Reform sparks pay scramble

January 5, 2007

Glaring differences emerge between institutions as new salary framework kicks in. Claire Sanders reports

Academics planning to move job in 2007 should shop around as the new pay framework has created startling salary differences between institutions, The Times Higher has found.

The emerging market means starting salaries for lecturers can vary by nearly £13,000 and there is evidence of bidding wars at professorial level and increasing transparency over senior staff pay.

The degree of diversity is raising questions about national pay bargaining, and the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association is consulting members on the future of pay determination.

One controversial option is to move to consortia bargaining, where universities with common interests reach agreements.

A snapshot of existing agreements and interviews with heads of human resources reveal an increasingly divergent system held together loosely by the new framework.

Lecturing grades at Oxford University start on £37,642, at Cambridge University on £32,471, at Brighton and Northumbria universities on Pounds 28,010, at Durham University on £,193 and at Teesside University on £24,886.

There is increasingly fierce competition at professorial level. The decision by Liverpool University, headed by Universities UK president Drummond Bone, to publicise high professorial starting salaries of £52,106 prompted Manchester University to match the figures on offer.

Cambridge has improved pay-scale transparency by setting out the full range of its professorial salaries. Its pay spine initially stopped at point 51, just below professorial level, which represented £46,296. The university has extended the scale to point 92, which represents £115,744.

Although other universities have extended the pay spine to include professorial salaries, Cambridge outstrips the pack. Leeds University is the nearest contender with a 60-point spine.

"We felt that transparency was one of the key aims of the framework," said Peter Deer, director of personnel at Cambridge.

"The structures agreed at Cambridge are hugely important," said Malcolm Keight, head of higher education at the University and College Union.

"These provisions are necessary to address the gender pay gap, where, traditionally, female professors have earned less than male counterparts."

Under the 2004 pay framework agreement, all university staff - from porters to professors in old and in new universities - are being placed on a single pay spine after job evaluation exercises.

To date, agreements with trade unions have been signed off by 70 of 110 universities, according to Ucea, with many more imminent.

Jocelyn Prudence, chief executive of Ucea, said: "About two thirds of institutions have fully implemented (the framework), with clear benefits emerging. It will be important in the coming months to evaluate the exercise."

She said it was timely to consult members on the future of the pay negotiation arrangements.


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