, lecturing unions claimed this week.
A report by consultants KPMG for the Higher Education Funding Council for England hailed the first three years of the five-year Rewarding and Developing Staff (RDS) initiative as a success.
The report, which says the initiative has had a "positive impact across the English sector", reveals that much of the money was spent on improving recruitment processes, developing management and leadership training and reviewing and strengthening human resources departments.
Steve Egan, Hefce's director of finance and corporate resources, said: "By improving recruitment, retention and training, institutions will be better placed to meet the needs of students, recruit high quality staff and develop their teaching and research excellence."
But Roger Kline, head of the universities department at lecturers' union Natfhe, said that the report confirmed Natfhe's worst fears.
"It is clear that the majority of the RDS funding has gone nowhere near staff pay packets but has been used to beef up human resources departments," he said. "It is also clear that remarkably little has been spent directly on improving equality within the sector."
The RDS initiative was announced by David Blunkett, as Education Secretary, in 2000, when he released £330 million for three years between 2001 and 2004. A later extension of the programme will bring total spending to Pounds 880 million by 2006.
Mr Blunkett said that the money would "support increases in academic and non-academic pay".
In his official guidance to Hefce, he said the fund should cover six priority areas, including "addressing recruitment and retention difficulties", meeting staff development and training objectives, developing equal opportunities programmes and "action to tackle poor performance".
Mr Kline said: "When this initiative was originally announced by David Blunkett it was quite clear that improving staff pay and boosting equality were how he headlined it."
Malcolm Keight, AUT deputy general secretary, said: "Higher education salaries remain unacceptably low, and the gender pay gap unacceptably wide.
Unless the RDS funding addresses these problems, it will be money wasted and an opportunity lost."