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Gender pay gap in HE sees a significant one year fall

18 November 2015

UCEA is pleased that earnings data published today (18 November 2015) by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that the higher education (HE) gender pay gap is narrowing, with a significant fall of 2.4 percentage points in the last year. The data, for full-time staff working in the HE sector, show a fall to 11.1% in April 2015 from 13.5% in April 2014. For all HE sector employees, which includes part-time as well as full-time, there was also a fall of 1.3 percentage points, to 14.7%, which compares to the wider economy pay gap of 19.2%.

The gender pay gap for HE teaching professionals has also fallen, from 9.3% to 9.1%. This compares to a full-time gender pay gap of 11% for all professional occupations. The gender pay gap for all full-time employees in all sectors in the UK decreased to 9.4%, from 9.6%, during the same period.

The HE sector, while knowing there is still more to be done, will welcome these data as it confirms that concerted planning and effective action at national and institutional level is making a difference in addressing the gender pay gap. Regular equal pay audits have been commonplace in the sector for several years with a 2013 survey showing that around three quarters of HE employers had undertaken at least one equal pay review since 2010. All of these reviews examined gender pay gaps at the HE institution but a majority of institutions also reviewed gaps related to age, disability and ethnicity.

HE employers, represented by UCEA, and the HE trade unions* recently undertook joint work on gender pay in HE, examining qualitative information on gender pay interventions with a view to identifying and actively promoting effective practice. The report examines examples of employers from within and beyond HE to understand better the nature of gender pay gaps where they exist, the possible reasons for these, and the types of measures being taken to address them. The ‘Gender Pay in HE’ report** and its accompanying case studies were published in July 2015. The report was concluded after more than a year of joint working following the commitment made in the New JNCHES pay agreement for 2014-15. The 2015-16 pay settlement commits employers and trade unions to some further work in this area comprising a detailed review of available gender pay gap data*** and related workforce trends.

Professor Nick Petford, Chair of last year's Gender Pay joint working group and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Northampton, said:

“The latest official earnings data show that the HE sector is making real progress in tackling the gender pay gap. While the sector pay gap remains just above the economy as a whole, it is gratifying to see a significant fall in the past year. Major sector initiatives such as Athena SWAN and Aurora have kept women’s careers and the gender pay gap at the top of institutional agendas and we hope that this continues to be the case in the years ahead. UCEA is pleased to have contributed to the sector’s work on tackling the pay gap through our joint work with HE trade unions which has included surveys of equal pay auditing, a literature review on the gender pay gap and, most recently, an in-depth investigation of action being taken by HE institutions to tackle gender pay gaps identified through equal pay reviews.
“With the conclusion of the 2015-16 final pay round UCEA will begin further joint work in this area as a key theme in the trade unions’ pay equality claim. The work will focus on developing a more sophisticated analysis on the sector’s gender pay gap data, looking at gender pay gaps between job levels and information on occupational segregation using data drawn from the existing datasets.”

* EIS, GMB, UCU, UNISON and Unite
** The report is freely available via the UCEA website
*** Such as the ONS Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings and the HESA Staff Record.

For further information from the employers’ side please contact Andy Fryer, Head of Communications and Membership or Marc Whittaker, Communications and Events Officer. Call 020 7383 2444.

Notes for editors

The pay gaps presented here are calculated using full-time hourly earnings excluding overtime and represent the difference been male and female employees’ earnings as a percentage of male earnings. This is the preferred methodology used by the ONS for its published figures and therefore the HE figures are directly comparable with those for the wider economy.

Gender pay gap figures

Higher education sector  (Full-time hourly earnings excluding overtime (£s))

Year Male Female Gender
2014 20.06 17.35 13.5%
2015 20.08 17.86 11.1%


Higher education teaching professionals (Full-time hourly earnings excluding overtime (£s))

Year Male Female Gender
2014 25.81 23.40 9.3%
2015 26.25 23.85 9.1%

Source: Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. Tables 14.6a and 16.6a. The figures for HE teaching professionals include a small number (c. 10%) of employees that do not work in the HE sector – UCEA publishes an annual set of figures that remove these employees from the sample. These figures will be available in 2016.

For all HE sector employees, the gap fell from 16% in 2014 to 14.7%. This is considerably lower than the all employee gap in the wider economy which is 19.2%.

For HE teaching professionals the all employee gap is 8.2%, down from 8.5% in 2014.