Over 1,000 staff at the University of Cambridge are paid below the living wage, an investigation by the Varsity student newspaper has revealed.

Recent figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that 28 out of Cambridge’s 31 colleges are failing to pay staff the £7.65 per hour deemed sufficient to live on. Cambridge is the wealthiest university in the UK.

The university itself, a body independent to its constituent colleges, employs 83 members of staff at less than £7.65/hour. Amongst the colleges, the worst offender is King’s College, which employs 123 staff below the living wage. The university’s richest colleges, Trinity and St Johns, employ 50 and 33 under the living wage respectively.

A spokesman from the University referred to its guidance on pay: “The majority of jobs below the living wage are generally trainee grades or individuals on zero hours contracts.” 

Several colleges have defended their policy on pay, arguing that non-financial benefits should be taken into account. Paul Warren, the bursar at Clare College, said: “when bonuses and benefits at Clare are included we do not have a single permanent member of staff [earning less than the equivalent of the living wage]”.

Chris Clarkson, a porter at King’s College denied that, in his experience, benefits had any real impact on low-paid staff.

He said: “It’s not really the issue, especially for the part-time staff. There are free meals on duty but that’s only if you’re actually here while the meals are being served and if you’re working full time, so I don’t think they can take that into consideration at all.”

In the last year a growing awareness of pay policy has prompted student activism at both a college and university-wide level. Daisy Hughes, a representative for the King’s College student union living wage campaign, said the findings demonstrated “a fundamental disrespect for the staff who make this university work”. 

On the efforts of the university-wide campaign she said, “We’re not giving up. There will be direct action and we will not stop until our university becomes a living wage employer.”

Fiona Woolston, one of the University Student Union’s living wage officers said that the living wage was “about acknowledging that every person who contributes to the success of this university should have the right to an appropriate standard of living for themselves and their family, or to be able to confidently save for such a future.”

These revelations come in the same week as University Vice Chancellor Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz was awarded a pay rise of £20,000.

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