Teaching efforts are rewarded in job rejig

May 12, 2006

Female staff gain as Southampton tackles research pay bias, reports Chloe Stothart

Teaching staff in universities have traditionally been portrayed as underpaid wallflowers compared with their research-active colleagues, who enjoy higher status and bigger salaries.

But one university is attempting to end the disparity. Southampton is finalising a job grading system designed to put research and teaching staff on an equal footing.

The system of "job families" places posts in research, teaching, consultancy and enterprise into one group. Equivalent jobs in these areas are put on the same level in the new national pay framework. Three more families have been set up: technical and experimental; management, specialist and administrative; and community and operational.

The system was introduced in 2004 at Southampton. It boosted wages there by £2.4 million in 2005-06, according to Tony Strike, the human resources director. The implementation costs were paid for by a £6 million grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Reverend Strike said the system had increased the number of staff promoted, particularly women and those in teaching and entrepreneurship jobs.

He said: "We are seeing promotions coming through in the higher proportions of people contributing to our education and entrepreneurship mission." He said that under the previous system, "we would not have seen this, because in a unitary system research predominated".

"Clarification of levels and appreciation of wider contribution means that more senior women are being promoted," he added The new system encouraged women to apply for promotion, he said, because it rewarded teaching, which women were more likely than men to undertake, and was clear about promotion criteria.

He added that the system allowed top-up payments to senior academics waiting for a professorship to stay at the university rather than seek promotion elsewhere.

The university has also spent more than £400,000 on pay supplements to boost the salaries of people who are in demand locally, such as cleaners and accountants.

Smaller salaries will apply to certain jobs when their current postholders leave.

Early work on the system was done with Bristol and Nottingham universities and Imperial College London, but they developed slightly different versions of the scheme, Reverend Strike said.

Southampton is one of a growing number of universities that is overhauling its grade structure. Warwick University will introduce American academic titles, such as "associate professor" for senior lecturers and readers, from 2007-08.

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