An analysis of wages across the UK reveals some huge differences between campuses, report Phil Baty and Matt Sandy.
Academics earned more than £36,000 on average last year, according to the latest university-by-university figures compiled exclusively for The Times Higher .
The average academic salary is £36,535. On average, professors earn more than £59,000, senior lecturers just under £42,000, lecturers £33,000 and researchers £26,000.
Union leaders expressed concerns this week about wide variations in average pay levels between different institutions, which appear to reflect the growing influence of market forces in the sector and the erosion of national pay structures.
Six institutions pay an average of more than £40,000. Of those, the London Business School is way ahead of the pack: it pays an average of £114,820. At the bottom end, three universities pay an average of less than £30,000. The figures are all based on the official Higher Education Statistics Agency staff record for 2004-05, which has been analysed by The Times Higher .
Sally Hunt, the joint general secretary of the University and College Union, said: "I am disturbed that pay varies so much from institution to institution. There is no such thing as an average academic, but some of the differences are startling.
"UCU members need to have confidence that, wherever they are, their place on the national pay scale reflects their worth. I will make this case strongly when pay bargaining arrangements are reviewed with the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association next year."
Four of the six universities paying on average in excess of £40,000 were in London - the London Business School, the London School of Economics, City University and Imperial College London. The other highest payers were Cranfield and the Open universities.
The London Business School said that the level of its salaries reflected the fact that it was "competing in a global market - not only for students but also for faculty". An official said: "We must therefore apply worldwide conditions of service and remuneration in trying to attract the best students and the best faculty. Salary levels at the London Business School are determined in large part by a benchmarking against other leading business schools, mainly in the US."
The University of the Arts, London, saw the biggest increase in its average pay levels, up by more than 14 per cent to an average of £39,451. The university said that it had strived to improve its pay and reward structures to help retain staff in a competitive market.
"The university aims to properly reward and retain its high-quality staff," a spokesman said. "In the case of academic staff, we have over recent years shifted the core role from lecturer to senior lecturer.
"This, allied with low turnover and additional financial rewards for excellence in teaching and research, has significantly improved our ability to recruit, retain and reward high-quality staff."
Cardiff University said the 14 per cent rise in its average salary, to Pounds 39,209, was due to the fact that the figures for the first time took into account its August 2004 merger with the University of Wales College of Medicine, which added a number of clinical academics with higher salaries to the payroll.
Lancaster University, which sits at the bottom of the table with an average salary of £21,686, said that its figures were skewed by the fact that it had changed the way it reported its information to Hesa and that it had included some low-paid members of staff, such as postgraduates, who had not been included before. A spokesman said that the university had increased its salary bill by £6 million in the past year, from £64 million in 2003-04. Napier, also at the bottom, said it believed that there was an error in its figures and that lecturers earned an average of £34,0.
The average salary of £36,535 is only 2.1 per cent higher than the 2004 average of £35,773, despite a 3 per cent annual national pay settlement in August 2004.
Ms Hunt said: "The 2006 pay settlement of more than 10 per cent on salaries over the next two years begins the process of catching up, but academic pay still does not anywhere near reflect the positive impact our members' work has on students' life chances or the contribution their research makes to society."
But Ucea said that the figures failed to take into account two annual pay rises of 3 per cent each, in August 2005 and August 2006.
The spokesman also urged caution about comparing one year with the next.
"These percentages do not allow for changes in the balance of higher and lower paid staff in the sector from year to year (which) will clearly affect the annual increase figure.
"Because there is turnover of staff over the year, when we compare these two data sets we are not comparing the same staff year on year."
Ucea said that the relatively low average salaries for some of the top institutions, such as Oxford University (£33,879) and Durham University (£35,201), reflected the fact that they tended to employ large numbers of research staff.
HOW THE FIGURES ADDED UP
The figures for average salaries for 2004-05 were computed by the Higher Education Statistics Agency based on the returns provided by institutions. Percentage differences relate to figures also produced by Hesa. We list only figures for universities.
Academic staff are defined as academic professionals who are responsible for planning, directing and undertaking academic teaching and research. They also include vice-chancellors, medical practitioners, dentists, veterinarians and other healthcare professionals who undertake lecturing or research activities. All average salary data are limited to full-time staff.
Institutions were given two weeks to view and comment on the data. London Metropolitan University requested that its data not be released. Data on professors at Gloucestershire University have been excluded because the institution has one grading structure that covers both professors and senior managers.
On August 1, Luton University and De Montfort University's Bedford campus merged to form Bedfordshire University. The figures here relate solely to the former Luton University.
Link to table in Statistics section:
Staff salary comparisons 2005