Many universities will struggle to recruit high-calibre senior staff unless they can offer better cash incentives and more job satisfaction, a national survey has found.
Institutions outside the top rank of research universities that are unable to increase financial rewards will have to ensure that they at least offer senior staff the kind of professional and organisational environment they value, a report on the findings says.
A survey of vice-chancellors and senior academic and non-academic staff in 74 universities, commissioned by the University of Glamorgan, found that financial incentives to join or stay in a post have become more important as workloads and audit demands have increased in the sector.
A report from headhunters KMC International, which conducted the survey, says: "There is clear evidence that level of salary is a serious concern as staff across senior management in higher education note the gap between their remuneration relative to private companies with similar staff/ budget responsibilities and, indeed, a number of other public-sector organisations."
Senior staff are most discontent when they lose their freedom and flexibility and their pay falls behind that of other sectors, the report adds.
The survey found that salary, cash benefits and pension arrangements are the key financial considerations for vice-chancellors when considering whether to move to another institution.
Other highly rated factors include organisational culture and values and an institution's overall reputation and financial standing. Research ranking is also highly valued among vice-chancellors of old universities.
Almost half the vice-chancellors said that the crucial factor keeping them in their job was the opportunity to make a difference and to effect change.
Pension arrangements are increasingly important because of pension capping, which can adversely affect anyone without a transferable public pension dating back to before the cap was imposed in 1989. Some vice-chancellors believe this could affect younger people's decisions to seek the top posts in new universities.
Senior academic staff in old institutions were noticeably more discontent than their post-1992 counterparts. Salary, cash benefits and superannuation schemes were the top incentives for staff. Job content and organisational culture were the other key factors that made them stay.
Top administrative staff had similar financial concerns, but they also said quality of life and job content were important.
Sir Adrian Webb, vice-chancellor of the University of Glamorgan, said the findings should help institutions formulate job descriptions and tailor remuneration packages to attract the best staff.
"The survey shows that senior university staff still possess a strong social conscience. But they are increasingly concerned about ensuring that their contract includes a competitive personal package," he said.