'Salary only pays for my coffees'

October 5, 2001

The THES reports on how academics around the world fight their corner on pay.

Spanish academics work for love rather than money.

"Salaries have improved in recent years, but they are still low compared with other European universities or the private sector," said Maria Jesus Yagüe, vice-rector of teaching staff at Madrid's Autonomous University.

Victor Urrutia, vice-rector of teaching staff at the University of the Basque Country, agrees. The last pay rise in January was 2 per cent, below the rate of inflation, he said, and the resulting loss of earning power affected morale.

A lecturer with tenure can expect to earn €30,050 (£18,900) a year before tax, a professor typically earns €36,060, while €42,070 is considered a good salary for a professor. All tenured staff are officially civil servants, their working conditions regulated by central government. Staff without tenure, who often account for 30-50 per cent of teaching staff, earn far less. Full-time associates or assistants earn between €14,424 and €17,430 a year.

In theory, these positions are intended as stepping stones for trainee lecturers finishing their doctorates. But the shortage of tenured posts has meant many academics spend years in these jobs. One associate at Barcelona University, who earns €420 a month for a teaching position, said: "It's enough to pay for my coffees."

Central government sets pay rates once a year. While the unions are involved in the negotiating process for civil servants, their influence is not decisive.

Spain's 17 regional governments have no formal role in deciding pay, but their ability to award extra cash to universities for various purposes gives them a de facto involvement.

Universities can influence pay indirectly by deciding things such as the speed of promotions.

Pay is made up of five elements: basic pay, automatic bonuses for seniority, discretionary bonuses for research or teaching productivity, extra pay for positions of responsibility and money from research contracts.

Academics have other ways of topping up pay. In fields such as law and economics, people often work part time at a university to gain prestige or through vocation. Their work in the private sector as lawyers or consultants also brings in money.

Full-time academics can earn cash through research contracts with the private sector. The money is usually split between the academic and his or her institution.

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