Exposed: damning proof of the pay divide

Male academics paid up to pounds 20,000 more than their female colleagues
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DAMNING EVIDENCE of sex discrimination will be published today in the first pay league table of its kind which shows women academics at some universities earning up to pounds 20,000 less a year than their male colleagues.

The new research, published exclusively in The Independent, has been produced by the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education as part of its campaign to end sex discrimination in universities and colleges.

The figures, compiled from official statistics, reveal it would cost pounds 188m to bring women into line with men and shows how much each college and university would have to spend to eliminate the gap.

The greatest differences in earnings are at theLondon Business School, where average salaries for women are pounds 19,150 below those of men. Overall, the research shows that male academics earn on average pounds 4,307 more than women.

"Plainly there's a massive problem of sex discrimination across the entire sector," said Tom Wilson, head of the association's universities department. "At long last, university employers have agreed to look at this problem. These figures show they need to do so as a matter of urgency."

Phil Willis, education spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said it was a scandal. "The government can't wipe its hands of a huge area of public sector investment. It should pick up the total bill."

Top medical schools, which have traditionally been male-dominated, head the list of institutions with the greatest pay gap. University College London, Leicester and Bristol universities make it on to the list of the 20 worst offenders but they also have medical schools. Aston University, however, does not, though it specialises in the male-dominated subjects of technology and engineering.

The figures - provided to the association by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the body which collects such data - come in the wake of the Bett report on pay and conditions in higher education which found women were systematically underpaid at every level and for all types of academic, administrative and manual work. University employers have agreed to look at the matter with the unions in a working party which meets later this month.

The association, which represents lecturers in the "new" universities, is planning to bring sex discrimination cases against universities to force vice-chancellors to close the pay gap. Many had "Stone Age" employment policies, said Mr Wilson.

"We have about a dozen sex discrimination cases in higher education," he added. "They are all about pay, although some are about other issues as well, such as failure to promote or contracts. We are always on the lookout for cases. We strongly encourage people to come forward, but we do understand that it is difficult. It requires an awful lot of courage."

Cases involving part-time staff and academics on fixed term contracts were also in the pipeline, Mr Wilson said. "Universities are often outraged at the idea that they might be discriminatory, because they regard themselves as very liberal institutions. But they have limited management development and personnel departments."

Professor Saul Estrin, faculty dean at the London Business School, said the disparity was due to the small number of women academics. The school had no female professors, but hoped to change that, he said.

Baroness Warwick, chief executive of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, said schemes were already in place to promote the status of women academics. "Universities take equal opportunities very seriously and are working hard to improve recruitment and promotion opportunities for women."

The survey can be found on The Independent's website: www.independent.

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