by Neil Harris
With the cost of living soaring, seemingly out of control, it is hardly surprising that pay and conditions of employment are being pushed relentlessly up the agenda. University staff have recently faired better than most due to a deal made between the universities and the Universities and Colleges Union way back in 2006.
This deal increased the salaries of the 170,000 academics and 194,000 non-academic employees in universities by 10.37% over the first two years of the agreement with an additional 3% increase last May. Under this agreement another rise in university salaries is due this October equal to the September rise in the retail price index. When the index is published next month it is likely to be in the region of 5%.
So at a time when the government is attempting to restrict public sector workers to increases of 2% a year, those working in universities will have received a pay rise in the region of 8% this year, nearly four times the government target. Some would argue that this has been a process of catching up after years of salary increases below those in the private sector.
University salaries are currently (since May 2008) on a common pay spine, consisting of 52 levels ranging from £12,461 to £52,628 pa, which could rise to about £13,075 and £55,200pa respectively this autumn. Increments between each salary point on the scale amount to a 3% increase, so those performing well in their job get this in addition to annual salary hikes until they reach the top of their particular scale.
London allowances, which had been frozen for 11 years prior to 2006, now stand at £3,018pa for inner London, £2,015pa for those in outer London and £791pa for employees on the fringes of the capital but these could also rise by around 5% next month.
After the October pay hike, and excluding the London allowance, those on the lowest academic grade will receive up to £28,800 pa. Top of the scale for researchers and junior lecturers could be £35,400 pa while the main grade for academics should rise to around £43,600 pa. The pay of senior lecturers will rise to £52,000 and the minimum salary for professors will be about £53,500 pa. Forty five vice chancellors receive more than £200,000 pa and three more than £300,000 pa. However, each university is free to negotiate its own local pay deals and use different points on the national pay spine for minima and maxima of each job grade, or off it, if that is agreed with staff.
‘The magnitude of the October pay rise will stretch the finances of Higher Education Institutions and some may be forced to defer payment', say UCEA. ‘There is no doubt that significant consequences will arise with adjustments in planned budgets to minimise redundancies'. However, Sally Hunt, President of UCU says ‘pleading poverty, and demanding higher fees to pay staff, is an old trick that institutions used last time around. UCU members deserve those rises and they will get them'.
The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), the universities negotiating body, recently published ‘Where are we now? - the benefits of working in HE' which boasts the conditions of employment for higher education employees. These include a 35 to 37 hour week, flexible working hours and 35 days holiday a year. According to the results of research completed by ICM Research last May these are better than the national average.
Many employers have abandoned final salary pension schemes but the benefits of the Universities Superannuation Scheme are still based upon final salary and rise according to the retail price index. Universities are putting around 14% of salary into this scheme to which employees contribute 6.35%. How long this can continue is a point for conjecture.
UCEA also boasts of 945 universities offering maternity pay and paternity benefits above the statutory minima, plus most universities offering child care facilities and play schemes during school holidays. One in six universities offer child care vouchers to parents of young children.
University staff turnover is reported to be in the region of 8% (7% for technical staff, 7% for academics, 8% for administrative staff and 10% for manual and clerical employees). The researchers compared this with 15% in the rest of the public sector and up to 26% in a sample of publicly listed companies.
Many people working in education are employed on part time contracts and some on hourly rates. Employment law has been tightened up in recent years and their conditions of employment should be just as good as those for full time staff, with pay and holiday entitlement on a pro rata basis.
As employers, universities see themselves to be good for career prospects, helpful in giving people an autonomous working environment and flexible working hours.
There has also been progress in the gender balance with 52% of the university workforce is female and 42.3% of academics being female, but 82% of professors are men.
Lecturers in Colleges of Further Education
Those teaching in Colleges of Further Education are on one of four different pay scales. Unqualified lecturers earn between £17,405 and £21,492 while the main lecturer scale rises from £22,141 to £33,511. Those seen to demonstrate the skills of ‘advanced teachers' receive between £33,511 and £37,724, while staff in a position of leadership and management are rewarded on a scale from £33,511 and £83,848.
School teachers' pay is already agreed for the next three years. A new pay deal gives them a rise of 2.45% this September followed by annual increases of 2.3% in each of the following years.
A classroom teacher gets from £20,627 on a scale to £30,147. Those with additional responsibilities for teaching and learning are placed in two bands which can provide up to £5,920 more or £11,841 for more important responsibilities. Teachers who are designated ‘Advanced Skills Teachers' can earn from £35,794 to £54,417 and head teachers get between £40,494 and £100,424 depending on the size of their school.
Interestingly those teaching in central London get an extra allowance of £6,768, far more than the London allowance for university lecturers, which scales down to around £990 for teachers working on the edges of the capital.