Respect and Trust: A Case Study of Higher Education Pay Scales in the United Kingdom

Yen Hsiang Huang, Mao Chiao Chi, Tzu Bin Lin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Research universities worldwide strive to recruit talent to remain competitive. Countries both cultivate talent through their higher education systems and recruit talent from abroad (Jheng & Chang, 2021). Salary is one of several factors that attract academics. Creating attractive employment packages is crucial for recruiting and retaining talent (Altbach et al., 2012). The UK higher education system has a long history and is considered to be exemplary. This study explored how the UK higher education system remains competitive in terms of attracting talent by investigating its personnel systems. Case studies were conducted on three institutions, namely the University of Cambridge, King’s College London of the University of London, and the University of Warwick, and their salary scales and regulations on their staff members’ work outside the university were compared. This study also explored the benefits of working at these institutions. The research findings indicate that the institutions have autonomy in determining their human resource policy. In contrast to Taiwanese universities, which have a one-size-fits-all pay structure, UK higher education institutions are not subject to government regulation. UK universities offer competitive packages to recruit talent. All three institutions in the case study also have some say over the work done by staff members outside the university. The UK has a single national pay structure that governs the salaries of university staff members. The pay structure, formally known as “the Higher Education Single Pay Spine,” is controlled by the University and College Union, which negotiates salaries, the pay structure, and employment conditions on behalf of UK higher education institutions. Although the vast majority of UK universities have adopted the Higher Education Single Pay Spine, the three institutions in this study have their own salary scales based on Higher Education Single Pay Spine. Staff members’ salaries are regulated internally, and they receive higher salaries than those stipulated by the Higher Education Single Pay Spine. The institutions also have flexible and negotiable pay frameworks. Institutions consider several factors to determine staff members’ salaries, but, in general, staff members are assigned a pay grade on the basis of their responsibilities, experience, position (e.g., Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader, and Professor are typical levels in the United Kingdom, whereas Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor are used in the US higher education system and some UK higher education institutions) and a corresponding spine value. The spine value corresponds to a predetermined salary in the pay structures and scales of each university, which are negotiated on the basis of the Higher Education Single Pay Spine. Flexibility means that staff members can negotiate their starting pay within a certain spine range. By being flexible, it does not necessarily mean that new staff members should work their way up the spine scale from the bottom. Besides, exceptional performance and academic contributions can also be rewarded through salary increases and one-off bonus payments. In addition, all three institutions are either open to or encourage their staff members to pursue consultancy or other external work if it does not affect their position in the university. The institutions have clear policies and procedures concerning external occupations such as private consultancy and contract research. All staff members must seek approval for external employment from their universities. Typically, the Heads of Faculties, Schools, Departments, or Divisions must approve their staff members’ external employment and ensure it does not affect their work in the university. Staff members must also maintain academic integrity as they pursue external employment. Some universities, such as the University of Cambridge, provide professional and legal support to help staff members with their external employment. This facilitates knowledge transfer, which benefits staff members, society, the economy, and the universities. Moreover, the institutions provide their staff members with benefits such as relocation support. Those in the Greater London area also provide an allowance and higher salaries to offset the high cost of living; this is referred to as a “London Allowance.” The study concludes by offering two recommendations to improve higher education in Taiwan in terms of recruiting talent. First, institutions should consider lifting the ban on private consultancy and other forms of external employment. These restrictions limit knowledge transfer and the influence of research. Taiwan should also support staff members’ use of commercial avenues to develop their ideas and expertise to benefit society. Second, institutions should develop flexible and competitive pay scales to attract talent. Taiwan has a one-size-fits-all pay structure for all staff members of publicly funded higher education institutions. This prevents institutions from recruiting talent from abroad. The competitive and negotiable pay scales in the UK higher education system and its other benefits are key factors that attract talent to the United Kingdom to make academic contributions; Taiwan can learn from this example.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-93
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Research in Education Sciences
Volume67
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Jun

Keywords

  • higher education salary scale
  • personnel system
  • United Kingdom

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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