College teacher pay higher in Scotland than England

Average pay for lecturers is £5,000 higher in Scottish colleges than in England – and the gap is set to widen

Julia Belgutay

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Scottish college lecturers are being paid on average £5,000 more than their peers in England, Tes research has revealed.

Average pay in April this year, calculated by Tes, was £35,809 in Scotland, where many have seen their salaries increase significantly following a harmonisation deal with management in the wake of a return to national bargaining.

By comparison, average lecturer pay in England was £30,035 in 2017, according to University and College Union calculations based on responses from 166 colleges. Meanwhile, college staff in Wales and Northern Ireland are on common pay scales, but average salaries lag behind those in England.

Following the reintroduction of national bargaining in Scotland, the harmonisation deal agreed by the teaching union EIS-FELA and the employers’ association means that every lecturer will gradually be moved on to a single pay scale, with a highest point of £40,026 by April 2019. For many lecturers, this has meant a large increase in salary during the transition period. This is particularly true for those working at small, rural colleges.

Significant pay rises

Some lecturers at West Highland College UHI will receive a huge 72 per cent increase in their pay between 2016 and 2019; the other main beneficiaries include some of their peers at Shetland College (55 per cent), North Highland College UHI (45 per cent) and Orkney College (35 per cent).

Currently, lecturers and college management are in dispute over the employers’ offer of a 2.5 per cent cost-of-living increase over three years – which lecturers’ union EIS-FELA says would represent a real-terms cut.

John Gribben, director of employment services at Colleges Scotland Employers’ Association, said: “It is extremely disappointing that EIS-FELA’s intransigence and refusal to recognise the substantial average pay increases from national bargaining’s salary harmonisation are pay rises as it is destabilising the sector and threatening a significant number of jobs."

The union's demands would cost colleges £60 million, "which is utterly unaffordable and would bankrupt the college sector", he added.

College strikes loom

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Members voted overwhelmingly to reject the pay offer, signifying the strength of feeling within the sector. This dispute is about a cost of living pay rise and ensuring that lecturers’ pay keeps up with inflation. At a time when the sector would benefit from stability, it is regrettable that management are conflating the provision of equal pay across the sector with a cost of living pay increase, creating a barrier to further negotiation.” 

In fact, all four nations of the UK could soon see strike action over lecturer pay, with 85 per cent of University and College Union (UCU) staff in England who voted in a ballot over pay backing a strike – although, thanks to stringent new requirements, only four colleges had a high enough turnout to press ahead with industrial action.

Meanwhile, 91 per cent of UCU members in Welsh colleges backed a strike over pay and workload, calling on employers to make a better offer to avert action in the coming weeks. In Northern Ireland too, the offers tabled by colleges have been rejected, and ballots are the likely next step.

Pay back time?

Howard Stevenson, professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Nottingham, said: “The post-economic crisis fear is giving way to frustration. You see this in lots of different places. There’s a narrative about emerging from recession. You see frustration around pay stagnation that’s been pent up; it looks to me as though people are increasingly willing to challenge it.

“Initially, I think people were willing to accept [no pay rises] in order to hang on to their jobs by their fingernails. But they are not feeling that now. In the meantime, they have seen some parts of the economy ripping away from the rest. Across the public sector, people are saying: ‘It’s our turn to have some of this so-called recovery.’”

This is an edited version of an article in the 26 October edition of Tes. You can read the full version here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click hereTes magazine is available at all good newsagents

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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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