"This dispute isn’t about affordability, it’s about choices"
UK universities are generating record high incomes as the amount spent on staff has dropped to record lows, according to new analysis by the University and College Union (UCU).
UCU has blasted universities for getting “richer than ever” while staff spending hits “record low” as their analysis found university surplus enough to raise staff pay by more than 10%.
It comes amid an ongoing dispute over pay and conditions between university workers and their employers.
In their research, the union found the total income of UK universities was £3.5 billion more than recorded the previous year, the biggest year on year increase in at least five years.
Whilst staff expenditure made up just 51% of income, a record low, with Russell Group universities who boast the most wealth spending a below average 49.8% of their income on staff, dropping to 42.1% at the University of Oxford.
Total surplus was also the highest it has been for at least four years, at £2.6 billion, according to the union analysis, with the union stating that this money could have been used to raise staff pay by 10%, and still have hundreds of millions to spare.
The analysis is based on data from 147 universities covering the 2021/22 financial year when the UCEA imposed a pay award of 1.5% for university staff.
Staff have seen their wages fall 25% behind inflation since 2009, with the UCU demanding a fairer pay offer that addresses the cost-of-living crisis.
Members of the UCU voted to reject the 2023/24 pay offer which is worth 5-8% depending on salary.
Since then, university staff at 145 universities have carried out a marking and assessment boycott which the union said will continue until an improved offer is made to their members.
In response, universities have imposed ‘punitive’ pay deductions of up to 100% on workers taking part in the boycott.
This has been met with harsh criticism, with over 50 MPs signing a letter urging the UCEA to call off the wage deductions, saying the behaviour “does nothing for the reputation of the UK higher education sector or its standing on the world stage”.
While the UCEA said they would not negotiate unless the boycott was called off and recently stated that there was “no possibility of new or revised pay offers” as higher education institutes face financial deficits.
The association said higher eductation institutes were facing the highest proportion of deficit recorded and therefore could not afford further pay rises.
UCU blasted university bosses for refusing to negotiate over the ongoing pay and conditions dispute, arguing that their latest data reveals employers can afford to make an improved pay offer.
Jo Grady, general secretary of UCU claimed the UCEA was continuing to, “use financial pressures faced by a few, as a pretext to refuse to pay staff across the sector a fair share, all while failing to lobby government for a fairer funding model.
She added: “This dispute isn’t about affordability, it’s about choices.”
Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward
(Photo credit: Twitter / UCU Branch – CSSD)
Left Foot Forward’s trade union reporting is supported by the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust
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