Sheffield union questions pay-review process for professors

Union claims that meetings to assess pay rises spend less than a minute per professor on average

June 26, 2014

Discussions of pay rises for professors at one university lasted little more than a minute per academic, a union has claimed.

At a single session lasting roughly three hours, some 163 professors were assessed by the University of Sheffield’s professorial review committee, according to the local University and College Union branch.

That meant that just over one minute on average was spent considering each individual’s merits in the 2013-14 review deliberations, it says.

Unlike most academics, professors do not receive automatic incremental rises linked to the national pay spine and instead have to apply for pay uplifts each year.

But Sheffield’s UCU branch says that the institution’s professors have no right to check the statements made by their heads of department on their behalf before they are submitted to the committee.

With no minutes taken of the meeting and no opportunity to appeal, the process is “open to arbitrary decisions or even abuse by heads, pro vice-chancellors or other members of the committee who might wish to reward or punish a given professor”, a UCU spokeswoman claimed.

The branch urges other academic staff to campaign against extending performance-related pay to other pay grades given that the professorial review process is “devoid of meaningful transparency”.

According to Sheffield’s website, almost four out of five professors assessed in this year’s review received either a salary rise, a bonus or a move to a different prestige level, although the value of awards was not stated.

Ian Wright, associate director of human resources at Sheffield, said that a “transparent” professorial pay framework was introduced in 2010, for which details are publicly available and outcomes published each year.

“Every professor has the opportunity to have their salary reviewed on a yearly basis in light of their continued and increasing contribution, through a process which is published annually,” said Mr Wright.

Full records of the process, which involves input from professors, heads of department and pro vice-chancellors, are “readily available to the professor on request”, he added.

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