Further financial deficits confirm that there is no possibility of new or revised pay offers

3 May 2023
Further financial deficits confirm that there is no possibility of new or revised pay offers

New data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa)* which summarises the financial accounts of HE institutions for the 2021-22 academic year has confirmed record deficits, providing more evidence of the inability for a new or revised pay increase. 

Overall, there was a significant increase in the proportion of HEIs with deficits on the previous year and this is the highest percentage on record. Of the 144 HE institutions in 2023-24 New JNCHES collective pay negotiations an unprecedented 100 HE institutions were reported as in deficit, with just 37 in surplus. At the time of the Hesa report 7 HE participating institutions had not yet responded. 

UCEA had made the final pay offer of between 8% and 5% in January. This was more than three months in advance of the usual pay talks timetable, with HE institutions and trade unions fully recognising the urgent inflationary pressures currently facing all staff. The interim pay was backdated to February – six months in advance of the usual timetable. 

UCU’s campaign material, urging staff members to use IA to target students, is based on partial and dated facts and figures. The sector’s ‘yearly income of over £42bn’ is now two years out of date and hides the expenditure figure. In 2021-22, HEIs’ total income was £46.9bn while expenditure was £50.9bn. This included £30.6bn of expenditure (60%) on staff.**

HE institutions are withholding pay over the UCU marking and assessment boycott as a necessity to protect students. Sector finances are not being relayed in full by UCU but their campaign MAB details are also incomplete. UCU’s carbon copy letter for MPs does not contain the facts; that pay deduction for partial performance are fair measures in place to counter targeting students with industrial action that could affect some students for the rest of their lives.

Raj Jethwa, UCEA’s Chief Executive said:
"This data emphasises the need for UCU to be honest with its members about the fact that there is no possibility of new or revised pay offers in the 2023-24 pay round. HE institutions have looked after staff as best they can: with an early uplift that is the highest uplift in nearly 20 years of collective HE pay negotiations alongside the Acas agreed pay related ToR. Now HEIs are looking after students as best they can: limiting any potential UCU targeted Marking and Assessment boycott which could damage their studies at this vital time of year.
"Despite the vast majority of HE institutions in deficit and the growing financial pressures facing the sector, this year’s pay award is comparable to settlements in the wider economy. Home student tuition fees have been frozen until at least 2025 and many HE institutions are also looking at substantial increases in employer contributions in the Teachers’ Pension Scheme***.

“The overall quantum for the pay uplift for 2023-24 was at the absolute limit of the sector’s affordability but our HE institutions did permit us to accelerate this process and push the pay packet to the sector’s limits.”

In addition to the pay uplift, pay progression (incremental pay) takes place for around half of staff on the pay spine each year and this is typically worth 3% on top of the base pay uplift. According to the latest ONS data (2021-22) on earnings, the average UK HE academic full-time salary is £54,249 per annum. This was prior to the 2022-23 and the 2023-24 pay uplifts. 

*Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) - Higher Education Provider Data: Finance 2021/22 

***Employer contributions to the Teacher's Pension Scheme are currently 23.7% and could rise to nearer 30% from April 2024. 

Only yesterday the Principals of Scotland’s universities were informed by the Scottish Funding Council that the £20 million of additional resource funding allocated to the sector in December’s budget by the Scottish Government is now “not available for distribution and has been identified as a necessary saving”: see £20m cut “extremely disappointing” at www.universities-scotland.ac.uk/20m-cut/ 

JNCHES - Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff. 
The five HE trade unions are EIS, GMB, UCU, UNISON and Unite.


For further information: Please contact Andy Fryer, Head of Communications and Membership (a.fryer@ucea.ac.uk) or Marc Whittaker, Communications and Events Manager (m.whittaker@ucea.ac.uk)