Female academics continue to earn less than their male counterparts on average across all job grades, from professors to junior researchers, figures shown exclusively to The Times Higher reveal.
Data compiled by the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that in some universities, the gap between male and female pay in equivalent jobs approaches 20 per cent. The information, for the academic year 2003-04, prompted criticism from the academic trade unions this week.
The Association of University Teachers said that while separate Hesa figures show that the overall gender pay gap for UK full-time academic staff dropped from 15 per cent in 2002-03 to 14 per cent for 2003-04, the sector clearly still faces a massive task to achieve equal pay for work of equal value.
Commenting on The Times Higher tables, AUT general secretary Sally Hunt said: "These figures show a continuing deplorable gap between the earnings of male and female academics. It is time that institutions followed their own guidance, agreed nationally three years ago, by implementing an equal pay review to identify and eliminate this inequality."
The figures show that female professors earned an average of £53,878 in 2004 - some 6.3 per cent less than their male counterparts, whose average pay was £57,486.
Female senior lecturers took home £40,594, 4 per cent less than male senior lecturers, and female lecturers just under £32,000, some 3 per cent less than men on the same job grade.
The gap was wider among researchers, with women earning 5 per cent less than men - just £25,046 compared with £26,353.
The largest gender gap - a 17 per cent pay difference between men on Pounds 38,817 and women on just £32,306 - was found in academic jobs classified as "other". This Hesa designation covers academics not in the standard job grades of professor, senior lecturer, lecturer or researcher.
At Nottingham Trent University, men in this category earn £53,801 compared with women on £34,403. The university would say only:
"Through our own internal equal pay audits, we are aware of some issues and are actively working to address them."
Lecturers' union Natfhe said that this "other" figure proved that discrimination was "rife" in cases where universities could use their discretion to make appointments outside the standard national job grades.
Andy Pike, national higher education official at Natfhe, said the "other" category included posts, often with unusual or non-standard job titles, that had been created for individuals outside national structures.
"Institutions that create such posts are often engaged in short-term thinking and never consider the issue of gender equality until after the event," he said.
At individual universities the picture varied dramatically, with the biggest gaps at the level of professor and among researchers.
At the London School of Economics, female professors earned 13 per cent less than males, with salaries averaging just under £60,000 compared with men, who average almost £70,000.
The LSE said that pay was "pretty much on par" at senior lecturer and at other levels. It accepted that there was a gap at the top level but insisted that things were improving.
A spokeswoman said:"Of our professorial staff, 19 per cent are women, compared with 8 per cent in 1996. We are working on local implementation of the framework agreement and will continue to look at equal pay issues," she said.
At Lancaster University, female professors earn 14.8 per cent less than men. Their average salary is £47,498. A spokeswoman for Lancaster said the official figures included a mistake, and the gap was nearer to 10 per cent.
She said the university was increasing its proportion of female professors, who are concentrated in lower paid humanities subjects, and was taking steps to improve historical inequalities.
Gaps were similarly stark at the lower end of the pay spectrum, especially among staff classified as "researchers".
Female researchers at Westminster get an average of £23,778, compared with men on £,036. The university, whose vice-chancellor Geoffrey Copland chairs the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association, said its own figures showed a smaller gap, which was explained by length of service and seniority of staff.
Female researchers at Greenwich University get 17.3 per cent less than men.
Greenwich said this was due to many long-serving male researchers in its Natural Resources Institute, which had been part of the Civil Service.
At Nottingham Trent, female researchers earn 12.8 per cent less; and at Westminster University, they earn 12.1 per cent less.
A major exception to the general pay trend was Bath University. The inclusion of its female vice-chancellor - Glynis Breakwell - in the calculation of average female professorial salaries put women at Bath more than 25 per cent ahead of male professors.
At Bath, female professors earn an average of £71,456, compared with men, who earn £56,914.
But the university, which until recently employed leading female physicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell, said that even when the vice-chancellor's six-figure salary was stripped out of the calculation, female professors still earned more than men, with an average salary of more than £57,000.
Jocelyn Prudence, chief executive of Ucea, said the gap in higher education was far smaller than in the economy as a whole. "The fact that a gender pay gap exists at all in higher education means, however, that there is no room for complacency," she said.