12,592 university staff paid less than living wage

Almost 13,000 university employees are paid less than the living wage, according to research by trade unions Unison and the National Union of Students (NUS).

The research, which looked at universities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, found that the median lowest wage for UK university staff is £7.39, less than the living wage, which is currently set at £7.65 across the UK, except for in London.

Mayor Boris Johnson increased the London Living Wage on 4 November, from £8.55 to £8.80, to coincide with Living Wage Week, from 4 to 8 November.

The research also found:

  • 57% of UK universities have paid less than the minimum wage.
  • Five universities have more than 500 staff paid less than the living wage.
  • 39 universities have more than 100 employees paid less than the living wage.

Dom Anderson, vice president of the NUS, said: “Living Wage Week is a celebration, so it’s important to recognise and commend those that are showing leadership.

“However, the higher education strikes last week displayed the understandable strength of feeling about the lack of a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work in too many of our universities.

“This means that, although we are celebrating living wage-accredited universities, such as Salford and Huddersfield, and universities such as Loughborough that have committed to the living wage for their in-house staff, our campaign continues.

“The simple fact is that higher wages are fed back into our economy. They also represent a significant saving to taxpayers, who otherwise subsidise low-paying employers through in-work benefits and tax credits.”

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, added: “This research shows that, while vice-chancellors are enjoying six-figure salaries, many more university workers are at the bottom of the pay scale, struggling to survive on less than the living wage. The value of their pay keeps on falling, while the cost of basics such as food and fuel keeps on rising.

“Unison is working hard with universities to bring in the living wage, not just for directly employed staff, but for the many others who have been contracted out. A living wage is enough to provide workers and their families with the basics of a decent life, which is a lesson all universities should learn.”

Julie Mcclelland, director of HR at the University of Huddersfield, said: “We are proud to be an accredited living-wage employer, the second university in the UK to do this. 

“We commit to the living wage for all our staff, regardless of whether people are employed on permanent or casual contracts.”

Rob Allan, director of HR at Loughborough University, added: “The minimum adult hourly rate of pay was increased for Loughborough University staff earlier this year, bringing it into line with the current living wage set by the Living Wage Foundation.”