Seeking volunteers: scholars urged to take pay freeze to aid Scottish academy

Academics in Scotland should accept a voluntary pay freeze to help shore up the sector’s finances and prevent a decline in course quality, a scholar has argued.

In a paper presented last week at the Scottish Educational Research Association’s annual conference in Stirling, John Field, professor of lifelong learning at the University of Stirling, says that between 55 and 65 per cent of Scottish universities’ expenditure is on staff costs.

Universities tend to reduce staff numbers when they need to cut costs, but Professor Field argues that there are other options, highlighting the public sector pay freeze in Scotland announced in last month’s Budget.

“As autonomous institutions, universities are not likely to be tied to this policy, but there is a case for considering a voluntary commitment to the principle,” says the paper, titled “Higher education and the recession: the early impact in Scotland”.

It adds that “academic salaries are generally well above the average incomes of individual workers in Scotland”.

In the 2008-09 financial year, Professor Field writes, Scottish universities employed more than 400 people who were paid in excess of £100,000 a year and 250 who earned more than the chief executive of the Scottish Funding Council.

“These figures suggest that a managed package of wage freezes at the middle and lower levels, combined with reductions at [the] top level, might have signification reputational as well as financial advantages,” the paper says.

Professor Field argues that alternative routes to finding savings of as much as 25 per cent would produce “unpalatable political consequences, as well as undermining competitiveness”.

“My own view is that we cannot expect sustainable long-term solutions without re-examining the nature of the social contract between universities and civil society,” he writes. “Higher education has many freedoms, but it also has responsibilities.”

Already registered?

Sign in now if you are already registered or a current subscriber. Or subscribe for unrestricted access to our digital editions and iPad and iPhone app.

Featured Jobs

Head of Research Support Services UNIVERSITY OF LEICESTER
Learning Enhancement Manager UNIVERSITY OF DERBY

Register to continue  

You've enjoyed reading five THE articles this month. Register now to get five more, or subscribe for unrestricted access.

Most Commented

Universities to scale back liberal arts and social science courses

  • David Humphries illustration (24 September 2015)

A Russell Group tagline rap is further proof that we need to reform the academy’s approach, argues Philip Moriarty

  • World University Rankings

US continues to lose its grip as institutions in Europe up their game

  • World University Rankings 2015-2016 methodology

Change for the better: fuelled by more comprehensive data, the 2015-2016 rankings probe deeper than ever

Inspired by previous movement in 1960s, PhD students say that ‘science is not neutral’ and urge scientists to confront their assumptions