Vice-chancellors will be grilled over the pay gap between male and female academics, which is still growing, a report for the Association of University Teachers has found.
David Triesman, AUT general secretary, is writing to the vice-chancellors of about 35 higher education institutions seeking meetings to discuss figures showing an average 16 per cent gap between the pay of male and female academics last year. The AUT figures show the gap has risen from 15 per cent in 1995.
An AUT spokesman said: "Mr Triesman will be seeking a meeting and urging the vice-chancellors to use the extra money they have coming through the funding council to go directly into paying staff and levelling the playing field between men and women."
The government is allocating an extra £50 million in 2001-02, £110 million in 2002-03 and £170 million in 2003-04 for pay-related issues. Universities will decide how they spend the cash, but the government and the Higher Education Funding Council for England have said they expect it to be used to rectify pay inequalities and staffing and salary structures.
A survey, published this week by the AUT and based on data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, shows that the average pay gap in England in 2000 was 15 per cent, up from 14 per cent in 1995, when the last survey was conducted. In Scotland the average gap was unchanged at 19 per cent, while in Wales it was 19 per cent, down from 20 per cent in 1995. In Northern Ireland, female academics receive 17 per cent less than their male colleagues, a rise from 15 per cent in 1995.
The UK average academic salary is £32,4 for men. This compares with £,240 for women - a gulf of more than £5,000.
Julie Mellor, chairwoman of the Equal Opportunities Commission, said: "I am extremely disappointed that, in the two years since the Bett report, the gender pay gap in higher education has apparently widened."
St George's Hospital Medical School paid women least compared with their male colleagues - the gap was 45 per cent on average. The London Business School was next, with a 33 per cent gap. Leicester had the worst record of any university, a per cent gap. Three ancient Scottish universities were next, Aberdeen and Glasgow both with a 25 per cent gap and then St Andrews with a 24 per cent gap.
Robert Boyd, principal of St George's, said: "The highest paid academic staff are consultants in receipt of distinction awards, allocated and paid by the National Health Service. These may double the salary received. Hesa does not discriminate between these different elements in its statistics."
Saul Estrin, acting dean of the LBS, said: "London Business School has very few women in senior faculty positions, which distorts the picture."
A spokesman for Leicester said the AUT figures appeared to conflate data for different categories of staff. He said: "The university aims to ensure that staff are treated solely on the basis of merits and abilities."
An Aberdeen spokeswoman said: "A revised and strengthened equal opportunities policy has been introduced, promotions procedures for staff are under review andI it will be mandatory for all convenors of appointment committees to undergo equal opportunities training."
A St Andrews spokeswoman said: "Female lecturers' salaries are within 2 per cent of their male counterpartsI This is not to say that more work is not necessary to address the gender pay gap."