Universities are paying £80K to attract top-flight staff, reports Tony Tysome
The recruitment market for professors is hotting up, with a growing number of universities introducing new pay scales designed to attract and retain the brightest minds in higher education.
Two of the latest professorial pay schemes to be unveiled illustrate the lengths to which both old and new universities will go to recruit and keep top-class academics who can help make them stand out internationally.
Huddersfield University has just introduced a two-band scale for professors that it is hoped will allow it to compete in the recruitment market with the likes of Imperial College and Bristol and Durham universities.
Its top tier offers a salary of up to £79,200 a year, plus other discretionary incentives that promise to take professorial pay at Huddersfield "off the scale" of normal national levels.
Bob Cryan, the university's vice-chancellor, believes his institution is now ready to take on the growing challenge of building and maintaining a top-notch body of senior academics.
He said: "During my time as dean of a five-star engineering faculty at Swansea University, I realised the massive difference that world-class professors can make.
"But when I arrived at Huddersfield, I found that the salary scales would not allow us to attract people of that calibre. The top of the scale was less than I was paying some of our professors at Swansea five years ago."
A benchmarking study last year found that Imperial College was paying 150 professors more than £80,000 a year.
Professor Cryan said: "I recognised that if we were to attract people of that calibre, we would have to reward them accordingly."
Lancaster University, meanwhile, has introduced a three-band professorial pay scheme that starts at £54,000 and rises to a new "distinguished professor" tier, which begins at £81,000 a year and has no pay ceiling.
Val Walshe, Lancaster's director of human resources, said it was expected that only about 5 per cent of the university's professors would be placed in the top band. The new scheme contains a separate market element designed to allow the university to pay more to academics in disciplines where the recruitment market is particularly competitive.
Ms Walshe said: "We think it is important to provide suitable incentives for academics who are, or have the potential to be, world-leaders in their field. We also want our junior staff to have a very clear line of sight as to where their career might take them."
The University and College Union has given a cautious welcome to the new scheme and others like it that are emerging across the sector.