Status report: paper highlights slide in US pay and conditions

US academics are seeing “historic lows” in their pay and conditions, according to a report published today.

April 11, 2011

An analysis by the American Association of University Professors, It’s Not Over Yet: The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2010-11, found that the overall average salary has increased at less than the rate of inflation for the second consecutive year. Although US inflation averaged 1.63 per cent, salary levels in public higher education institutions rose by an average of just 0.9 per cent.

In contrast, staff at private institutions enjoyed an average increase of 2.1 per cent.

Across both public and private sectors, the average male academic earned a salary of $88,024 (£53,700) in 2010-11 and the average female academic $71,237.

The report highlights the rising trend of casual and non-tenure track appointments in the US academy. So-called contingent faculty and graduate students now account for more than three-quarters of all instructional staff, it says.

The growth of non-tenured positions poses a threat to academic freedom, the AAUP warns. In delivering courses and marking work, staff without job security might focus on ensuring that students are satisfied rather than on instilling intellectual rigour, the report points out.

“We take the opportunity to remind legislators, administrators, trustees, and regents that the path to global competitiveness requires rigor in the classroom – and rigor requires investing in faculty,” it says.

In its report, the AAUP also scrutinises the pay of university presidents.

The median presidential salary at a public undergraduate-focused institution is 2.67 times that of the average for a member of academic staff. At private institutions, the median is 3.32 that of the average for a faculty member.

The AAUP attributed this disparity to “disproportionate” pay increases for presidents in recent years. “It is an indication of misplaced institutional priorities,” the report says.

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