Average salaries paid to senior university staff are rising three times as fast as the pay awarded to rank-and-file academics, new figures show.
With the sector already facing criticism over large pay rises awarded to vice-chancellors, as revealed by Times Higher Education last month, an analysis of official pay data shows that the pay of senior university managers is also growing much faster than that given to academics.
The average pay of full-time senior academic staff, which includes heads of school, pro vice-chancellors and other senior managers, rose by 3.9 per cent last year – up by £3,091 to £82,321 – according to data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency for 2014-15. And the salary of a professor rose on average by 2.3 per cent, up by £1,795 to £78,190.
Meanwhile, the average salary of a non-professorial academic inched up by just 1.2 per cent to £43,327 last year, a rise of £534.
The statistics are likely to fuel debate over pay inequality in higher education, an issue that was raised frequently on picket lines across the country last week as University and College Union members held a two-day strike over what has been deemed an “insulting” 1.1 per cent pay rise offer.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU, which is holding its annual congress in Liverpool on 1-3 June, said that “blatant double standards in university pay are being felt acutely by staff across the sector”.
“Yet again,” she said, “we have seen those at the top enjoying bumper pay rises of around 4 per cent while increases for rank-and-file staff are held down at barely a quarter of that.”
She added that the pay crunch for most staff should force universities to “answer some hard questions about how they will continue to attract and retain the best talent when those who do the work receive such poor reward for their efforts”.
During the pay dispute with universities, the UCU has complained that many institutions have introduced promotion freezes, meaning that many staff can no longer receive annual incremental pay rises because they have hit the top of their pay band.
The value of progression pay has been a key argument of employers, with the Universities and Colleges Employers Association saying that when that and other factors are included, its pay offer averages 2.7 per cent for the sector.
THE’s latest analysis of Hesa pay data follows its publication of executive pay across the sector, which showed that the salaries and benefits paid to vice-chancellors rose by 6.1 per cent to £252,745 on average in 2014-15, although the rise was just 5.1 per cent if institutions with a change in management that year were not counted.
The figures for other staff show the average salaries paid to 111,570 full-time academics, 15,875 professors and 5,415 senior academics in 2014-15, as reported to Hesa, rather than actual pay rises to in-post staff.
That rise was 2 per cent nationally, with many staff receiving extra incremental rises linked to promotion and progression, bringing the average to about 3.5 per cent for that year, according to Ucea.
The lower figure of a 1.2 per cent rise in average pay is explained by the exit of higher-paid staff from the sector and the arrival of less well-paid employees in different roles, Hesa said.
A Ucea spokesman said that its salary data showed the mean rise in average salaries to be 2 per cent in 2014-15, with only marginal differences in average pay between university occupations.
On pay rises, only a minority of academics – 47 per cent – did not get incremental pay rises, with “unambiguous evidence that the basic pay award is only part of the increase received by staff”, Ucea added.
It also claimed that last week’s walkout by staff, which took place on 25 and 26 May, caused “no significant disruption” for students and that examinations were unaffected.