Top cop gets £20K more than professor

May 12, 2006

Academic salaries still trail those for equivalent posts in other public-sector professions. Chloe Stothart looks at the findings of a Times Higher survey.

Professors continue to be paid significantly less than equivalent senior staff elsewhere in the public sector, an investigation by The Times Higher has revealed.

While a professor in an old or new university can command a minimum salary of just under £45,000 a year, a police chief superintendent, a head teacher of a large secondary school and a hospital consultant can expect to start on at least £20,000 a year more. The yawning public-sector pay gap at senior levels is revealed in official salaries for 2005-06 that apply the same job comparisons used in the 1999 Bett report - the last major review of academic pay.

The figures paint a similar picture to that established by Sir Michael Bett seven years ago. The pay of junior lecturers lags slightly behind that of their public-sector counterparts, while salaries for middle-ranking academics are broadly similar to jobs at an equivalent level in the police, teaching and health professions. But for most senior staff the gap has widened further.

Peter Smith, director of higher education consulting at management consulting firm Hay Group and an author of the pay comparisons in the Bett study, said: "The last figures I looked at for mainstream levels [lecturers A and B] show they are not far off the middle of the general market in both the public and private sectors.

"Senior jobs were a long way off the market [at the time of the Bett report] and probably still are." He added that there was no doubt that some of the more generously funded parts of the public sector "have very good salaries by comparison".

He pointed out that there had been bids to boost pay in parts of the public sector, for example for police, teachers, and nurses and midwives. "The question higher education institutions are asking is: 'Isn't it our turn?'," he said.

Less senior academics have more to cheer about. Lecturers - taken to be broadly similar to teachers with five years' experience - can now earn about Pounds 30,000 after a few years in post.

Junior lecturers' earnings are also on a par with newly registered doctors.

But police inspectors get significantly more than their counterparts in other parts of the public sector, taking home at least £41,000 a year.

Comparisons are difficult as they are based on salary ranges for particular posts. Pay in the Civil Service, for example, varies widely for staff on the same grades. But pensions and holiday entitlements are broadly similar across the professions. In most of the public sector, salaries increase annually by increments within a rank, although in some parts of the Civil Service progress is linked to performance. In professions such as the police, staff have to pass exams to move between some ranks.

The overall pay gap is highlighted by average pay figures. According to the Office of National Statistics, in 2005 academics earned a mean of £40,657 a year compared with £51,487 for police inspectors and above; Pounds 32,878 for teachers; £81,744 for doctors; and £71,824 for civil servants (grade 5-plus or equivalent).

Peter Thorpe, senior policy adviser at the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association, said: "Since Bett, pay and benefits in universities have improved. In particular, there has been significant improvement in minimum pay for lecturers and in pay for professors. Given the gap identified by Bett at the top end and for the lowest paid, there may need to be some further steps."

THE DEAL ON THE TABLE

What the employers are offering for 2006-07 to 2008-09

The Universities and Colleges Employers' Association has said it would deliver its 12.6 per cent pay rise over three years in stages to spread the cost.

Employers point out that each tranche of the rise is cumulative, so academics will benefit.

August 2006 : 3 per cent - or £515, whichever is greater

February 2007 : 1 per cent - or £200, whichever is greater

August 2007 : 3 per cent

February 2008 : 1 per cent

August 2008 : 3 per cent

February 2009 : 1 per cent

Ucea says the cumulative 12.6 per cent comes on top of average rises of between 3 and 5 per cent under the 2004 Framework Agreement, which is effective from August.

SCENARIO ONE

Inexperienced lecturer on Point 33 of the new pay spine

Will get £28,009 in August 2006 and £31,534 in February 2009 under the pay offer, plus three incremental points up the pay spine will raise the salary to Pounds 34,459.

Net rise: £6,450

SCENARIO TWO

Senior lecturer on Point 44

Will get £38,772 in August 2006 and Pounds 43,651 in February 2009, plus an additional three incremental spine points, will take pay to £47,698.

Net rise: £8,926

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