Warnings of “growing” uni pay gap between management and lecturers

Stevie Hertz 29 November 2015

Official figures released this year reveal that the average salary of people working in higher education was £41,146, for 2013/14. The average pay rise was 0.8%, compared to 1.9% for the rest of the workforce.

This information comes a week after an investigation by the Tax Payers Alliance revealed that six employees of the University of Cambridge earned more than £300,000 in 2013/14, while over 5,000 further education employees earned more than £100,000.

The general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Mary Bousted, commented, “We are concerned about the growing gap in pay between lecturers and those in management positions and those running universities.

“While some top managers are earning six-figure salaries, increasing numbers of lecturers are being put on zero hours contracts with insecure terms of employment. This is not the best way to attract the best lecturers and ensure that students receive high-quality teaching."

According to the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association, the salary of a vice-chancellor is about six times the earnings of a lecturer.

Last week, a Cambridge University spokesman commented “staff are paid within an agreed framework and the remuneration described by the figures include employer’s pension contributions, one-off payments for taking on extra responsibilties as well as salary.”

An anonymous academic has also criticised the low salaries paid to academics at Oxford and Cambridge Universities in an anonymous article in The Guardian.

The Oxbridge academic cited research stating that the average non-professorial salary for an academic at Oxbridge is £45,000. In comparison, the average university salary is £48,460, or £50,000 for Russell Group universities. These are higher than total national averages as they include only senior academics and professors, rather than entry-level positions.

The academic argued for better pay for those holding academic positions at Oxford and Cambridge Universities on the basis of the considerable wealth of both institutions, workload, and the high cost of living in both cities.

One second-year student at Pembroke, who intends to pursue a career in academia, said: “It is immensely unfair that the opportunity to work at two of the best universities in the world should be so heavily restricted by wealth. 

“Especially given the inordinately high house prices in cities like Cambridge, work as an academic at top universities for those who do not come from affluent backgrounds is becoming less and less possible. This is not about an expectation that academics should be awarded with extortionate salaries, but simply a question of whether or not they are being paid enough in relation to their work and to the costs associated with the city they have to live in.”

However, another student felt differently, commenting: “Of course the work that academics do is important, and difficult, but the focus on the salaries of people who are already earning £45,000 is crazy – Addenbrooke’s is facing a shortage of staff, possibly because the cost of living is having such a big impact on those who would otherwise be able to work in Cambridge. 

“Academics are not the only part of the problem. We need to look for solutions which take into account the salaries of everyone, such as those who are yet to be paid living wage, and address the issue of the high cost of living in Oxford and Cambridge.”