15 February, 2016

University pay discrepancy

There was an interesting article in the news last week about pay rates within the university sector.

We learnt that vice-chancellors at UK universities received average salary packages of £272,000 last year, marking an increase of £12,000 on the previous year. We also learnt that thousands of pounds more were spent on hotel accommodation and flights for vice-chancellors, with 50 per cent of flights being either first or business class.

The justification? 'The salaries of university leaders in the UK are ... comparable to similarly sized public and private organisations,' according to Universities UK.

Fair enough, you might think. But hang on a minute. What about those working at lower levels in UK universities? They certainly do not receive salaries comparable to people working in similar roles in the private sector. When entering the university sector, you do so in full knowledge of the fact that your salary will be lower than those working in similar roles in other sectors. It's just part of the deal. And there is absolutely no question that you will travel anything other than economy class, wherever you go -- assuming that your department has the budget for you to travel anywhere at all, that is.

A spokesperson for the University of Oxford said: '[the University's] research output is vast, it has more than £1bn a year in turnover, not including the colleges and Oxford University Press, and it has great institutional complexity. The vice-chancellor's salary reflects that.'

All of this is true, but it is no justification for the VC earning so much more than the University's other employees. After all, all of these people need to navigate the institution's complexity in order to do their jobs. And, let's face it, it's not the VC who brings in the research income or balances the University's books -- it's all those hard-working academics and administrators who are committed to their jobs, despite their pay being (often much) less than those working at a similar level in other sectors.

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