Shocking state of university pay inequality revealed

Originally published by York Vision, the University of York student newspaper

The sky-rocketing state of pay inequality in UK universities was revealed on Thursday, as a new report revealed UK universities spend £228m on executives earning over £140k each year – at the same time as nearly 5,000 Higher Education workers struggle to get by on the minimum wage.

The report, The Fair Pay League, shows that York ranks 65th out of 113 Higher Education institutions, paying its top exec – presumably new Vice Chancellor Professor Koen Lamberts  – £251,892, meaning the pay gap between the lowest and highest paid at the University is 17.9:1. While this is just under the Higher Education average of 18.6:1, three members of senior management take home more than the Secretary of State for Higher Education’s £140,000 pay packet.

The new research comes to light as a result of Freedom of Information requests by the Young Greens, the youth branch of the Green Party, with The Fair Pay League report demanding a Living Wage of £14,000 (pro-rata) for all university staff, along with maximum pay ratios of 10:1. The research also revealed if all Vice Chancellors took a pay cut to £140,000, there would be enough money to pay all workers a Living Wage – and still have £3.7m left over.

Commenting less than two weeks before the first UK-wide joint strikes by university unions on the 31st October, York TUC President Leigh Wilks told York Vision: “I’m tired of hearing the same old argument about universities being in a competitive global market as an excuse for the justification of high executive pay, while those at the bottom get a pittance.

“We have some of the finest universities in the world – despite this Coalition jeopardising that by crippling young people with debt – and Universities would do well to remember that this is supposed to be higher education, not a ruthless corporation.”

Rustam Majainah, the lead author of the report, said: “Universities have no excuse to pay less than the living wage. Living costs are rising for everyone, students are having to pay £9,000 a year to go through higher education – yet university vice-chancellors are still paid disproportionately large salaries.” He branded the state of pay inequality “unacceptable”.

The University Registrar, Dr David Duncan, condemned the research, telling Vision: “All of the Russell Group universities except York come in the worst 33 performing universities.  In other words, not surprisingly, the highest ranked universities generally pay their VCs the highest salaries.”  He noted that York is 32 places higher up the table than its competitors.

Duncan also questioned the report’s methodology, arguing “The figures for the VC’s salary are completely misleading”.

But the Young Greens challenged the University’s performance argument, claiming “Seven universities pay their top earner more than the highest paid staff member at the University of Cambridge.”

Imperial College London was ranked the worst performer nationally, with a pay ratio of 25.5:1, while the University of London had an income gap of just 9:1.

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