St Andrews attacked on ethnic pay

June 14, 2002

St Andrews tops a table released this week highlighting the gulf in pay between ethnic minority and white staff in British universities. Ethnic minority lecturers at St Andrews are paid 29 per cent less than their white counterparts, according to the Association of University Teachers.

The Scottish university is closely followed by Luton, St George's Hospital Medical School, Queen's University Belfast and the University of Wales, Bangor.

"We knew pay discrimination was bad in higher education, but we did not know it was this bad," said Gargi Battacharrya, coordinator of the AUT's black staff network.

The THES reported last month that the AUT had found that ethnic minority academics were paid on average 12 per cent less than white colleagues, £28,690 a year compared with £32,540.

But new figures based on data provided by the Higher Education Statistics Agency show the averages mask much larger gaps at some institutions.

At St Andrews the average pay for white staff is £31,470, compared with £22,432 for black and Asian staff.

A St Andrews spokeswoman said the figures were based on numbers so small that the conclusions could not be regarded as statistically significant. "Despite this, the university would like to stress that decisions relating to pay and promotion are taken seriously and with great care and that such judgements are not based on race, gender or any other personal criteria," she said.

The AUT claims that at Luton University ethnic minority lecturers are paid an average of £21,309, 25.5 per cent less than white academics; at St George's medical school they are paid 24.5 per cent less; at Queen's University 23.6 per cent less; and at the University of Wales, Bangor 23.5 per cent less.

Most institutions disputed the validity of the figures. A Luton spokeswoman said: "We were not aware that Hesa publishes such information about individual universities." She said the university was conducting its own survey and would then know whether there were inequalities to address.

A spokesman for Queen's said: "We have a very different social composition from the rest of the UK in that we simply don't have a sizeable ethnic minority population. This doesn't explain the pay gap, of course, but we would reject the term 'discrimination' and point out that we have one of the most rigorous recruitment and selection processes of any UK university."

A Bangor spokesman said: "The pay gap between white and non-white academic staff will be reduced as careers progress."

Ms Battacharrya said that to argue that the figures were not valid because there were so few ethnic minority staff was "the worst excuse possible, but to some extent true. They are saying that they don't even manage to employ ethnic minorities at all let alone employ them and pay them less. Sadly we need to open up the whole debate about institutional racism in the sector, because a lot of people don't even think it's a problem."

Universities that have no pay gap at all are Staffordshire, Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College, Teesside, University of Wales College of Medicine, London Business School, Canterbury Christ Church University College and St Martin's College.

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