'Scrooge' spending on UK staff

May 5, 2000

United Kingdom spending on academic staff is among the lowest in the developed world, the Association of University Teachers revealed today on the eve of its annual council meeting, writes Phil Baty.

The AUT stepped up the pressure on universities to spend more, claiming that only Australia, Austria and the Czech Republic of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries spend a lower proportion of university budgets on academic staff.

Institutions in OECD countries spend an average 44 per cent of their budgets on teaching staff, compared with just 35 per cent in the UK. Spending in the UK ranges from 15 per cent to 53 per cent, with only 8 per cent spending more than the OECD average.

AUT general secretary David Triesman said that the figures were shocking and accused universities of misusing resources.

He said: "Of course universities are in desperate need of more funds, but they misuse what they have. How can you compete with modern economies in the knowledge age when guided by the instincts of Scrooge?"

Institutions would have to spend an extra Pounds 900 million on staff each year to make up the 10 per cent shortfall and bring the UK to average international levels, says the research.

In 1998-99, UK universities spent a total of Pounds 10.9 billion, of which Pounds 3.9 billion was spent on academic staff.

The AUT's report, Level of Spending on Staff, uses data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency and the OECD.

Among the lowest spenders were the University of Surrey, spending a total of 21 per cent of its budget on academic staff, and the University of Edinburgh, which spends 26 per cent.

The highest spenders were Swansea Institute of Higher Education, which spent 53 per cent of its budget on academic staff, and the University of Reading, with 48 per cent.

Better pay is set to become a central theme of the summer council in Eastbourne next week. Concerns about the government's higher education initiatives will also come under detailed scrutiny.

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