London lecturers are 'undervalued'

March 22, 2002

London's lecturers are worse off than the school teachers who went on strike last week over their London allowance, the Association of University Teachers said, writes Phil Baty.

At a picket of the London University's council, the AUT said that London's 53,000 university staff received £1,000 less than school teachers to cover the costs of living in London. They accused employers of failing to pass on additional funding they received.

The AUT, backed by public-sector union Unison and students, said it was a "scandal" that lecturers in old universities had not had their London weighting increased for almost a decade, while house prices have risen more than 122 per cent and the cost of Tube travel has increased 53 per cent.

Sally Hunt, the AUT's assistant general secretary, called for universities to increase the London weighting. "If they fail to do so, not only will staff morale plummet even further but the recruitment and retention crisis facing London's universities will deepen."

Lecturers at the University of London's colleges and at City University receive a London weighting of £2,134 on top of a starting salary of £20,470. In new universities, the lecturers' starting salary of £19,575 is increased by £2,353 in inner London and £1,543 in outer London.

In a paper for the mayor's London-weighting advisory panel last month, the AUT warns of a recruitment crisis in London. The capital caters for about a quarter of England's university students and carries out about a third of all publicly funded research. Last month, the London Higher Education Consortium, an organisation of 40 London institutions, wrote to higher education minister Margaret Hodge warning of "severe difficulties" in recruiting and retaining staff.

The AUT said academic staff were about 34 per cent behind the private sector in terms of pay, and were receiving lower London living expenses than the other public sectors: "School teachers, firefighters, nurses and prison officers get £3,000 or more, while police officers received allowances totalling more than £6,000."

Ms Hunt said: "All we can assume is that schools, hospitals and the Metropolitan Police force value their employees in London higher than university vice-chancellors do."

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