The gap between academic salaries and comparable professions is widening as Bett's recommendations for pay increases remain unmet, an analysis by lecturers' union Natfhe has found.
Figures released exclusively to The THES show that on average full-time higher education lecturers earn £28,356 - less that the average pay for comparable grades identified by the Bett report for school teachers and police officers.
Natfhe says that since 1998 - the year used by Bett to compare pay - the salaries of teachers, nurses and the police have increased significantly thanks to government initiatives, while lecturers' pay packets have seen relatively little improvement.
Natfhe data show that academics in new universities had a pay increase 1.1 per cent less than the average increase for public-sector workers in 1998, 0.5 per cent more than the average increase in 1999, 0.8 per cent less in 2000 and 3.8 per cent less in 2001. Figures are almost identical for academics in pre-1992 universities.
Pay reviews for school teachers have given those with advanced skills in secondary schools the potential to earn £,939 to £44,571. Chief inspectors in the police force are paid £37,830 to £40,878.
Senior clinical nurses, whose pay used to be significantly below that of lecturers, can earn from £24,135 to £28,945.
For most lecturers, the gap between their pay and comparable professions may be even wider than Natfhe's figures suggest because its calculation for lecturers' average pay - using data supplied by the Higher Education Statistics Agency - is skewed by the higher salaries paid at London institutions.
Fifteen of the top 20 average lecturer salaries are paid by London universities and colleges, including the London Business School (£73,711), King's College London (£31,803), Imperial (£31,181) and South Bank (£30,719).
At the lower end of the pay scale, researchers earn an average of £21,833 and languages lecturers are getting an average of just £26,577.
The average pay for lecturers is based on a scale that most do not reach until their late 20s or early 30s, on completion of a PhD.
Tom Wilson, head of Natfhe's university department, said the figures revealed "the shocking extent of low pay in our universities".
He said: "Across the country and across the board academic pay is far too low to attract, retain and motivate good staff. Unless the government acts swiftly, the current crisis of secondary teacher shortages will be repeated in higher education. There will be empty lecture rooms as well as empty classrooms.
"Londoners will know that even the higher figures for the capital are far too low to meet the real added costs."
The analysis shows a range of average salaries across subjects and institutions. The best pay is in medicine and related subjects, where lecturers earn on average £29,981. The lowest is in the arts (£26,869) and languages (£26,577).
Average academic pay in old universities is slightly higher than new, but three out of the top five best average salaries for researchers were in new universities.