As higher education staff in state-funded universities contemplate the possibility of a 0.4 per cent pay deal, a private college is trumpeting its 3 per cent pay rise as evidence of the virtues of independence.
Aldwyn Cooper, principal and chief executive of Regent's College, told staff that there would be an average 3 per cent pay increase for 2010-11, "distributed as an increase of £1,000 per annum or 2 per cent of salary, whichever is the higher". For the college's lowest-paid staff, this represents a rise of more than 5 per cent, and a 2 per cent increase for the highest-paid, he said.
Professor Cooper added: "The state sector is already stretched and the state contribution is likely to be cut by at least 25 per cent during the next three years.
"The Universities and Colleges Employers Association is limiting its pay offer to 0.4 per cent. However, many institutions cannot even afford this. They are already in deficit and are being forced to reduce staffing simply to maintain their existence. This will clearly have an impact on staff-to-student ratios, support for programmes and the student experience."
Professor Cooper told Times Higher Education that the Regent's offer was possible thanks to greater "flexibility in the private sector and ... the hard work of our staff".
Ucea's offer, which it says is the maximum affordable in the current climate, is far short of the higher education unions' joint claim for a 4 per cent rise. The unions say this is needed to keep pace with inflation - running at about 5 per cent - and make up for the previous year's below-inflation settlement of 0.5 per cent.
The University and College Union was unimpressed by Professor Cooper's statement, arguing that the announcement should be balanced against what it called a "deterioration in employment terms and conditions" at Regent's.
A spokesman said: "UCU firmly believes that a strong publicly funded academy is a crucial element of this country's education policy, and organisations such as Regent's College cannot hope to replicate that."