Data no help in campaign for better pay

October 6, 2006

Researchers find academic salaries compare favourably with other professions, writes Jessica Shepherd

Academics earn more per hour than most other highly qualified workers, but they put in more overtime than most other professionals in the public sector, a report has revealed. The study contradicts the common claim that academic pay lags behind that of the average professional.

Academics at the Institute of Education, London, and Reading University Business School compared the hourly pay of higher education teaching professionals with secondary school teachers, accountants, lawyers, doctors, engineers, dentists, pharmacists and management consultants. Aside from doctors, academics put in most overtime. Their results show academics work 45.5 hours a week, including unpaid and paid overtime. Lawyers, consultants and dentists work 41.8, 40.9 and 36.7 hours respectively. Doctors work 53.6 hours a week.

The report's authors, Anna Vignoles and James Walker, calculated that academics earn on average £10.97 an hour. This is more than accountants, pharmacists, engineers, lawyers, secondary school teachers and graduate professionals. It is less, however, than the hourly rate for consultants (£11.01), doctors (£12.96) and dentists (£16.25).

The study used data from 1,665 academics and 40,000 other professionals taken from the UK Labour Force Survey between 1993 and 2005. Academics were compared with other professionals of the same age, gender, marital status, education level and ethnic group to ensure fair results.

Dr Vignoles, a reader in the economics of education at the Institute of Education, believes the findings will surprise. She said: "Our evidence does not support the consensus view that higher education academics are significantly underpaid relative to the average professional worker.

"However, once one compares higher education teaching professionals with other occupations that require substantial postgraduate training, their relative position does not look so good.

"Their earnings compare poorly to consultants and dentists in the public and private sectors. On the other hand, there are groups of public-sector workers - further education lecturers and secondary school teachers - who earn significantly less."

Sally Hunt, joint general secretary of the University and College Union, said: "Academics perform incredible work, despite increasing workloads, hours and record levels of bureaucracy."


Occupation - Hourly pay (£s)

  • Dentist - 16.25
  • Doctor - 12.96
  • Consultant - 11.01
  • HE academic - 10.97
  • Lawyer - 10.50
  • Accountant - 9.98
  • fe academic - 9.75
  • Pharmacist - 9.66
  • Graduate professional - 8.71
  • Graduate - 8.70
  • Secondary school - 8.56
  • Engineer - 8.38

Source: Vignoles and Walker

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