Employment conditions for UK academics

Paul Smaglik, in a Prospects article for NatureJobs, (Nature 454, 131; 2008) discussed a survey of 109 UK universities by Hampshire-based Incomes Data Services for the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, which concludes that academics are contracted to work fewer hours, have more holiday time, and better child-care policies, pension plans and sick pay than elsewhere in the public and private sectors. A related report also says that academic pay has improved in recent years, with a 30% increase between 2002 and 2007, putting the average salary at £42,588 (US$85,000) in 2007.

But Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said in the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) that the report used data on contracted hours rather than actual time worked, thus painting a “misleading picture”. Other surveys show that academics work some 50+ hours a week, rather than the 35 contracted hours. In a related blog, several THES readers agreed, saying that they put in far more than the contracted weekly hours and often forgo holiday time in order to catch up. And when they do take leave, they often take work with them. As far as salaries go, Hunt agrees that academics’ pay has increased — but she says that it still lags behind equivalent positions in the private sector.


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